Faith In Hawthorne's Young Goodman Brown

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Nathaniel Hawthorne’s allegorical story “Young Goodman Brown” is set in Salem, Massachusetts during the late sixteen hundreds in a time of religious hysteria and only a few generations after the infamous witch trials. Although "Young Goodman Brown" is a fictional tale, it is based on the cynical environment of Salem during this time period. The short story is filled with many literary elements, leading you to question what did exactly happen to the main character at the conclusion. When analyzing a story like "Young Goodman Brown", one must recognize that the story is at whole symbolic. In the text, symbols are used to uncover the truth of the characters. The role of Faith as both a character and a spiritual element are crucial to both the story and the character of Young Goodman Brown.
The names of the characters Young Goodman Brown and his wife Faith are both symbolic. “Young" infers the title character is naive and new at life. Brown’s youth suggests that he is an uncorrupted and innocent young man. Moreover, "Goodman" suggests his self-righteousness thinking he is a good man. Furthermore, "Brown" indicates he is a commoner. Thus, the full name implies he is the average naive and self-righteous Puritan. Faith’s name in the story represents his need to cling to faith. She symbolizes everything that is good and Christian to Goodman Brown. Brown’s marriage to Faith is symbolic of how he clings to faith in good in the world.
The story begins with Young Goodman Brown departing from his wife. His pretty young wife Faith is immediately identified by the pink ribbons in her hair. “And Faith, as his wife was aptly named, thrust her own pretty head into the street letting the wind play with the pink ribbons on her cap.” (Hawthorne 197). Hawthorne symbolically uses the color pink four times throughout the story. The pink ribbons in Faith's hair suggest that she is innocent and uncorrupted. Because Faith was so honest, Young Goodman Brown put all of his faith in her, making a heroin of his worst enemy.
Faith attempts to hold Brown back from his journey, yet for reasons unknown, he insists upon going. As Young Goodman Brown embarks on a journey into the forest without Faith, he also leaves behind his faith in society. Repeated images of the road Brown takes and the dark forest around him, add to the allegory. “He had taken a dreary road, darkened 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 198). As Brown wanders down the dark foreboding path that closes behind him, the potential for spiritual danger arises, foreshadowing the loss of his spiritual faith.
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