Nathaniel Hawthorne's works often explore the Puritan lifestyle and question what it means to be religious during those times. People watched their neighbors, went to church every meeting, and tried to be as devout a Puritan as possible in order to evade the wrath of the townspeople. In those times, one could be run out of town for not adhering to the Puritan way of life. In Nathaniel Hawthorne's Young Goodman Brown, he uses the imagery and symbols associated with his characters to examine Puritan culture and its religious beliefs.
Brown's wife, Faith, embodies his innocent religious ideas and beliefs through the symbolization of her ribbons and name. Faith wears pink ribbons in her bonnet, when she wishes Goodman good night; these ribbons bounce playfully in the wind such as a child's would. The imagery associated with pink ribbons is that of an innocent child. In addition to the connotations aligned with her ribbons, Faith's name evokes imagery as well. When Goodman Brown finds a pink ribbon in the woods, he exclaims, "My Faith is gone!" (Hawthorne 644). When Brown is alone in the woods and has no one to turn to, he says "But where is Faith?" (Hawthorne 645). Faith is the physical manifestation of Brown's religious beliefs. When Brown settles deep within the forest, he questions his beliefs and his "Faith" as he calls out to her. After Brown exits the forest, he is changed and his beliefs are different. This idea is portrayed to the reader through his changed attitude toward his wife. Brown finds himself "awaking suddenly at midnight" and he "shrank from the bosom of Faith" (Hawthorne 647). .
The traveler with the serpentine staff represents the devil and Goodman Brown's temptation to sin. The staff "bore the likeness of a great black snake" (Hawthorne 641). In literature, a snake often represents evil or the devil. When the traveler laughs, "the snake-like staff actually seemed to wriggle in sympathy" (Hawthorne 642).