Symbbolism in Hawthorne's Young Goodman Thesis

Excerpt from Thesis :



When first offered the snakelike staff, Young Goodman Brown refuses to accept it although his does later accept a new staff instead. This symbolizes his simultaneous fear of evil and his temptation to embrace it (Miller, 1991). The staff itself likely represents a tool of evil (Miller, 1991). Similarly, the way that Young Goodman Brown takes the first steps toward the evil ceremony also symbolizes the inevitability of the fall of human beings from goodness to evil when the choice is presented to them. In that regard, the flaming alter also symbolism a baptism of fire or formal entrance into the world of evil in much the same way that baptism represents the acceptance of God and all that is good and virtuous (Franklin, 1994).

Young Goodman Brown's response to encountering Goody Cloyse and realizing that she is already acquainted with the Devil is symbolic of his disappointment in realizing that evil infects everybody, even the woman who introduced him to and mentored him in his religious faith (Franklin, 1994). He refers to the realization about her fall from goodness and godliness when he decides not to follow her in her choice to forsake heaven and God for the alternative represented by the Devil and his snakelike staff. Nevertheless, the fact that Young Goodman Brown encounters here as well as both the minister and Deacon Gookin symbolizes that nobody Young Goodman Brown believed represented goodness and virtue is above falling prey to the influence of the Devil and evil (Franklin, 1994).

The closest Young Goodman Brown comes to choosing to embrace evil is apparently when he believes that he hears the voice of Faith elsewhere in the woods, presumably following the same windy, dark, irreversible trail as he took. Until he realizes that the voice is not actually Faith's, he seems to take that as the last straw, so to speak, or the final proof that evil on earth truly infects everybody, even his innocent Faith (Tharpe, 1967). His eventual realization that Faith has not accompanied him on his dark journey may be what saves Young Goodman Brown from forsaking his wife, his own innocence, and his God for the Devil and the evil that he represents.

Aftermath

Young Goodman Brown is permanently changed by his experience, notwithstanding that he knows it was a dream. He can no longer look at other people without seeing what he now believes is the evil lurking just beneath the surface of all of them. In all likelihood, he is also left with fears, at least on some level, that the same potential for evil also lies within him, and within his beloved Faith (Miller, 1991).

Conclusion

Hawthorne's Young Goodman Brown is a reflection of the social mores, religious beliefs, and (especially) of the religious beliefs that dominated Salem, Massachusetts in Hawthorne's time. The average individual probably lived in considerable fear of evil spirits, witches, evil spells, and the Devil's tempting tricks. It was also an era where ordinary people could be accused, tried, and punished cruelly just on suspicion of embracing evil ways. Through the use of symbolism, Hawthorne represents many of the worst fears of the average person and manages to communicate those issues without stating them explicitly.

Works Cited

Arvin, Newton. Hawthorne. Russell & Russell, 1961.

Fogle, Richard H. Hawthorne's Fiction: The Light and the Dark. University of Oklahoma Press, 1952.

Franklin, Benjamin V. "Goodman Brown and the Puritan Catechism." Esquire, Vol.

40 (1994): 67-88.

Miller, Edwin H. Salem Is My Dwelling…

Sources Used in Document:

Works Cited

Arvin, Newton. Hawthorne. Russell & Russell, 1961.

Fogle, Richard H. Hawthorne's Fiction: The Light and the Dark. University of Oklahoma Press, 1952.

Franklin, Benjamin V. "Goodman Brown and the Puritan Catechism." Esquire, Vol.

40 (1994): 67-88.

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