Symbolism in Young Goodman Brown by N. Hawthorne
Symbolism is a literary device in which symbols, such as phrases, characters, objects, places, or abstract concepts, are used to signify something other than their literal interpretation. Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Young Goodman Brown is entirely symbolic and serves as an excellent representation of an allegory or narrative in which actual objects or characters symbolize philosophical concepts. To underscore the narrative’s symbolic themes, Hawthorne used objects and characters to accentuate biblical and Christian symbolism.
Nathaniel Hawthorne’s book is a tale about a young Puritan who explores the forest and discovers that the vast majority of the inhabitants of the land are members of a witch cult that gathers in the dark forest at night. Hawthorne used symbolism to demonstrate that there is an inverse, horrible side to everything good and can come in different shapes (Hawthorne). Hawthorne used several kinds of symbolism in this narrative, including Biblical and Christian symbols.
The most notable symbols can be seen through the characters of the book. For example, Goodman Brown and his spouse Faith play the most critical metaphorical parts in the plot. The names of both figures are meaningful and reflect their personalities. Young Goodman Brown represents the naivety of immature, decent men, all of whom are deceived and, at some point, perish (Hawthorne). Faith, Goodman Brown’s spouse, also has a name that reflects her personality (Hawthorne). It is symbolic that Brown dies a miserable person, condemning others’ immorality and deceit, but first loses his faith.
The author also used objects as symbols throughout the text. Among them is the devil’s staff, which is shaped like a snake. Since the serpent is a metaphor for satan, or some form of evil, which is prevalent in many various cultures, this sign conveys the message that evil is associated with the devil persona (Hawthorne). The ribbons are another repeating symbol in Hawthorne’s work (Hawthorne). The ribbons symbolize faith’s purity and naivety.
Additionally, there are locations that are depicted as symbols. For example, Puritans thought that forests were the home of evil. The woodlands in Young Goodman Brown are a clear representation of the demon’s lair. As the path into vice and despair unfolds, it may be interpreted further. Moreover, Salem is the most renowned historical village in American history, having been the home of the witch trials (Hawthorne). The dishonesty of the village’s most powerful inhabitants, as well as the folly and arrogance of the village’s priests in promoting the witch hunt, were at the heart of the vicious Salem (Hawthorne). As a result, it would be entirely logical to assume that Salem is a clear representation of sin and evil in this narrative and that people in this place communicated with the devil.
Hence, Young Goodman Brown is infused with symbolism that takes form in characters, objects, or locations. The characters, including the young man and his wife, represent modern society, where a young man is a naïve person driven by their faith. Additionally, in the book, biblical symbols, such as the serpent and devil, are depicted, contrasting the good and back both in the book and in life. The author defines Salem and forests as something negative and sinful, where hypocritical people who communicate with the devil hide behind the mask of decent villagers.
Hawthorne, Nathaniel. Young Goodman Brown. Wildside Press, 2005.