12 February 2015
A Lack of Faith
The moral of “Young Goodman Brown” is to not follow the majority and maintain faith despite the direction of the world. Throughout the story, Young Goodman Brown encounters many endeavors that tempt him to veer from his faith and beliefs. He caves into temptation as the story goes on. The reason for this is that everyone else is following that path. Hawthorne uses a multitude of symbols in the text, which contribute to the temptation of Young Goodman Brown on his journey. These symbols also contribute to the eventual surrender of Young Goodman Brown to the devil’s path. While Hawthorne seems to suggest that temptation is impossible to avoid, it is certainly possible to refuse.
One of the main contributing symbols to “Young Goodman Brown” is the staff offered to Brown in the wilderness by a fellow traveler. In the text, the staff is compared to a “great black snake” (Hawthorne 381). In reference to the bible, a serpent or snake is often referenced in relation to the devil. In the Journal of Biblical Literature by John L. Peterson, he quotes from another source, “ ‘The serpent appears often in the Old Testament as a fearsome and malicious creature with which man lives in perpetual enmity…’” (Peterson 658). At first Young Goodman Brown denies reception of the staff by the traveler. Later, after finding his wife’s pink ribbon in the wilderness he accepts the staff from the traveler. The staff symbolizes the help being offered to him by the devil. Also, the acceptance of the staff symbolizes that Brown has chosen the path of the devil. When he sees that his companions have chosen the path of the devil he believes that it is also the path he should navigate. This encounter shows Brown’s tendency to follow what the majority of people choose to do.
This tendency to follow others directly corresponds with the strength of Brown’s faith. Hawthorne uses Brown’s wife’s name, Faith, to symbolize Brown’s actual faith in God. Hawthorne makes an effort to point out to the reader that Brown and Faith have only been married three months. With that information it can be thought that maybe the relationship between Brown and Faith is not very strong. Furthermore, since his wife represents his real faith then Brown’s faith can be called into question also. This is apparent in the beginning of the story. Faith states, “A lone woman is troubled with such dreams and such thoughts that she’s afeard of herself sometimes” (Hawthorne 380). While it is not Brown directly saying it, this quote is Brown confessing that he is scared that his faith is not strong enough to withhold struggle. While Brown is hiding in the bushes along the path he finds out that Faith is being taken down the path of the devil. Since his wife and his faith in God are directly related, he follows the same path after figuring out that his wife has done so. Again, Brown’s tendency to follow is apparent.
Brown’s wife, Faith, has more symbolism in her character. The pink ribbon that Faith wears is one of the biggest symbols throughout the story. Her pink ribbon symbolizes a couple of different things. One way to view this symbol is by its color. According to an article about the symbolism of the color pink, written by Veronika Koller, it can represent ideas such as femininity and innocence (Koller 401). When Young Goodman Brown sees the ribbon