A Literary Essay Sample: Symbolic Analysis of Hawthorne's Young Goodman Brown

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Symbolism is an art of literature in which the author uses particular terms or names of individual characters to derive a different meaning which flows through the story. The author can also use objects or even places in the representation of an individual phenomenon which is not openly accessed.

The pink Ribbons of Faith

The pink ribbons which Faith placed in her cap had a representation of the purity she had. The colour pink made of the ribbons is an association of gaiety and innocence, and the ribbons as a whole are an innocent decoration of the human carrying them. At the beginning of the story, Faiths pink ribbons are mentioned several times by Hawthorne which showed her character contained in the happiness of her youthfulness. He brings up the introduction of the ribbons at the period when Goodman Brown is in the forest and under the struggle with the doubts which he was fed with about how good were the people he had known by then (Hawthorne 24).

Upon the fluttering of the pink ribbon from the sky, Goodman Brown observes the fall as a sign that Faith had been attacked by the devil who had taken control over her. The fluttering also depicted the shed of the sign of purity which Faith carried together with innocence which was now tampered with by the devil. As the story comes to an end, Faith welcomes Goodman Brown upon the return from the forest (Reichard 26). She again wears the pink ribbon during the occasion which suggested the return of the innocence figure which is depicted at the beginning of the story. The doubts which were cast by Goodman Brown on Faith comes to an end as he perceives her as being innocent and gaiety.

In another view, the name stands in for the belief and precepts of his faith as a Christian. All the evil people that Goodman Brown meets during his journey through the woods trying to lead him away from her a situation in which he handles positively by resisting the seduction. Still, the troubling and awful situations that he observes while in the woods is a meaning that when he returns eventually from the journey, he finds her not comforting as she used to be (Hawthorne 54).

The ribbon is a symbol of the loss of faith in God by Brown. This is shown when Brown cried loudly of losing his faith by the falling of the ribbon yet it was not an actual fall of the ribbon but some vision. The play which is shown on the Name Faith indicates that Brown not only losses his wife but also the belief in Christianity. He is left with nothing to cling to. Categorically, the instance at which the witch meets the flaming stars is a symbol of the baptism of Brown into the evil world in which he cannot get out from. Further Brown loses his faith in the good of the world when he saw people he trusted to be Godly being in the devil worship. This demoralizes him as the only one who was following the right direction while the rest were doomed.

The serpent staffs

There is observed a devil staff in the story unto which a carved serpent encircles. The serpent as drawn from the Biblical symbol is viewed as an evil demon. In the Genesis stories, Eve is tempted by the serpent to eat a fruit form the tree which was forbidden to them. This made Gods wrath to fall upon humanity since Eve defied the will of God. When Goodman Brown is directed by the devil to use the staff in traveling faster, he takes the offer not considering any consequences which could arise from the taken step. Just like Eve, he is condemned ultimately by the weakness he had of losing his innocence.

Apart from a representation of the temptation of Eve, the serpent also represents the curiosity of Eve which further led her into falling to the temptation. The decision of Goodman Brown of going to the forest was motivated by curiosity as was the decision made by Eve in eating the fruit which was forbidden (Reichard 56). The staff puts it clear that the old man was considered to be more demon than human. When Goodman Brown takes the staff for his selfish gains, he is also directed on the path towards evil.

Snakes are always described the short and thin end of the stick. There is no any other animal which has the same reputation for cunning, sneaking, and general deadliness. There is no any other animal created which makes one thick of the evil or Satan. Even other animals also have a fear of being attacked by the snake. This shows that its natural for the snake to be one of the characters of the story that is wiliest. The serpentine staff of the travellers had a staff which was shaped as this wily animal (Hawthorne 61). Something considered to be much weird happens as the journey continues. The traveller decides coming up with a new staff by plucking a new stick and begins to strip twigs from the stick. The moment the travellers fingers touched the stick, they strangely became dry as a result of withering.

There are two things which happen at this point of the story. First, there is a warning of an invitation of the man to a flower show. Second, Gods good creation or the natural world as described by the Puritans couldnt stand the guy. Like the serpent of the Garden of Eden, the guy is said to be destructive.

The staff is a symbol of a tool being used by the devil and the act depicted by Brown of accepting the staff represents the initial moments of acceptance to the evil world.

The woods

Goodman Brown, like Little Red, takes a journey through a woody forest. Considering the opinion of Little Red, the forest is where the assumptions made of each day are overturned. Old women turn into wizards and witches in the forest and grandmothers can turn into wolves (Ambar 49). Both the old women and the grandmothers come from their journey with prior knowledge that a hood and a cape will not protect them in any way. It does not take the whole story for M. Night Shyamalan to tell us about the frightening behaviour of the woods. At the instance when Salem is civil and elderly, the woods are nightmarish and confusing.

The traveller has no information on the one who may be concealed by the thick boughs overhead and innumerable trunks so that by making footsteps which are lonely through the forest, he may also be passing through a multitude which is unseen. Despite the woody forest creating a sense of fear, it is also a freaky place. The woods in a more concise way symbolizes the outside world: outside the comfort zone of Brown, outside the village, outside the boundaries of knowing what is wrong and right. In another perspective, the woods can also symbolize something else: they could be a constitution of the fears and suspicions of Goodman Brown, a picture which is freaky and in which he doesnt acknowledge normally. Making a journey through the woods is symbolized with traveling through the subconscious troubles of the main character of Hawthorne (JIANG &Ni 65).

The evil assembly

The assembly said to be in Young Goodman Brown is not linked with the welcome of the Devil sign which was posted at the entrance of the forest. But it has the next emerging issue which is a couple of fully grown, blazing pine trees. It creates a lovely image of a reminder that sheer devilishness (fire) and wild nature (pines) sometimes can coexist in Goodman Brown. The assembly of evil is associated with a sacramental basin. It also has its preacher and an altar for the performance of series of offerings. Individuals who burs the pines are symbolized to be a bit like the candles of the church. What is seen is simply a dark parody of a ritual of Christianity (Reichard 74). Young Goodmans evil folks are leaderless and lawless. Like a congregation of the church, a particular authority is set in which they operate under it and also, they perform some rituals which make them increasingly empowered and united

The old man

The old man is a symbol of the devil through the actions and the words he uttered to Goodman Brown. He gives a temptation to Goodman in a kind and welcoming manner for him to attend a ceremony which was scheduled to take place in the forest. The action of intercepting Goodman Brown in the midst of the dark road to preside over the ceremony clearly shows the dark side of the old man (JIANG &Ni 65). He criticizes the Salem men of their Christianity boosting the powerful nature of turning the some of the godly men into performing evil practices. He gives an implication on how the devil lures the Christians into sin and then later laughs at them when they are unable to get themselves out of their sinful nature. He is a devil in the forest existing in horrible and dark areas.

Browns father

Brown observes his father as a symbol of Christian men who are good and honest. When the devil tells Brown about his situation of being well acquainted with the family members, his father at this point becomes a symbol of people who pulls apart the evil which surrounds Brown (Ambar 78). Brown is informed by the devil of the general acquaintance he had with the New England people. It becomes an amazing issue to Brown after realizing that his Sunday school teacher and minister, Goody Cloyse also supports the devils interests.

Goody Cloyse

Goody Cloyse is a symbol of a person who follows the devils sinful nature by accepting to meet the devil. She doesnt have principles to control her and is easily swept by the wind. She defiles the Christian character she depicted for a senseless devil combination. The act described by screaming upon being touched by the devils staff showed that she was fully under the control of the devil and also possessed evil. She has no otherwise but to stay under the influence of the devil (Hawthorne 74). It is said that both the Deacon and the minister are going to the meeting with the old man who is the devil. Brown analyses that these are the people who are easily embodied by the devil and cannot find a way out of the mess they created. It is a clear evidence of the current Christians who refer to themselves as being too Holy in which they are hiding some forms and spots of the evil nature.

Young Goodman Brown

The good nature and the youthfulness of Goodman Brown are symbolized by his name. An analysis through the book shows he represented the introduction of a young and energetic person into the ways of a human being. It is significant that the innocence of Brown was derived from his youthful nature. The youthful perspective of Brown suggests that he is an innocent and uncorrupted young man ready to serve and work for the prosperity of his family and community as a whole. The actions at the forest despite being swept away by the devil shows that he I a strong person when it comes to handling of the situation in the right order.

Goodman Browns mother

The mother of Goodman Brown who died earlier before the story began is however highlighted to have told Brown not to be deceived by the devil. She is a symbol of goodwill to her son Brown as she expected the best form her son by teaching him on good morals to follow so as not to land in the arms of the devil. She serves as a point of reference for Brown as he moves through the woody forest (Ambar 98). Her absence however, makes brown to forget so quickly and be associated with the ways of the devil.


Work cited


Hawthorne, Nathaniel. Young Goodman Brown. Booklassic, 2015.

JIANG, Shan, and Ni SUN. "The Metaphor of Character and Pink RibbonAn Exposition of Symbolism in Young Goodman Brown." Journal of Social Science of Jiamusi University 3 (2014): 035.

Reichard, Gladys Amanda. Navaho religion: a study of symbolism. Princeton University Press, 2014.


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