Young Goodman Brown Symbolism Essay Example


The struggle between good and evil, the angel and devil on your shoulder telling someone what is right, wrong, good, and bad. This is the struggle that Young Goodman Brown faces in the short story “Young Goodman Brown” by Nathaniel Hawthorne. This story was written in the mid 1800’s and is based on real events that happened in Hawthorne’s childhood. The story illustrates Young Goodman Brown’s encounter with the devil in a dark, dreary forest and how he manages to deal with the evil figure. Symbolism, imagery, figurative language, and diction greatly develop the theme of loss of innocence through evil with the tone being serious and frightful.

Symbolism is the use of different symbols to represent ideas or qualities. Many different examples of symbolism are seen in “Young Goodman Brown” which greatly advance the theme and tone of the story. Some examples include the staff in which the devil holds and offers to Young Goodman Brown multiple times. The Staff resembles a serpent, which symbolises the devil, this is referenced from the Bible when the serpent tempts Adam and Eve to eat the apple in the Garden of Eden.

All throughout the story, Goodman Brown is offered to take the Staff and refuses time and time again. But, at the very end of the tale he believes that his wife Faith had turned to the devil and so he grabs the staff in an act of anger and instantly he is transported into a place which can only be compared to as hell and all his innocence is lost. In the text, “Young Goodman Brown” the narrator states, “ The whole forest was peopled with frightful sounds; the creaking of the trees, the howling of wild beasts, and the yell of Indians; while, sometimes the wind tolled like a distant church-bell, and sometimes gave a broad roar around the traveller, as if all Nature laughed him to scorn”(Hawthore, 51).

This reveals that once Goodman Brown grabbed the staff he was immediately turned to evil and all of his innocence was lost. Another example of symbolism is Faith's pink ribbons. Ribbons are portrayed as a childish accessory worn in a young girls hair. This adds a sense of innocence to Faith. Also, the color pink symbolises cute, sweet, and dainty which even further adds to the sense of innocence associated with Faith.  At the beginning of the story Faith is pictured with her ribbons asking her husband to not go on this adventure that he insists he must embark on. In the story Faith states, “Dearest heart,” she whispered, softly and rather sadly, when her lips were close to his ear, “prithee, put off your journey until sunrise, and sleep in your own bed to-night” (Hawthorne, 2). This reveals how Faith is very wary of doing things that are in the unknown which further portrays innocence. In addition to symbolism, imagery develops the tone and theme in “Young Goodman Brown”.

Imagery is another literary device used to develop the tone and theme in “Young Goodman Brown”. When Young Goodman Brown believes that Faith had turned to the devil there is a very descriptive piece of the story that reveals why he thought this way. According to the story, the narrator states, “ There was a scream, drowned immediately in a louder murmur of voices, fading into far-off laughter, as the dark cloud swept away, leaving the clear and silent sky above Goodman Brown. But something fluttered lightly down through the air, and caught on the branch of a tree. The young man seized it, and beheld a pink ribbon” (Hawthorne, 49).

This clearly emphasizes how Goodman Brown feels and what he is experiencing in the moment he believes his dear wife turned to the devil. Goodman Brown believes that his wife's innocence was lost and in turn he lost his innocence. It depicts a clear image in the mind of the author of what is going on at that point in time in his life. Another example of imagery in “Young Goodman Brown” is when the author is describing what it was like for Goodman Brown when he has taken the staff and is being transported into the place we can assume is Hell.

This can be seen in the story when the narrator states, “The road grew wilder and drearier, and more faintly traced, and vanished at length, leaving him in the heart of the dark wilderness, still rushing onward, with the instinct that guides mortal man to evil” (Hawthorne, 51). This illustrates to the audience how dark and dreary the path to Hell was like which adds to the development to the tone of the story being frightful. Also it adds to the theme being loss of innocence through evil when Goodman Brown grabbed the staff. Furthermore, figurative language also adds to the development of tone and theme in “Young Goodman Brown”.

Other literary devices used in “Young Goodman Brown” to develop the tone is figurative language and diction. When Goodman Brown is entering the forest there is use of personification which strongly portrays the tone of frightful. The narrator states, “He had taken a dreary road, darkened by all the gloomiest trees of the forest, which barely stood aside to let the narrow path creep through, and closed immediately behind” (Hawthorne, 8). The use of giving the trees human like qualities portrays of tone of being frightful because it adds to the sense of darkness in the forest.

Along with figurative language diction also significantly adds to the tone of the text. On example in the text is seen right after Goodman Brown takes the staff and turns to evil. According to the text, “On he flew, among the black pines, brandishing his staff with frenzied gestures, now giving vent to an inspiration of horrid blasphemy, and now shouting forth such laughter, as set all the echoes of the forest laughing like demons around him” (Hawthorne, 54). This conveys that the use of very strong words, including: brandishing, frenzied, and horrid blasphemy add the tone of serious and frightful. Because of the use of symbolism, imagery, figurative language, and diction the tone and theme of the text was profoundly affected.

Overall symbolism, imagery, figurative language, and diction greatly develop the tone and theme in the short story “Young Goodman Brown” This short story conveys the theme of loss of innocence through evil, which means that the second one turns to evil all innocence is lost. This is done through the use of symbolism and imagery. In addition, the tone of the story being frightful and serious is developed through the use of diction and figurative language. Overall, without the use of those 4 elements the story would be very bland with no deeper meaning, the struggle of Young Goodman Brown would not be much of a struggle.

 

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