Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short story “Young Goodman Brown” is about a man that sets off on a journey to test his religious faith and to discover himself. Hawthorne uses many different types of symbolism in this story to describe Mr. Brown’s journey. First, he uses it to describe the forest, which seems to take on life -like characteristics. Another way he uses symbolism is the word Faith, which is his wife’s name, and describes his love for her, along with his actual religious faith. Young Goodman Brown’s name is symbolic in itself; both of his youth and that he is a good religious man. Hawthorne’s use of symbolism throughout the story draws you in and paints vivid pictures of what Mr. Brown is seeing and experiencing.
The way the forest is described, it seems to take on life- like characteristics. To begin his journey “He had taken a dreary road, darkened by all the gloomiest trees of the forest, which barely stood aside to let the narrow path creep through, and closed immediately behind (554).”
The forest seemed to open up a path just big enough for Mr. Brown to enter and then closed behind him, as if the trees were guards opening a gate and letting him in and then closing him inside. When Mr. Brown finally reached the ceremony he sees “Four pines, their tops aflame, their stems untouched, like candles at an evening meeting (559).” The trees seemed to be holding the flames to light the ceremony area for all of the town’s people that had arrived for the ceremony. The town’s people were singing an evil hymn when Goodman arrived. As the worshipers hymns stopped a sound came out of nowhere, as if all of nature was mingling and praising the prince of all. The rocks even formed an arch of flames as a figure appeared atop of them. The forest itself seems to represent evil, in the dark of the night.
The word Faith symbolizes both his wife’s name, who he loves dearly, and his religious faith. When we first meet Faith and Goodman Brown they are saying their good –byes and she seems worried about his trip. Hawthorne points out that Faith has pink ribbons in her hair, which this color symbolizes religious faith. But if you think about the two colors that make pink, which are white and red, you will find a deeper meaning. White represents purity and innocence while red represents sin and evil. By wearing pink, Faith represents both good and evil. Faith tries to stop her husband from going on his adventure because of the dreams that she has had, but he does not listen to his wife and instead leaves for his journey into the woods to test his religious faith. He also does not pay attention to her when she says that she is sometimes afraid of herself. Her being afraid of herself symbolizes that good and evil also rests inside of her.
Young Goodman Brown’s name is symbolic in itself, of his youth and that he is a good religious man. His youth symbolizes that he is not corrupt and is still innocent, and he seems to hang onto his religious faith through his marriage. He sees her as being pure and innocent and is blind to the fact that she is also battling with good and evil herself. After leaving Faith he says to himself “She is a blessed angel on earth; and after this one night, I’ll cling to her skirts and follow her to