Young Goodman Brown Allegory and Symbolism

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Young Goodman Brown Symbolism and Allegory

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Activity Overview


When studying allegorical texts, it is important that students understand the concept as a foundation for the reading. An allegory is like an extended metaphor, where elements of the story are symbolic of a deeper meaning. Since allegories are works that can be interpreted to reveal a hidden meaning (usually moral or political), it is important that students engage not only with the surface details, but with this deeper level as well.

In “Young Goodman Brown”, Hawthorne uses each character to represent an extended metaphor for the balance between heaven and hell, goodness and evil, and even his loss of faith. By using a storyboard, students can visually depict each of these symbols.


Symbols: Young Goodman Brown Analysis

Goodman Brown

This story is meant to be an allegorical reference to Adam and Eve and the fall of man. As Brown is tempted by the stranger with the serpent’s staff, his curiosity and the Devil's trickery get the better of him. Brown knows he should stay away from the ceremony in the forest, but the temptation to know if Faith was there or not became too great for him. By going to the ceremony, Brown gains knowledge that changes him for the worst and causes him to lose faith in humanity.


Faith

In the story, Faith is Brown’s wife. When we first see her, Hawthorne makes note of a pink ribbon in her hair; a symbol of her innocence. As Brown makes his journey throughout the forest, he continually uses “Faith” as his motivation to stay true. However, when he hears Faith’s voice, which he presumes is heard from the Devil’s ceremony, he rushed forward. This time we see Faith ‘cloaked’; when the hoods of the inductees are lifted, Brown learns that his “Faith” is gone. As he looks around and sees numerous community members, including his wife, consorting with the Devil, he metaphorically and literally loses his wife and his religious faith.



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Student Instructions

Create a storyboard that shows examples of allegory in "Young Goodman Brown".


  1. Identify instances of allegory in the text.
  2. Depict and describe the example of allegory from the text on the left side.
  3. Depict and describe the reference to the larger issue or event on the right side.
Allegorical Reference - Worksheet

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