Allegorical Symbolism in "Young Goodman Brown".
An allegory is a narrative in which tangible items or characters symbolize abstract concepts and hold a greater significance than what appears on the surface (The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language 2000). The short story "Young Goodman Brown," written by Nathaniel Hawthorne, is a great example of an allegorical story as it is filled with many symbolic elements. This paper will examine some of the symbols found within this narrative and decipher their possible meanings. More specifically, it will look at the characters Young Goodman Brown and his wife Faith, the pink ribbons, and the forest and argue that although they are to be taken in a literal sense, their most important meaning lies in what they are meant to represent.
The character Young Goodman Brown is a central symbol in this tale. At first, as Erisman states, the name Young Goodman Brown may come across as a standard name for a man of the seventeenth century, but, upon closer investigation, it soon becomes evident that it stands for much more (124). For instance, the name "Goodman" indicates that Brown is, in fact, a good person with the moral characteristics of a devout Christian (124). In addition, the title "Young" is used as an allusion to his virtue as it signifies that he is faultless and pure (124). However, as soon as Brown ventures into the forest and converses with the elderly traveller (a representation of the devil), he loses the "Young" and is only referred to as Goodman Brown. It is as if, at this point, he loses everything in him that is decent and good. What's more, Miller asserts, "Brown" is a very common last name (240) and is used, according to Levy, to suggest that Brown is a representative of "everyman" (146). In this sense, he seems to characterize anybody who is being persuaded to commit sin or to step outside of the norm (146).