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Young Goodman Brown Symbolism & Allegory

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Tre Venable

on 12 November 2013

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Transcript of Young Goodman Brown Symbolism & Allegory

Young Goodman Brown by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Historical Context
In “Young Goodman Brown” Hawthorne references three dark events from the Puritans’ history: the Salem Witch Trials of 1692, the Puritan intolerance of the Quakers, and King Philip’s War.These historical events are not at the center of the story. Which takes place after they occur, but they do inform the action. For example, Hawthorne appropriates the names of Goody Cloyse and Martha Carrier, two of the “witches” killed at Salem, for townspeople in his story. Hawthorne reminds the reader of the morally suspect history of Salem Village and the legacy of the Puritans and emphasizes the historical roots of Goodman Brown’s fascination with the devil and the dark side.
Fall of Man
Young Goodman Brown's journey into the forest is an allegory for the fall of man. First he must leave his wife, Faith, to go the journey. While on the journey, he is accompanied by the devil. He leaves his innocence to venture into evil. He leaves his home and his wife, which some believe to be the aspects of a good life. To go wander in the dark forest, with the devil.
In allegories, characters are representative of certain traits. For instance, Goody Cloyse, the Catechist, and Deacon Gookin, go into the forest and participate in the Black Mass. Thus, they represent the sanctimonious hypocrites among the Puritans. Even the name Puritan suggest hypocrisy. How can they they call themselves that and practice such things as hanging innocent people.
Biographical Information
Nathaniel Hawthorne was born in 1804, in Salem, Massachusetts. Which is where the story takes place. One of his ancestors, John Hathorne, was a judge involved in the Salem witch trails. This is significant to the story, because this is what the story is based around. Hawthorne added a "w" to his name to hide this relation. Hawthorne works belongs to romanticism or, more specifically, dark romanticism. Cautionary tales that suggest that guilt, sin, and evil are the most inherent natural qualities of humanity. This is exemplified in the work Young Goodman Brown
The Pink Ribbon
The pink ribbon worn in Faiths hair serves as an emblem of heavenly faith and innocence. When the ribbon flutters down from the sky it symbolizes Browns loss of innocence. It may also symbolize the fall from grace that the devil had. Ribbons are a modest decoration, the color pink allows us to associate it with such things as innocence, pure love, and faith.
The Staff
The devil's staff, draws from the biblical symbol of the serpent as an evil demon. in the book of Genesis, the serpent tempts Eve to taste the fruit from the forbidden tree, defying gods will. When the devil tells Goodman Brown to use his staff to help in on his journey at first he refuses, this shows his reluctance to travel down the path of evil. When Goodman takes him up on his offer, like Eve, he is condemned for his weakness by losing his innocence. The staff makes it clear that the old man is more demon than human and that Goodman Brown, taking the staff for himself, is on the path toward evil as well.
Symbolism continued...
The Forest
The forest symbolizes hell, a place where evil and unholy things reside. Brown’s journey through the forest is on a narrow, dark, and dull path. The darkness and dreariness symbolizes the evil that hides in the forest. The narrowness of the path symbolizes that Brown is surrounded by evil. The idea that Brown may never return to the state of innocence from which he came is suggested by the fact that the woods seem to close immediately behind him. The trail being long and windy symbolizes how far Brown’s conscious must travel from innocence to realize the evil in his world.
Symbolism v. Allegory
Symbolism and allegory are very closely related. They similar in the way that they both represent things that have deeper meaning. Symbolism usually refers to an object, or single entity. The pink ribbon would be an example of symbol in the story Young Goodman Brown. An allegory is a verbal or written statement in which a tangible reality is used to express something less tangible. The journey into the woods would be an example of an allegory in the story.

Loss of Innocence
Young Goodman Brown serves and allegory for the loss of innocence in that it sets up a scene where a young, "good man", gives into temptation and evil. Thus losing his innocence, by succumbing to his lack of faith.
Allegory continued...
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