The Symbolism of Hawthorne's Young Goodman Brown Essay

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The Symbolism of “Young Goodman Brown”

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short story, “Young Goodman Brown,” shows the reader the author’s power as a symbolist.

Frederick C. Crews in “The Logic of Compulsion in ‘Roger Malvin’s Burial’” explores the symbology that prevails in Hawthorne’s best short stories:

. . . I chose this one tale to analyze because it illustrates the indispensability, and I should even say the priority, of understanding the literal psychological dramas in Hawthorne’s fiction. Like all of his best tales, this one is packed with symbolic suggestions and invite a moralistic reading. . . . (111).

Peter Conn in “Finding a Voice in an New Nation” states his evaluation of Hawthorne as a
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Commenting on the rich symbolism of Hawthorne’s tales or short stories, 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). Stanley T. Williams in “Hawthorne’s Puritan Mind” says 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 Goodman Brown came forth at sunset, into the street of Salem village. . .” What is Goodman Brown symbolic of? 1. According to Levy, he “is Everyman. The bargain he has struck with Satan is the universal one . . . . Initially, he is a naive and immature young man who fails to understand the gravity of the step he has taken . . . [which is] succeeded by a presumably adult determination to resist his own evil impulses” (117). 2. Fogle writes that he is “a naive young man who accepts both society in general and his fellow men as individuals at their own valuation, [who] is in one terrible night confronted with the vision of human evil . . . ” (15). 3. Q. D. Leavis in “Hawthorne as Poet” states that “the relevant point is that Young Goodman Brown is Everyman in seventeenth century New England” (35). And what is Salem
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