Rena Korb argues that even though Young Goodman Brown is strictly steeped inPuritan history and culture and similar to many works of literature, the storycan be read on a more universal level as well. Young Goodman Brown takes the form of an allegory which useselements of a story such as the characters and plot to symbolize somethingelse. Goodman Brown represents the everyday man and the title “Goodman” were for those who werebeneath the social rank of gentleman. Faith represents his religious devotion.In leaving his wife, Brown forsakes his belief in the godliness of Brown’s humanity(Korb 1). The forest is shown as a “symbolic physical location in which he willexplore his doubts and conflicting desires where he feels ambivalent aboutforging an alliance with the devil” (Korb 1).
This is obvious from his firstentry into the forest as he tells the man that Faith has kept him back a while.He pledges to return to Faith and to his belief in humankind several times ashe continues with his journey toward the Black Mass which symbolizes hisdescent into hell. Hawthorne presents us with a predominantly allegorical storywhere characterization and plot succeed in its purpose of creating explorativethemes (Korb 1).Thomas F. Walsh Jr.
argues that inorder to obtain better understanding of what happens to Goodman brown, weshould be aware of three major symbols within the text: first, we have Faith,who is Brown’s wife who represents religious faith and faith in mankind.Second, we have the forest which shows Brown’s journey which represents theinward escape into the black and despairing depths of his soul. Third, theDevil represents Brown’s darker side which is filled with doubt, whicheventually believes that evil is the nature of mankind (F.
Walsh Jr. 1). Thesymbolic movement of the forest scenes is from the bosom of Faith to the lossof Faith which includes despair, from the village of belief to the depths ofthe forest of despair, and from a doubting balance of Brown’s personality tothe complete submergence of the brighter side into the darker side whichobjectifies despair.
He says that these three symbols “tell the story of ayoung and naïve man in the ways of the world” (F. Walsh Jr. 1). He eventuallyfinds out that men are all not good and he became so convinced they are all badthat he could remove the doubt of the universal evil from his mind. Korb discusses how Brown is aninconstant character in the story. Hawthorne presents Brown as a “naive youngman who believes his own free will to turn back on his sinful promise and wealso see his increasing struggles to resist evil which then show hisdevelopment as a man” (Korb 1).
For example, Brown decides to challenge his fellowpartner who happens to be the Devil for “any reason that I should quit my dearFaith” (28). But when he has affirmed his decision to stand up to the Devil, hediscovers that his dear love Faith is on her way to the Black Mass (Korb 1).Brown then turns into a personification of Devil and soon finds out that thereis no real good on earth. Brandishing the Devil’s own staff, he rushes throughthe dark forest and against the fearful backdrop of beasts and Indians, hebecomes “himself the chief horror of the scene” (30).
Kelly King Howes touches upon therole the Devil plays and how figure of the Devil in Young Goodman Brown is shown as an older man who wields a twisted,snake-like stick. He seems to vaguely resemble Brown and he could be looked atas a “reflection of the darker side of Brown’s nature” (Howes 1). The Devilclaims he has had relations with Brown’s grandfather who was involved in thepersecution of the Quakers, and his father who was involved in an attack on theIndian village. Deacon Gookin, Goody Cloyse, and the minister serve as greatexamples of the wickedness that may hide in the souls of those who appear mostvirtuous (E. May 1).
The three are “distinguished from among the crowd oftownsfolk at the gathering due to the fact that they represent a standard ofpiety and godliness that is destroyed, and for Brown, by his experience” (Howes1).