Symbols in Nathaniel Hawthorne's Young Goodman Brown: An Essay Sample

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06.02.2017

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Young Goodman Brown

Most symbols in the short story Young Goodman Brown written by Nathaniel Hawthorne are of religious nature. The author provides certain supernatural notions as well as the concept of redemption to depict the main traits of American Romanticism. Most of Hawthorne’s short stories, namely The Scarlet Letter, reveal the vices of the hypocritical puritan society: the victory of the evil over the good, betrayal, and disguise among others.

The Main Features of Young Goodman Brown

It can be inferred that the eponymous hero is the epitome of innocence, which is a kind of a prize that the wicked and mean people would like to have. However, in the scene where he leaves his wife and goes to the forest (without providing her with any explanations), he is regarded as the one who loses his inherent innocence. Moreover, in this very case, Young Goodman Brown could be perceived in the same light as Eve from the Bible. However, even his name implies that he is truly a good one.

The Woods

The events depicted in the short story occur during the time of witch trials. According to numerous legends, myths, and tales of the folklore, witches usually had a Sabbath in the forests, and this time is considered as the one when the devil powers are dominating. Thus, the mysterious errand to the woods opens Goodman’s eyes to some unbelievable things that shook his beliefs upon returning to the reality (after leaving the forest).

When Goodman is in the forest and calls out his wife's name - Faith, she does not hear him. Besides, he starts to see people from his town, who gathered for some kind of a ritual. This scene symbolized the hypocrisy of the Puritan society as the witch hunt was strongly encouraged.

The Setting of the Short Story

The events of the short story take place in Salem, the town that is famous for the 1692 witch trial. At that time, many innocent women were proclaimed as witches and were thus convicted to death and were proven guilty of numerous wrongdoings and evil actions; although, most of them were truly innocent. The town of Salem adds some supernatural atmosphere to the story.

Young Goodman Brown’s Wife Faith

Faith symbolizes honesty, trust, innocence, and all the good virtues. The scene when Young Goodman Brown calls out her name and she doesn’t respond to him might be interpreted as the loss of virtues and faith. Actually, it can be inferred from her name that Faith is the symbol of good and virtuous living.

All in all, the symbols introduced in the story transform Young Goodman Brown’s outlook: when he returns to the village, he looks suspiciously at the citizens and his acquaintances and sees the evil in them. He does not easily believe other people, even his wife, and lives in constant fear.


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