Young Goodman Brown Essay, Research Paper
Life is, and always has been, a battle between good and evil. From the time we are small children, we are taught the differences between wrong and right, between bad and good. Nathaniel Hawthorne recognized this eternal battle, and his short story ?Young Goodman Brown? is an excellent example of what a battle it can be. Central to this battle is the factor of good, in this case, the factor of Faith. While Faith is the name of Young Goodman Brown?s wife, she becomes the symbol for all that is holy and pure in a town filled with evil. The flowing pink ribbons in her hair are the ultimate symbol of that purity. From beginning to end, they represent the faith that Young Goodman Brown fights so hard to preserve.
Hawthorne makes it a point to let the importance of the pink ribbons be known to the reader from the beginning of the story. In the first passage, we are introduced to Faith, the wife of Young Goodman Brown. ??Faith?thrust her pretty head into the street, letting the wind play with the pink ribbons of her cap?? (196). From this line, one can imagine a beautiful young woman, filled with innocence. The way the wind plays with the ribbons suggests they are light and free, flowing in a gentle breeze. Hawthorne goes on to connect Faith?s purity with the ribbons. ? ?Then, God bless you!? said Faith, with the pink ribbons??(197). There is an intentional connection being created between God and the pink ribbons. As Faith pleads for Goodman Brown to stay with her, we are aware that there is danger in the alternative. Faith represents all that is godly and pure, and yet Goodman Brown still makes the decision to go into the dark forest. Hawthorne makes the connection yet another time, after Goodman Brown makes his decision to go into the forest. ??he looked back, and saw the head of Faith still peeping after him, with a melancholy air, despite the pink ribbons? (197). This line shows that Faith is concerned for the fate of Young Goodman Brown. Despite her purity, she was not able to prevent him from going into the forest, and she is not able to protect him once there.
As Young Goodman Brown ventures deeper and deeper into the forest of evil, he begins to realize what a mistake he has made. He makes feeble attempt after feeble attempt to turn around and go back to his lovely Faith. His dark companion leads him further yet into the forest, and he comes across Goody Cloyce, a saintly old woman, or so he thought her to be. It was upon seeing her journey into sin that Goodman Brown puts his foot down and refuses to go deeper into the forest. Before he can prepare to make his return, however, he hears more voices ? voices of the minister, of the Deacon, and of countless churchgoers. He is in complete disbelief that these people, who share praises in God every Sunday, could be partaking in the evil set to occur that night in the forest. Just at the moment where he wants nothing more than to escape the evil and return to his Faith, something unbelievable happens: ?There was one voice of a young woman?with an uncertain sorrow?[and] saints and sinners seemed to encourage her onward? (202). Goodman Brown recognized his wife?s voice and screams for her, ?in a voice of agony and desperation? (202). Her reply was ?a scream, drowned immediately in a louder murmur of voices? (202), which fades into silence. In utter confusion, with the knowledge that his beloved Faith is among these sinners, Goodman Brown waits in shock. Has his Faith become one of them? He soon receives the answer to that question. ?Something fluttered lightly down through the air, and caught on the branch of a tree. The young man seized it, and beheld a pink ribbon?(202). The pink ribbon, which epitomizes everything good and pure about Faith, has been stripped from her head. Without her shroud of purity, she is vulnerable to the evils that lurk in the forest. Goodman Brown becomes maddened with despair, shouting, ?My Faith is gone!?(202). The pink ribbon motivates Brown to press on through the forest in an attempt to save his wife from evil.
Whether or not Young Goodman Brown is able to save his Faith could be considered a matter of debate. Brown encounters evils beyond compare in the forest. He is witness to all the townsman and townswoman, good and bad, all partaking in utter sin. As fires burn high, and evil runs wild, Young Goodman Brown makes a final plea to his beloved Faith. ? ?Faith! Faith!? cried the husband. ?Look up to Heaven, and resist the Wicked one!? ? (205). It as at this point that Brown finds himself in a much different forest, one without evil chants; one without fire. He does not know what to believe. The images in his head, however, are far too sinister to forget. Even as he sees Faith in the street, ?with the pink ribbons,? He is unable to shake the image of her as a convert to an evil association. Hawthorne uses the image of the pink ribbons in this passage to demonstrate that her purity is still in tact. She still possesses the ribbons, which have been established to symbolize all that is good and pure. One could interpret this in one of two ways. Option one: Faith never lost her pink ribbons of purity, as Young Goodman Brown was merely dreaming the whole forest scenario up. Option two: Faith wore the pink ribbons of purity in an effort to mask the evil doings she has partaken in the previous night. While I chose to believe option one, it is apparent that Young Goodman Brown opted for the latter. In fact, he could never shake the images he saw that night. From that day on, he saw the whole town in a dark, sinister light. His rejection of Faith, as well as faith, led to an unhappy life, and a hopeless, gloomy death.
This tragedy shows us just how much even the shadow of evil can shade the light of good. Faith represented all that was good in Brown?s life. Her flowing pink ribbons reminded us continuously of her purity. When Brown caught that pink ribbon in the forest he knew his wife?s soul was at stake, and he did everything in his power to save her. In the end, we still see Faith in all her glory, pink ribbons still flowing gracefully in the breeze. Brown, however is plagued with the vision of Faith, ribbonless, in the pulpits of fire and sin. What we are left with is indeed tragic, because though we recognize that purity still exists in those pink ribbons, Brown does not ? And in this round, evil does conquer.