Salem Witch Trials Young Goodman Brown Essay

Analysis of Hawthorne's Young Goodman Brown Essay

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Analysis of Young Goodman Brown


"Young Goodman Brown" by Nathanial Hawthorne is a short story that is very interesting, as well as entertaining. This essay will first provide a brief summary of the story, followed by an analysis of the importance of symbolism. The nature of evil will then be discussed as it relates to the control of the mind of a once naive and innocent goodman Brown. The climax of the story will be analyzed and the evil within this passage will be discussed and related to the final downfall of goodman Brown.

            As "Young Goodman Brown" begins, we are introduced to goodman Brown and his wife Faith as they bid farewell to one another on the…show more content…

As goodman Brown states, `she's a blessed angel on earth; and after this one night, I'll cling to her skirts and follow her to heaven.'(pg.577) The fact that goodman Brown claims that she is an angel put here on this earth demonstrates the fact that he doesn't want to associate Faith with the evil he may see in mankind. He uses Faith throughout the story in ironic ways. For example, `Faith kept me back a while'(pg.577) can be taken to mean that goodman Brown is late meeting Satan because of his wife or because of his actual faith in the good in himself and mankind. This happens again when goodman Brown cries out, `Faith! My Faith is gone!'(pg.581). He could be referring to his wife's encounter with Satan or he could be indicating that he has lost his faith in God or in mankind.

A second symbol is Satan's staff. It is portrayed as being crooked and black like a serpent. A serpent is thought of as being an evil creature so it is appropriate that Satan be carrying such a staff. It is also symbolic that every living thing Satan touches withers up and dies. This demonstrates how this evil apparition can suck the beauty as well as the life out of anything with which it comes in contact. The dark forest itself symbolizes the dark and evil nature of goodman Brown's journey.

Finally, the fact that the story takes place in Salem village is ironic in the sense that the Salem witchcraft trials took place there. The town, itself, has a history of being filled

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Important Symbols


Faith - We'll start with an easy one. Young Goodman Brown's wife is an obvious symbol for Young Goodman's Brown faith. Although Brown dies a bitter man, blaming the wickedness and hypocrisy of others, he leaves his Faith first.

Young Goodman Brown - This too is a hammer over the head symbol. Young Goodman Brown symbolizes the innocence of young, good men, who are all tempted and to some extent all give in. Brown's journey, therefore, represents the loss of innocence (We'll talk about this more when we discuss allegory in "Young Goodman Brown.").

The Forest - Puritans believed the woods to be the habitat of the devil. The woods in "Young Goodman Brown" are an obvious symbol of the devil's abode. It can be construed further as the journey into sin and darkness.

Salem - Salem remains the most notorious colonial town in American History, famous for its witch trials in 1692 (dramatized brilliantly by Arthur Miller in The Crucible). At the core of the Salem Witch Trials was the hypocrisy of the town's more prominent citizens and the stupidity and pride of the town's clergy in encouraging the trials to take place. It would not be a stretch, therefore, to assume that the "good people" of Salem would have communed with the devil (symbolically speaking). Hawthorne had a personal connection with the trials, being a descendant of one of Salem's prominent judges who sentenced several "witches" to death.

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