Nathaniel Hawthorne?S ?Young Goodman Brown? Essay, Research Paper
Symbolism in Nathaniel Hawthorne?s ?Young Goodman Brown? Nathaniel Hawthorne?s ?Young Goodman Brown? is a story about a man and his faith. Goodman Brown ventures on a journey into the forest where his faith is tested, as he attempts to resist the temptations of the devil whereupon he returns to his home and wife. While in the forest, Goodman Brown encounters many well-respected citizens of his community, including his wife, Faith, engaged in a satanic meeting. This discovery causes a tremendous state of confusion for Goodman Brown and makes resisting the devil a much harder task. Doubting his reader?s ability to grasp subtle clues, Hawthorne ?will hit them (readers) over the head when it fits his purposes? (Dillio, 1). The main character?s names alone are prime examples of Hawthorn?s blatant symbolism. The names, Goodman and Faith, indicate that Hawthorne?s allegory is obviously a religious one with both Goodman and Faith soon to encounter, and fight, some (d)evil. A goodman is a title equivalent to Mr., applied to a man ranking below a gentleman. A goodman in Hawthorne?s day was a person who came from proper lineage. This is obviously the perfect name for Goodman Brown. A normal man, with no significance to anyone but friends and family, he is devoted to his wife. Goodman also believes that he is devoted to God, but as the story progresses both of these devotions will be challenged. Faith is an unquestioning belief that requires no proof of evidence. Hawthorne chooses this name because Goodman Brown?s faith is manifested in his wife. Goodman Brown uses his wife?s name many times as an obvious symbol of his own faith, both in himself and in God. He also uses her name as a shield for his soul to help resist the devil?s temptations. ?My love and my Faith,… of all nights in the year, this one I must tarry away from thee? (614). With this sentence Hawthorne shows, using that blatant symbolism, that the further he travels from his wife, the further he metaphorically travels from his faith in God. Goodman Brown also speaks of his, ?Poor little Faith,? (614), Hawthorne uses this to show that Goodman Brown is regretful that he has to part with his wife and his faith. He goes on to say that after this nights evil deed he will ?cling to her skirts and follow her to heaven?(614). Later, when Goodman Brown meets the devil in the forest at the beginning of his journey the devil asks him why he is late, he replies that Faith kept him back. The way Hawthorne uses Faith?s name and Goodman Browns faith in God as a double meaning is juvenile in it?s blatancy! Hawthorne continues to use this double meaning excessively throughout Goodman Brown?s journey. As the story progresses the devil constantly tries to convert Goodman Brown by offering his staff. Posing an argument against the devil, Goodman Brown claims that he is from a family of good men that ?…never went into the woods on such an errand,…we have been a race of honest men and good Christians…? (615). This statement is invalidated when the devil tells Goodman that he (the devil) was with Goodman Brown?s ancestors when they tortured women in Salem and burned Indian villages. Although Goodman Brown never accepts the staff he continues to follow the devil deeper into the forest. The deeper he goes the more he discovers unwanted information about his neighbors. In attempt to show Goodman Brown that joining him wouldn?t be that bad, the devil begins naming people known to, and respected by, Goodman Brown that have converted. He refuses, saying that there is his (wife) Faith and how converting would break her heart. As he continually refuses the devil his confidence grows stronger. However, once they encounter goody Cloyse, who freely takes up the devil?s staff, his confidence is severely shaken. Still resisting, while again using his wife?s name to give him strength, ?Is that any reason why I should quit my dear Faith,…? (617), he discovers that two well respected men, one of them his minister, are servants of the devil as well. Upon this discovery he begins to doubt that heaven even exists and yet again, using his wife?s name for encouragement, continues to resist, ?With Heaven above, and Faith below, I will yet stand firm against the devil? (618). All of a sudden, in his state of confusion, he suspects that Faith is also part of the satanic group that is gathering in the forest. He believes that he hears her voice and, after finding a pink ribbon that possibly belongs to her, he cries, ?My Faith is gone? (619). The double meaning here is probably the most significant in the entire tale, it shows Goodman Brown has lost the most important aspect of Christianity, his faith. As a last-ditch effort to save Faith he yells to her, ?Faith! Faith! Look up to Heaven, and resist the Wicked One!? (622). The next thing he knows, Goodman Brown wakes up in the middle of the forest. This obviously poses the possibility that Goodman Brown?s experience was only a dream. This, although making the story more enjoyable, is irrelevant to Goodman Brown. Goodman Brown doubts that it was a dream and proceeds to live his life as if it wasn?t, even though his neighbors act like nothing happened. When he greets his wife the next morning she has pink ribbons in her hair, just like the ribbons he had found the previous night. He also doesn?t know whether or not Faith had resisted the devil as he had called for her to do. These circumstances cause Goodman Brown to lose his trust in his wife and all of his neighbors. The rest of his life is miserable. Whether the satanic meeting in the middle of the night had been a dream or not is irrelevant since it affects in the same way as it would if it wasn?t a dream. Goodman Brown was forever changed by his experience. From a devoted husband and faithful Christian into a ?stern, a sad, a darkly meditative, a distrusting, if not desperate man,…? (622).