Essay The Allegory of Young Goodman Brown

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The Allegory of Young Goodman Brown

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown” is an allegory, though an allegory with deficiencies, with tensions existing between the reader and the story.

Peter Conn in “Finding a Voice in an New Nation” explains Hawthorne’s style of allegorizing and how it creates unwanted tensions for the reader:

He once planned to call a group of his stories “Allegories of the Heart,” and in that unused title he summed up much of his method and his subject. His chosen terrain lay between the realms of theology and psychology, and allegory provided the means of his explorations. . . . Where traditional allegory was secured in certitude, however, Hawthorne’s allegorical proceedings yield
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H. Abrams defines an allegory as a “narrative, whether in prose or verse, in which the agents and actions, and sometimes the setting as well, are contrived by the author to make coherent sense on the ‘literal,’ or primary, level of signification, and at the same time to signify a second, correlated order of signification” (5). It is quite obvious from the names of the characters in “Young goodman Brown” that their names are contrived to give a secondary signification. Goodman is on the primary level a simple husband who is following his curiosity about evil; on the level of secondary signification he is Everyman or the new Adam: R. W. B. Lewis in “The Return into Rime: Hawthorne” states: Finally, it was Hawthorne who saw in American experience the re-creation of the story of Adam and who . . . exploited the active metaphor of the American as Adam – before and during and after the Fall” (72). Goodman responds in this way to the fellow-traveller when the latter implicates the governor in devilish deeds:

"Can this be so!" cried Goodman Brown, with a stare of amazement at his undisturbed companion. "Howbeit, I have nothing to do with the governor and council; they have their own ways, and are no rule for a simple husbandman like me. But, were I to go on with thee, how should I meet the eye of that good old man, our minister, at Salem village? Oh, his voice would make me tremble, both Sabbath-day and lecture-day!"

So by Goodman’s own words we learn
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