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In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown” an allegory is written to show the dangers of abandoning one’s Christian faith, along with black irony and an overflow of symbols Hawthorne lights the narrow path of destruction that Young Goodman Brown went down. From leaving his wife, coincidently named Faith, to seeing many people of his own village who are highly notable for their faith with the devil, Brown completely loses all Faith.
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Faith, his wife, represents his faith, so when Young Goodman Brown leaves his wife to go visit the devil in the forest, he also leaves his faith. “…and after this one night, I’ll cling to her skirts and follow her to Heaven.” (385). Every Christian knows one cannot get into Heaven by following someone and one should never leave his faith behind when visiting the devil. Heading to the forest, Hawthorn writes it as no accident, that the sun was setting as he was leaving Faith, every step he took away from his Faith, the light of God slowly left his heart. In the forest
“He had taken a dreary road, darkened by all the gloomiest trees of the forest, which barley stood aside to let the narrow path creep through, and closed immediately behind. It was all as lonely as could be; and there is this peculiarity in such a solitude, that the traveller knows not who may be concealed…” (386).
Hawthorne writes the forest as confusing and lonely, just as a Godless life would be. In the forest Young Goodman Brown meets an older man who looks to be an older version of him, though his real identity is shown to the reader with the snakelike staff he carries, which of course the snake is the universal symbol for the Devil. Hawthorne incorporates some black irony when the devil said he was late, Young Goodman Brown replies, “Faith kept me back awhile,” (386).
Now when the devil pushes Young Goodman Brown onward, “Friend, having kept covenant by meeting thee here, it is my purpose now to return whence I came. I have scruples, touching the matter thou wot’st of.” (386). Brown makes a feeble attempt to turn away, making a sacred promise to meet him, that now he’s had enough, but the devil, known for his beautiful lies, convinced him to keep going.
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Through his journey with the devil he learns that his father and grand-father were also in ties with the devil, and also many other upstanding people in his village. He was shocked. When they come upon Goody Cloyse, Goodman Brown makes another attempt, “…my mind is made up. Not another step will I budge on this errand. What if a wretched old woman do choose to go to the devil, when I thought she was going to Heaven! Is that any reason why I should quit my dear Faith, and go after her?” (388). This is humorous in a way, because he has already left his faith; she is at home without him. Now when the devil disappears, he hides from the oncoming deacon and minister; he notices that the faint gleam from the strip of bright sky does not touch them because they have chosen to walk in the darkness of sin. “With Heaven above, and Faith below, I will yet stand firm against the devil!” (389). As he looked up to pray, a cloud, though no wind was moving, moved across and hid the stars, then finally the last hard blow to his Faith, he heard a familiar voice in the crowd of the people in the forest, he heard his wife, Faith. Then that pink ribbon fell on the branch next to him, and he cried, “My Faith is gone!” (389). Now Brown leaves the path to run through the woods. Hawthorne illustrates that once one leaves the path of righteousness it is hard to find it again even if one desires to, because the woods of sin are all darkness and confusion. When Brown returns home believing he has rejected the devil, but in fact he did not; he becomes a bitter, fearful man, who becomes suspicious of everyone around him.
Even though the protagonist in this story did what was right in this context, Hawthorne does not leave this black and white allegory of sin and redemption a happy ending. Brown dies alone, a bitter old man. In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown” an allegory is written to show the dangers of abandoning one’s Christian faith, along with black irony and an overflow of symbols Hawthorne lights the narrow path of destruction that Young Goodman Brown went down.
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