Symbols, Symbolism, and Allegory in Hawthorne's Young Goodman Brown
Symbolism is a literary technique that is used to clarify the author's intent. Sometimes it is used to great effect, while other times it only seems to muddle the meaning of a passage. In "Young Goodman Brown," Nathaniel Hawthorne uses objects and people as symbols to allegorically reveal his message to the reader.
Nathaniel Hawthorne uses different people as symbols throughout "Young Goodman Brown." The largest symbolic roles in the story are goodman Brown and his wife Faith. Both of the characters' names are symbolic and representative of their personalities. "'With Heaven above and Faith below, I will stand firm against the devil!' cried goodman Brown," is just one of many quotes that directly relates goodman Brown's personality with his name (189). Goodman Brown is truly a good man. Faith, goodman Brown's wife, also has a name that is indicative of her nature. The story directly supports this point in the phrase "Faith, as the wife was aptly named . . . " (184). Faith is persistent in trying to keep goodman Brown off the path of sin in the first part of the story: " . . . pr'y thee, put off your journey until sunrise, and sleep in your own bed to-night" (184). Hawthorne does an excellent job of turning the main characters into symbols that are prominent throughout the story.
Nathaniel Hawthorne also uses different objects in the story as symbols. One of these is the staff of the devil : "But the only thing about him, that could be fixed upon as remarkable, was his staff, which bore the likeness of a great black snake . . ." (185). This symbol shows the reader the evil that is involved with the devil character because the serpent is an archetype of the devil, or some sort of evil, which is prominent in many different cultures. Another object Hawthorne uses as a recurring symbol is the pink ribbon. The pink ribbon symbolizes the purity and innocence involved with Faith. "And Faith . . . thrust her own pretty had into the street, letting the wind play with the pink ribbons in her cap," is a great example of how Hawthorne...