, Research Paper
16 Feb. 2000
The Faith of Young Goodman Brown
Faith, and the struggle to keep it, is the theme of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown.” In this story, Hawthorne gives Goodman Brown’s wife the name of Faith for the obvious symbolism and irony it creates. Throughout the story, Goodman Brown is constantly trying to keep his religious faith, which is lost, somewhat, when his wife, Faith, submits to evil.
Goodman Brown’s loss of Faith, symbolically and literally, is foreshadowed in the second paragraph of the story when Faith says “A lone woman is troubled with such dreams and such thoughts, that she’s afraid of herself, sometimes. Pray, tarry with me this night, dear husband, of all nights in the year!” This foreshadows events later in the story because Faith’s fears were realized.
Hawthorne again uses the word Faith representatively when Goodman Brown is explaining his tardiness to the mysterious man in the twelfth paragraph by saying “Faith kept me back a while.” Further interpretation of this sentence reveals that not only his wife kept him back, but his religious faith also was a major factor in his lateness, for he was jeopardizing this faith by proceeding into the forest.
The symbolism in the story becomes ironic in the forty-first paragraph. “And calm sleep would be his (Goodman Brown), that very night,” Hawthorne says, “which was to have been spent so wickedly, but purely and sweetly now, in the arms of Faith!” This foreshadowing becomes ironic upon finishing the story because Goodman Brown ended up spending that night “wickedly” and he lost “Faith.”
Hawthorne’s use of symbolism is most evident in the fiftieth paragraph when Goodman Brown cries, “My Faith is gone!” This short sentence clearly proves that Hawthorne is using the name Faith to represent the religious faith of Goodman Brown. Therefore, that cry not only means he lost his wife, but it also means that his beliefs were shattered. By interpreting Hawthorne’s symbolic use of the word Faith to mean Goodman Brown’s religious faith, one can easily find the symbolism to be synonymous with the theme of the story, which is Goodman Brown’s struggle to keep Faith.