The Symbolism in Nathan Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown” begins before the story starts. The first sign of symbolism is in the title of the story. The word “young” is used in saying that Mr. Brown is young in his marriage and in his maturity. The next word “Goodman” was a term used in Hawthorne’s day as a man under a gentleman. This fits Mr. Brown because he is no one special, only to his friends and family.
Symbolism is strewn throughout the story in what seems like every word. In the beginning of the story, the phrase “Faith, as the wife was so aptly named” shows that the word”Faith” is not only his wife’s name, rather it is also the “Faith” one must have to believe in religion. Mr. Brown’s faith is tested in this story to determine wether or not he is good or evil.
Secondly, when he is leaving and his wife is begging that he stay. This is awful close the situation later in the story where his mothers ghost is trying to hold him back. Yet, Mr. Brown tells his wife that “My journey, as thoust call it, forth and back again must be done ‘twixt now and sunrise.” Taking a journey as she calls it like his father and his grandfather had when they were young. Once again, later in the story when his mother tells him to stay back, the ghost of his father is the one who tells him to go on.
When Mr. Brown enters the forest he says that “There may be a devilish Indian behind every tree” (which will be discussed later) and “What if the devil himself should be at my very elbow.” These both symbolize what is to come. The first is the meeting with the devil. When he meets the devil, He is told that he is late. As if they were supposed to meet. This could be related to people having there certain time to meet “Death” as it were. Mr. Brown does not question there meeting, rather he says that “Faith” held him back. Faith is used again as a symbol. The first being that his wife Faith held him back. The other being that faith in God held him back from going to the Devil.
As Mr. Brown goes deeper in the forest with the Devil, he notices his staff which resembles a serpent. This is obviously a literary allegory to the story of Adam and Eve in the bible in which a serpent, the most slyest and keen of all animals, convinces Eve to eat from the tree of knowledge. This seems like a symbol where later on in the story, When Mr. Brown is deeper in the forest, he learns things about the people in the town that he never knew, nor did he want to know.
As Mr. Brown goes farther into the forest with the Devil, the Devil begins to use people that Mr. Brown knows to break him. First by saying that he was with his father while burning witches in earlier years, also by showing him Goody Close in the forest picking up the staff that the Devil throws down at her feet without any argument. Seeing this breaks him but he still is strong. Finally he hears the voices of Deacon Gookin and the minister. They are talking about going to a meeting deep within the forest. Mr. Brown knows nothing of any church convention in the forest especially where Indian’s may also be. This is a reference to the earlier statement that a devilish Indian could be behind any tree and now they is to be a meeting with them.
Mr. Brown finally ends his walk in the forest when he finds a gathering of all the towns people deep within the forest. He is pulled into it by one of the people there and is brought up to be baptized by the devil along with his wife Faith. Here again the word faith is used both in him loosening his wife to the devil and him losing his faith in god to the devil.
Finally when he is about to yell for his wife to say no to the Devil he realizes he is against a cold rock and the branches that were on fire drip dew on him. He is unsure if he was dreaming or if this incident actually happened. He returns to the village and continues to live a “stern, a sad, a darkly meditative, a distrusting, if not desperate man.” Wether what happened was a dream or was real doesn’t mean anything because either way he doesn’t question it that much showing that it would have effected him the same both ways.