University of Arkansas System
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Hawthorne’s Young Goodman Brown
Nathaniel Hawthorne is famous for using allegory and symbolism in his writings, and this technique is obvious in his short story, “Young Goodman Brown. ” One major symbol of the story is Faith, Brown’s wife. Faith symbolizes Brown’s strong faith as he struggles between good and evil. In fact, with this very obvious representation, it can be interpreted that Faith is not a character but a mere physical representation of Brown’s own trust in God and belief in the goodness of mankind.
Her name is no accident either as the author appropriately named her to show how the main protagonist’s morality regresses as the story progresses. The pink ribbon in Faith’s cap highlights this symbolism as it signifies the condition of Brown’s faith at that time. Pink is a combination of white (a sign purity) and red (a symbol of sin and corruption), which means that he is caught between good and evil and his faith is starting to waver. Faith, his wife, is Brown’s stronghold as he tries hard to resist evil around him. It is Faith who causes him to be hesitant on his journey in the first place.
However, Brown’s confidence in his wife is seen as a mere representation of a deeper reality: Brown is not actually getting strength from his wife; but, rather, he is trying to convince himself that his faith in God is strong and he can resist evil. He knows that he is a sinner too, but he wants to uphold whatever goodness is left in him. His own faith, and not his wife, keeps him strong. He stands valiantly on his own disposition, but the truth that everyone, including him and his wife, is a sinner gives him a sense of hopelessness, which eventually weakens his faith.
His wife’s joining the devil symbolizes the complete destruction of his faith. He is losing the battle, but he gives a last effort to save himself from the clutches of evil. Here again, Brown’s vehement urging to his wife to resist evil is actually his last effort to convince himself that his faith in God is intact. He is doing it not for the sake of his wife but for himself. However, it is too late; his faith finally dissolves and he gives in to the dark side.