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The Allegorical Nature Of “Young Goodman Brown”

1050 words - 4 pages

Nathaniel Hawthorne is a man of a long American history. He was born in Salem, Massachusetts to the Hathorne family, who date back to the original Puritans of America. In fact, Hawthorne added the 'W' to his last name to differentiate himself from John Hathorne, a prominent judge in the Salem Witch Trials. Hawthorne is a well known American Gothic author of the Romantic period; some of his commonly known works are: “The Scarlet Letter,” “The House of Seven Gables,” and “Young Goodman Brown”(Meltzer). The Romantic period was a period when the population at large focused on: the supernatural, an impulse to reform, the celebration of life, nature, and the idealization of woman(The Romantic Period) Hawthorne's short story “Young Goodman Brown” can be classified as a moral allegory, because it is a story that has two levels of meaning: literal and symbolic. The allegorical nature of “Young Goodman Brown” is evident throughout the story due to Hawthorne's use of imagery and symbolism to ultimately ridicule the true weakness in American religion. The important symbols of the story are: the different characters themselves, the setting of the story being in Salem, and Brown's journey through the forest.
The most prominent use of imagery and symbolism is in the way Hawthorne conveys his characters. Hawthorne begins his story with a religious allegory by introducing Young Goodman Brown's wife, who was “aptly named” Faith(Hawthorne 329). Hawthorne vividly describes Faith as having pink ribbons in her hair, and as a believer of God, to paint an image of innocence. In the beginning scene of the story, when Young Goodman Brown says goodbye to Faith, she parted ways with the final words of “then God bless you, and may you find all well, when you come back”(Hawthorne 330). As Brown leaves for his journey he realizes he is doing wrong by going on this journey, but he promises himself when he gets back, he is going to “cling to her skirts and follow her to heaven”(Hawthorne 330). It is apparent at this point in the story that Faith, is a physical and symbolic representation of Brown's faith. Young Goodman Brown himself, symbolizes young, good men, who are tempted by sin, and to some extent all give in. Brown believes that even though his trip into the forest is for evil purposes, it is justifiable because it will be an “excellent resolve for the future”(Hawthorne 330). Brown is an allegorical symbol because if Brown would have stayed with Faith in the beginning of the story, instead of giving into the temptation of the Devil's forest, Brown would still have his faith, and his innocence. The Devil himself serves as an allegorical symbol, because he tempts Brown to leave the safety of his home for the dangers of the forest. The reader of the story is able to inquire that the old man Brown is introduced to is the devil, due to his “great black, [lifelike] snake” staff(Hawthorne 331). When Brown and the Devil initially meet, the Devil notes that Brown is late, and...

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