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Young Goodman Brown

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Nathaniel Hawthorne utilizes symbolism throughout his short story Young Goodman Brown to show the theme of good people sometimes doing bad things. Hawthorne uses a variety of light and dark images, names, and people to illustrate irony and different translations. Young Goodman Brown is a story about a man who comes to terms with the realization that people are un pure and sometimes tempted by evil. After this realization from his journey through the woods he dies a bitter death. Images of darkness, symbolic representations of names and people and the journey through the woods all attribute to Hawthorne's theme of good people sometimes doing bad things.

The use of dark imagery throughout the story gives you a sense of uncertainty and fear of the unknown that lies ahead of Goodman Brown on his journey. The opening sentence of the story illustrates an image of a sunset and the approaching of night as Goodman Brown sets off on his mission. "Young Goodman Brown came forth, at sunset, into the street of Salem village, but put his head back, after crossing the threshold." (Hawthorne 1102) Here, the light of the sun represents the knowledge that Goodman Brown already possesses. The imagery of darkness setting in is the unknown knowledge Goodman Brown is venturing out to discover. Goodman Brown must first travel through the darkness of the unknown before he reaches the light of enlightenment and truth. This is why he is embarking on his journey throughout the night hours. "My journey, as thou callest it, forth and back again, must needs be done Ð''twist now and sunrise." (Hawthorne 1102)

The next use of symbolism is the setting of the journey and the meeting in the woods. Early Americans looked at the woods as a test of strength, bravery and endurance. It took a lot of courage for someone to enter the forest because it was unknown territory and they would not emerge the same. "He had taken a dreary road, darkened by all gloomiest trees of the forestÐ'...that the traveler knows not who may be concealed by the innumerable trunksÐ'...he may be passing through an unseen multitude." (Hawthorne 1103) Goodman Brown does not face the dangers of Indians but faces the danger of reality and truth.

Goodman Brown does not emerge from the forest tougher or braver but hateful and spiteful because he becomes enlightened to the ways of world. He comes to terms with the reality that people are flawed and imperfect. He sees sin and evil surrounding him. Goodman Brown once viewed people as good, happy and pure but now turns away from everyone because he can not see the good in them anymore. He dies a bitter lonely man because he couldn't handle the truth that good people sometimes do bad things. "They carved no hopeful verse upon his tombstone; for his dying hour was gloom." (Hawthorne 1112)

Throughout the story Nathaniel Hawthorne uses the names of Young Goodman Brown and his wife Faith as symbolic representations. The word "young" in Goodman Brown's name gives you the image of an inexperienced, naive boy who must take on an adventure instead of staying in the comfort of his surroundings. His wife, Faith, tries to stop him by saying, "prithee put off your journey until sunrise, and sleep in your own bed to-night." (Hawthorne 1102) Here you see Faith encouraging Goodman Brown's quest for knowledge to be done in the light (sunrise) instead traveling through the unknown darkness to gain wisdom. The use of the words "good" and "man" in Goodman Brown names leaves you to wonder if men are really good. My interpretation is that Goodman Brown is not good at all because he falls into the devil's temptation and accepts the baptism. It proves that even the best of men are subject to imperfection.

The word faith throughout the story is a play on words. The first use of the word faith is the name of Goodman Brown's wife. The second use of the word faith describes Goodman Brown's belief, trust and loyalty in God. Goodman Brown cries, "My Faith is gone!" (Hawthorne 1108) There are two ways you can look at this sentence. The first way of decoding this sentence is Goodman Brown is crying out for the safety and well being of his wife Faith as he sees her pink ribbon



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