Young Man Gone Bad In Hawthorne's Young Goodman Brown

1561 words - 7 pages

Young Goodman Brown Gone Bad


Nathaniel Hawthorne’s story Young Goodman Brown, is filled with symbols and recurring words and phrases. Hawthorne effectively uses the format of storytelling to convey his message. The symbols are so prevalent that unless one has a good understanding of their interconnectedness, the meaning and intent is lost. Some of the recurring keywords and images connecting the themes are: faith, the forest, the serpent, communion, and the dream. They are used to demonstrate themes of good vs. evil, straying from the known, deception, and how experiences can affect one's outlook on life, whether it is a physical occurence or it happens in our mind. A closer ...view middle of the document...

He exclaims, "What if a wretched old woman do choose to go to the devil, when I thought she was going to Heaven! Is that any reason why I should quit my dear Faith, and go after her?" This experience was just not enough to make him change his beliefs although the aquaintance predicts, "You will think better of this, by-and-by" (Norton 580). Brown is eventually convinced of mankinds evil nature at the turning point where he cries, "My Faith is gone...Come devil! for to thee this world is given" (Norton 581). His perspective has now changed and he sees all things as evil. This idea that "depending upon one another's hearts" each person sees life as either all virtuous or all bad is what the figure is referring to here (Norton 584). Upon his return to Salem village at the end of the story, he has a new and quite opposite outlook on the people and scenes around him and his reactions to this are all based on his new assumption that all is evil.

            While Faith represents the known establishments surrounding Brown, the forest seems to means lot more than just land with lots of trees. The forest, described as "an unseen multitude" filled with "innumerable trunks and thick boughs overhead," represents the ever complicated unknowns of human nature and the subconscious (Norton 577). The forest is personified in Brown's mind, "peopled with frightful sounds; the creaking of trees, the howling of wild beasts...the echoes of the forest laughing like demons around him" (Norton 581-82). These descriptions foreshadow Brown's perception of human nature as evil and extend this belief not only to humans but to all living things. On page 584, the figure leaves these parting words, "Welcome again, my children, to the communion of your race!" Brown is joining the the anti-establishment version of the typical church communion in the belief that the world is full of evil deceitful people. The term "race" is not exclusive of any humans, re-emphazing that evil is EVERYWHERE, according to Brown's new perspective.

            Of great symbolic significance to the story, is the serpent staff carried by Brown's aquaintence which appears to stand for Brown's misconceptions of the unknown. He has been deceived by a highly programmed society to believe that humans are virtuous but he comes to realize that when their cover is blown, their evil nature is seen. The serpent is quite an appropriate symbol for deceit as they can appear one way, then shed their skin and appear differently. Hawthorne gives special significance to important figures in Brown's church. Upon Brown's frightened comment, "how should I meet the eye of that good old man, our minister, at Salem village? Oh his voice would make me tremble," his companion reacted by "breaking into a fit of irrepressable mirth, shaking himself so violently that hes snake-like staff actually seemed to wriggle...

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