Young Goodman Brown Symbolism and Allegory

Updated: 1/29/2020
Young Goodman Brown Symbolism and Allegory
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Young Goodman Brown Lesson Plans

Young Goodman Brown by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Lesson Plans by Rebecca Ray

The story “Young Goodman Brown” by Nathaniel Hawthorne is a dark and eerie tale of one man’s fear and paranoia of evil within the world. Hawthorne uses heavy allegory to portray the idea that there is a very fine balance of good and evil in the word. The story begins when Goodman must say goodbye to his wife, Faith, to go on an errand. Faith tells Brown that she is not comfortable staying by herself and wished he would not go. However, Brown leaves without stating the purpose of the journey, yet the reader can infer that the reason is related to dark matters.

Young Goodman Brown

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Young Goodman Brown Symbolism and Allegory

Storyboard Text

  • Young Goodman Brown 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 staff (Devil), 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 temptations to know if Faith was there or not become 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.
  • 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 from the devil's ceremony, he rushes 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.