Symbolism in Hawthorne's Young Goodman Brown Essay

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Symbolism in Young Goodman Brown

Edmund Fuller and B. Jo Kinnick in “Stories Derived from New England Living” state: “Hawthorne’s unique gift was for the creation of strongly symbolic stories which touch the deepest roots of man’s moral nature” (31). It is the purpose of this essay to explore the main symbolism contained within Nathaniel Hawthorne’s tale, “Young Goodman Brown.”

Stanley T. Williams in “Hawthorne’s Puritan Mind” states that the author was forever “perfecting his delicate craft of the symbol, of allegory, of the few themes and oft repeated character-types which were to haunt forever the minds of those who know New England” (42).

Let us begin with the opening lines of the story: “YOUNG
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To have so much symbolism in the very opening sentence of the tale is almost too much for the human mind.

Examining the second sentence of the short story, we see: “And Faith, as the wife was aptly named, thrust her own pretty head into the street, letting the wind play with the pink ribbons of her cap, while she called to Goodman Brown.” What do the pink ribbons signify? 1. “The ribbons are in fact an explicit link between two conceptions of Faith, connecting sweet little Faith of the village with the woman who stands at the Devil’s baptismal font. We can legitimately disagree about the meaning of this duality; the fact remains that in proposing that Faith’s significance is the opposite of what he had led the reader to expect, Hawthorne violates the fixed conceptual meaning associated with his character. . . .They are part of her adornment of dress, and they suggest, rather than symbolize something light and playful, consistent with her anxious simplicity at the beginning and the joyful, almost childish eagerness with which she greets Brown at the end” (Levy 124). 2. “These ribbons. . . are an important factor in the plot, and as an emblem of heavenly faith their color gradually deepens into the liquid flame or blood of the baptism into sin” (Fogle 24). 3. “The pink ribbons that adorn the cap which Faith wears . . . are a badge of feminine innocence” (Abel 130). 4. “Neither scarlet nor white, but of a hue somewhere between, the ribbons
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