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Young Goodman Brown

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A Closer Look at Faith in "Young Goodman Brown"

In Nathaniel Hawthorne's short story, "Young Goodman Brown," the reader is introduced to a young Puritan man drawn into an agreement with the devil that suspiciously looks like an older version of Goodman Brown. Brown's feelings for the integrity of the townspeople and his wife Faith are unexpectedly crushed when he finds them all attending a Black Mass after he journeys into a dark, desolate forest disregarding his wife's plead to stay. Although one may never figure out whether or not Brown's journey was reality or nightmare, the results are nonetheless the same. For the rest of his life, Goodman Brown is unable to excuse the possibility of the evilness of the ones he knows and loves, therefore living a life of despair and solitude (Hawthorne 920-929). Throughout the short story, one may recognize that the primary theme of the tale is one of faith, or the loss of faith that Brown deals with. If a reader takes a closer look at the theme of faith in the story, he will be familiar with Brown's reasons for his loss of faith, the use of symbolism in the tale to display faith, as well as how evil can affect even the most respected and faithful person.

It is very evident that Brown indeed loses his faith by the conclusion of the short story. When one searches for the reasons for this loss of faith, a number of obvious causes arise, and the opening paragraphs of the short story provide the reader with the motivations and explanations Brown has for his issues of loss of faith. Hawthorne displays to the reader that Brown's reason for his journey is purely for curiosity. Brown wishes to venture out of his comfort zone of faith only for a short while and then return to find everything as it was. Brown realizes after a while that the devil has taken him too far into the forest with no looking back. With every step he takes, Brown is losing the faith he once cherished and is also thrown into a sense of misery and gloom when he arrives at the devil's worship assembly and sees everyone he knows and loves devoting themselves to the devil (Jones 192). Brown realizes the knowledge that the devil is forcing upon him, but he is reluctant to give his friends and loved ones any second chances or means of explaining their wrong doings (Dickenson 44). After that point in the story, his faith is totally gone. Brown is so caught up in his own confidence of his own faith he believes that he is unable to be harmed by the devil, and what is ironic in the story is that Brown lost the safety of faith as soon as he stepped out of the door of his house (Mathews 74). In leaving his house and entering the black forest, Brown commits a number of morally wrong actions. He becomes disloyal to his wife as well as breaking the ethical policy of his town and the traditions of his religion (Easterly 339). At the end of the story, Brown is appalled to find that his Faith (his wife as well as his religious faith) is not at all what he wanted it to be and has changed dramatically. For the rest of his life, Brown try's to decide whether or not he can trust his own faith (Connolly 153). Since Brown has lost all faith in others, he unable to have intimate contact with others for the remainder of his life. He is unable to tell right from wrong or pure from evil (Adams 165). Brown's curiosity and unwillingness to recognize his flawed faith is primarily the downfall of his trust and assurance with religion and the people he knows.

Hawthorne is known for his use of symbolism in order to create stories that appeal to the imagination, stimulate the mind, and make the tale more interesting. "Young Goodman Brown" is no exception to this pattern. Throughout the short story, Hawthorne uses numerous symbolic descriptions and items to convey a certain message, primarily faith. Hawthorne mentions his wife's pink ribbons five different times in "Young Goodman Brown." Hawthorne mentions the ribbons three times in the opening paragraphs and twice in key parts of the rest of the story. What is interesting about each time he mentions the ribbons is that he states they are pink. This use of color symbolism tells the reader that Faith, Brown's wife, is neither totally faithful nor is she completely



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