Journey Symbolism in “Young Goodman Brown”
Hawthorne uses journey symbolism in “Young Goodman Brown” to portray one man’s road to damnation. Symbolism is “the use of multiple symbols representing differentiated terms in a system which conveys meaning.” In the story, Goodman Brown is leaving his wife, Faith to go out into the woods at night. Brown knows what he is doing is wrong but continues with his trip. On the way, Brown realizes more and more that he is doing a bad deed.
The first use of symbolism is when Brown leaves Faith, his wife, to go out into the forest. On one hand, he is leaving his wife, who doesn’t want Brown to leave her and tries to get him to stay by saying, “…put off your journey until sunrise…” (420). On the other ...view middle of the document...
Some other uses of symbolism are brought up in smaller parts of the story. When Brown starts into the forest, the trees are open for him to walk in as if a path is there. After Brown walks through the path, the trees “…closed immediately behind.” (420). This can be symbolic of entrapment of Brown in a bad place, a point of no return, or the door closing behind Brown as he pursues his own damnation. The old man is also symbolic in that he resembles Brown, hinting that this could be Brown in the future. The old man doesn’t look evil, meaning all evil can look tempting and inviting. The staff that the old man has is another use of symbolism. The old man uses it as a tempting device to get Brown to follow him further into the forest. It also resembles a serpent, which symbolizes evil and the devil. The staff is made from maple, which rots from the inside. This symbolizes the devil, or the old man, who is rotten on the inside, but outside, can take a better looking form.
When Brown arrives at his home after the events in the forest, Faith welcomes him with open arms but Brown ignores her completely. On one hand, Brown is ignoring his wife. On the other hand, Brown is ignoring his religious faith and falls even deeper into his damnation.
To sum up the matter, Goodman Brown leaves his wife Faith at home to go into the forest at night, where he is to meet with witches, Faith being the symbol here. Then he meets the devil, who resembles Brown, which is a symbol of what is to come of Brown. In the end he turns his back on his faith and on God, which leads to his damnation. In “Young Goodman Brown,” Hawthorne used journey symbolism to portray one man’s road to damnation, and Goodman Brown’s damnation comes abruptly.