Essay about Symbolism in Young Goodman Brown

Last Updated: 03 Nov 2020
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Nathanial Hawthorne had a way of intertwining imagery and symbolism into one. He could put the two together to create an ominous mood throughout his story “Young Goodman Brown”. The focus on the use of symbolism and imagery helps imply the theme, that no one can escape sin, in the story. Hawthorne uses this theme to denounce puritan attitudes and hypocrisy. The imagery gives off a sense of no hope for any kind of happy ending. A melancholy and sinister feel throughout the entire story.He had taken a dreary road, darken by all the gloomiest trees of the forest, which barely stood aside to let the narrow path creep through, and closed immediately behind. It was all as lonely as could be; and there is this peculiarity in such a solitude, that the traveler knows not who may be concealed by the innumerable trunks and the thick boughs overhead; so that with lonely footsteps he may yet be passing through an unseen multitude. (Hawthorne) This is what sets the tone for the rest of the story.The images that Hawthorne writes in this passage show Goodman Brown’s character becoming a depressing figure. That is significant because with imagery that is depressing it sets Goodman Brown’s journey as more of an on purpose than a naive accident. This can also suggest that the temptation of sin is too powerful for Goodman Brown to resist. Goodman Brown met a second traveler, the imagery that Hawthorne writes of this fellow traveler is to inform the wickedness of this character.The character is not that greatly descripted, that does not mean he has no significant meaning in his person. But the only thing about him that could be fixed upon as remarkable as his staff, which bore a likeness of a great black snake, so curiously wrought that it might almost be seen to twist and wriggle itself like a living serpent”(Hawthorne). It gives off an evil wicked feel to the traveler. Without the description of the staff then it would be harder for symbolism to portray itself in the fellow traveler. Symbolism is obvious like his wife’s name Faith. Hawthorne gives Brown’s wife the name Faith because the story is about how Goodman leaves his faith behind.

The symbolism is first shown when Brown speaks to himself after he has walked away from Faith. “Poor little Faith! ” thought he, for his heart smote him. “What a wretch am I to leave her on such an errand! She talks of dreams, too. Methought as she spoke there was trouble in her face, as if a dream had warned her what work is to be done to-night. But no, no; ‘t would kill her to think it. Well, she’s a blessed angel on earth; and after this one night I’ll cling to her skirts and follow her to heaven. ” (Hawthorne)

Though he is literally speaking of his wife, she the “Faith” knows that he is going to fall away from her that very night. He feels that he may slip from his “Faith” just once then; he would never slip away from her again. After Goodman is further into his self-inflicting journey, he comes to the point where he gives up after he sees that the people who he thought were the strongest in their faith, falling into the evil sin of the Devil. “My Faith is gone! ” cried he, after one stupefied moment. “There is no good on earth; and sin is but a name.

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Come, devil; for to thee is this world given” (Hawthorne). He cries this after he sees the pink ribbon that symbolizes his “Faith” float in the wind of the forest. This is when Brown has come to the realization that he has lost all innocence and cannot turn back. He has come to the realization that nobody can hide from sin. Not even his own Faith. Hawthorne had to put imagery and symbolism together to push his point of the story. He calls out the Puritans’ on their way of religion and how their attitude is hypocrisy.

Goodman Brown discovers this while he is in the forest; the man who he thought had the most faith in God had fallen to sin, he himself had fallen to sin. Goodman brown does not see that as the case. For in the end when he realized that everybody sinned, he lost all faith in everything. After the night was over he was forever a changed man. A stern, a sad, a darkly meditative, a distrustful, if not a desperate man did he become from the night of that fearful dream. On the Sabbath day, when the congregation were singing holy psalm, he could not listen because an anthem of sin rushed loudly upon his ear and drowned all the blessed strain.

When the minister spoke from the pulpit with power and fervid eloquence, and, with his hand on the open Bible, of the sacred truths of our religion, and of saint-like lives and triumphant deaths, and of future bliss or misery unutterable, then did Goodman Brown turn pale, dreading lest the roof should thunder down upon the grey blasphemer and his hearers. (Hawthorne) Goodman Brown did what most puritans’’ did at the time which was stick up their nose, and had a ‘Holier than thou’ attitude for the rest of his life. He was being a hypocrite because he was judging others on losing their faiths, when he does not included his own self.

He disregards that even he had left his own “Faith’. Imagery and symbolism go side by side in the story “Young Goodman Brown”. The focusing on the use of symbolism as well as the use of imagery in the mood helps the theme of the story to be more meaningful. That nobody, not even the pastor or one’s own faith can escape from sin. It is Nathanial Hawthorn way of showing the Puritans that nobody can escape sin, and how they are being wrong for being hypocrites, that their attitudes towards other human mistakes “sin” is wrong in its self; when they accept their own sins.

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Essay about Symbolism in Young Goodman Brown. (2017, Mar 25). Retrieved from

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