Young Goodman Brown and Other Hawthorne Short Stories

Symbolism in “Young Goodman Brown” College

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown” depicts the journey of a young man going into the woods and losing his faith in humanity. Hawthorne uses the stories of the communion of Goodman Brown and Faith in order to portray that a loss of innocence is eminent, a loss that is illustrated by the symbolism found within the woods. The woods are, in their simplest state, a force of evil; there an ominous traveller bearing the disposition of Satan lurks and reputable members of society are portrayed as being deceptive and depraved. However, the woods are not simply a vehicle for incontestable, unambiguous sin. Although the woods are not evil in their own right, their path has lead straight to sin and corruption on all occasions. The woods, therefore, represent the often enticing primal urges and desires of humanity to which every person must eventually fall prey; the path, the staff, and the pink ribbons serve as symbols within the narrative to manifest the way in which desire operates within a rigid religious worldview.

The path on which Goodman Brown treads represents his conscience or his moral compass. The path is the only thing that separates himself from the woods or his desires, although it proves to be unreliable. Hawthorne...

Join Now to View Premium Content

GradeSaver provides access to 943 study guide PDFs and quizzes, 7594 literature essays, 2152 sample college application essays, 318 lesson plans, and ad-free surfing in this premium content, “Members Only” section of the site! Membership includes a 10% discount on all editing orders.

Join Now

Already a member? Log in