Young Goodman Brown Essay(Symbolism)
IBEnglish III 13 September 2011 “Young Goodman Brown” Analysis One of the factors that shaped the New World was religion; it was a pillar in the fledgling society and a reason for migration for so many Europeans. Puritanism was a major belief system that held strongly throughout the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries. Nathaniel Hawthorne, a nineteenth century American novelist and short story writer, composed the story of “Young Goodman Brown” which takes place in Salem. All Puritans were to take a journey which was supposed to lead them to a conversion experience.
This journey takes them through the spiritual heart. It is intended for self – examination; the elimination of the three vices: boredom, vice, and need; and loss of oneself to find God. Young Goodman Brown, the main character, is a newlywed Puritan who is pious and proud of his family’s devoutness in their faith. However, he is naive to the world around him, innocent; he looks up to the elders, and holds them to a higher esteem than himself. Hawthorne is blatant in his allegory in order for readers to be able to understand it clearly.
Through literal and allegorical meanings Hawthorne uses extensive symbolism and imagery to show the path and dangers in losing one’s faith. The forest is a main piece of this story. It is the area that hides what Young Goodman Brown is doing, but it also signifies the darkness of sin and distance from faith. The forest is very significant because it symbolizes the loss of morals and how confusion can seep into one’s soul. As Young Goodman Brown makes his way deeper into the forest, the more his attitude and love for Faith change. At first he is pushed by the old man to go on and unconsciously he Mickle 2 roclaims he has gone, “Too far, too far! ” Hawthorne’s symbolism shows that Goodman Brown’s consciousness is affected even at this depth in the forest. He feels he has committed an act that was uncharacteristic for his family. He believed that the forest was too evil and he would get back to his Faith. When he sees others who he thought were good Christians he is shocked and says that he will never see them the same again; it is in this forest that he finds that his family was not as pious as he thought. But further in he goes and forgets about Faith, he never calls out for her until he finally loses her.
The laughter is also another characteristic that Young Goodman Brown acquires on his journey. Hawthorne portrays the forest as a dark place where one does not know what lurks ahead of them, and this is especially true for Young Goodman Brown who does not realize how far from faith and God he is becoming. He transforms into a person that would rather be in the midst of darkness and confusion than the light. In this forest he learns many facts that he otherwise would not have known; he is now conscious of the world and himself. This is where he learns about how imperfect the seemingly perfect Puritan world really is.
The last laugh that he has is quite disturbing because he is losing his spiritual senses and letting the worldliness of the forest take over his mind and soul. When he decides not to turn around at any given time, one can conclude that darkness and ungodliness are shrouding his soul. This demonstrates to him that he is no different from the rest of the people in the village who have walked down the same road; this path leads them all further away from what was intended. The danger of losing his faith in this context is that he is now decadent and that he has taken the path down destruction’s road.
From the last stop that Young Goodman Brown made in the forest, he was sped along the path to the meeting with the maple staff that the devil had given him. The devil gives two staffs Mickle 3 in the short story; the other one goes to Goody Cloyse. The staff at first is what Young Goodman Brown refuses to take from the devil. However, when he takes hold of the staff he is now speeding down the road because of it. A significant attribute of the staff is that it is a maple staff and that it rots from the inside out. Young Goodman Brown, who thought so highly of himself and his family, is now losing his moral grounds.
When he takes the staff that is his last gesture to show that he is decaying internally; he accepts whatever consequences that come with it and taking the stick was done consciously. In addition to that, the staff also progress his journey and makes him go down the road faster. This is symbolic of when a Christian decides to go down the wrong road by losing their faith, the descent is faster. Without faith there to protect him he has become very wild; he does not realize how faith has protected him and that losing it one is only becoming closer to the devil. The acceptance of the stick after he loss his aith, was the acceptance of the devil and all that comes with the darkness and sin of the world. Young Goodman Brown’s travels through the uncharted forests were aided by a travel guide, Old Goodman Brown. Old Goodman Brown is said to have looked like Young Goodman Brown except older. Initially the older man, who is symbolic of the devil, is amiable toward the travel, but his persistence to get Young Goodman Brown to go deeper into the forest, spikes one to believe that he has an ulterior motive. Hawthorne’s usage of the old man transmits the message that the devil can appear in any form.
The risk that Goodman Brown takes with walking down the same road is that he is becoming desensitized and growing apart from his faith at the hands of the devil. Because of the character Faith, Hawthorne can portray the physical and symbolic evidence that Young Goodman Brown was leaving his faith. Faith, the wife of Young Goodman Mickle 4 Brown, is an important symbol throughout the allegory. She represents a relationship as well as his religious beliefs and convictions. Young Goodman Brown is leaving for his journey with the old traveler, an ominous journey that Faith did not want him to take.
Hawthorne writes that “He had taken a dreary road, darkened by all the gloomiest trees in the forest…” The departure of Goodman Brown from Faith down the darkening path of the road and forest marks the beginning of his loss of religious morals. This description displays the darkness of Young Goodman Brown’s intentions. The setting is symbolic because it mentions the darkening of a dreary road, which also shows the loss of the light of God fading from his heart because he is heading into the unknown forest. When he meets Old Goodman Brown, he is late. Young Goodman Brown replies “Faith kept me back awhile. His wife did hold him back before his journey; however, figuratively his faith, religious morals, and conscience are what held him back from going to the spiritual immorality. Deeper into the forest, he recalls his Faith and sees the pink ribbon fluttering through the air. At this moment he cries out “My Faith is gone! ” This is the point in the story where Young Goodman Brown is so far into the forest that he is so far from Faith, but figuratively it means that he is so far removed from his religion. He has gone so far from God and the light that it is hard for him to turn back now; ultimately he rejects faith.
The Bible speaks of a straight and narrow path which is hard for many to stay on, and this is true for Goodman Brown. He leaves the path of righteous and goes into the forest which exposes him to the evils of the world and things that a devout Puritan should not know. His trip through the forest conveys the perils in losing spiritual morality, his conscience, and the light of God. “Young Goodman Brown” is a literary work that peers into the religious system of the Puritans and shows the imperfections of it. Nathaniel Hawthorne shows that there are problems Mickle 5 ithin such non – secular Institutions. He also displays that the journey that is supposed to make one’s heart more pure can in turn make their heart more evil, and this is the case of Young Goodman Brown. Through the eyes of a young man, the short story is portrayed, which shows the difficulty one might face in this conversion experience . There is a wide and easy road to hell, which is easy to get on, but very hard to get off if one has lost their faith. The author conveys to the reader that it is very easy to lose one’s faith and once on that pathway it is hard to turn oneself back.