“Young Goodman Brown” by Nathaniel Hawthorne contains much symbolism. The symbols take many forms from the setting to the characters. The symbols can be viewed as just part of the story line, but apon further thought they represent many different things. Faith, Brown’s wife, is a symbol herself. When he says, “My love and my Faith,” he is using his wife as a symbol and is really referring to his love and faith in God. He goes on to say “this one night I must tarry away from thee.
He means that he must part from his faith in God to carry on with his journey. He also says to the devil, “ Faith kept me back awhile” and is making reference to a higher being that is trying to keep him from making his journey by delaying it. When Brown finds the pink ribbon that his wife was wearing lying in the forest he says, “my Faith is gone” and is referring to himself as losing his faith in God. Also, Goodman Brown’s “errand” symbolizes the Puritan voyage where they were to find the plan that God has set for them and let faith be their guidance.
As Goodman Brown continues his “errand” and thing begin to go array he grows weak and falls to the ground. He “begins to doubt whether there really was a Heaven above him” and this is a key point when Goodman Brown’s faith begins to wain. Goodman Brown in panic declares that “With Heaven above, and Faith below, I will yet stand firm against the devil! ” This is similar to a Puritan putting his faith in God and following “God’ Plan. ” The forest that Goodman Brown ventures to in itself is a symbol.
In the Puritan days the townspeople were barred from going into the forest because that is where evil lurked and even says “ my father never went into the woods…nor his father before him. ” Hawthorne described the forrest as “ a dreary road, darkened by all the gloomiest trees of the forest” and even jokes of the evil lurking there when he says “there may be a devilish Indian behind every tree” and “What if the devil himself should be at my very elbow! ” Hawthorne even uses the main character as a symbol.
His name, Young Goodman Brown makes reference to him as being young and a good person. Then Hawthorne gives him such a common last name that it relates him to any and everybody, just like he does in one of his other short stories, “Everyman”, when he uses this as a reference to all of society. Another symbol that is present in the story is the mysterious man in the forest. He symbolizes the devil or evil in the story and strangely bears “a considerable resemblance to . ” The Devil had with him a staff that “bore the likeness of a great black snake”.
The staff, which looked like a snake, symbolizes the snake in the story of Adam and Eve. The snake led Adam and Eve to their destruction by leading them to the Tree of Knowledge, just as Brown is being led to unfathomed knowledge by the devil, and in turn is being led to his destruction. Just like Adam and Eve, when Brown finds the “ fountain of all wicked arts” his faith is exiled from him just as Adam and Eve were cast from the garden. The story as a whole symbolizes that the potential for evil resides in everybody.
The rest of Brown’s life is destroyed because of his inability to face the truth of sin and live with it. The story, which may have been a dream, and not a real life event, planted the seed of doubt in Brown’s mind, which him to lose his faith in his fellow man and leaves him alone and depressed. His life ends alone and miserable because he was never able to look at himself and realize that what he believed were everyone else’s faults were his as well, and this led to his isolation from the community. Brown was buried with “no hopeful verse upon his tombstone; for his dying hour was gloom. “