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Journey Symbolism in 'Young Goodman Brown'

  • Date Submitted: 03/30/2010 07:43 PM
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Journey Symbolism in “Young Goodman Brown”

Hawthorne uses journey symbolism in “Young Goodman Brown” to portray one man’s road to damnation.   Symbolism is “the use of multiple symbols representing differentiated terms in a system which conveys meaning.”   In the story, Goodman Brown is leaving his wife, Faith to go out into the woods at night.   Brown knows what he is doing is wrong but continues with his trip.   On the way, Brown realizes more and more that he is doing a bad deed.

The first use of symbolism is when Brown leaves Faith, his wife, to go out into the forest.   On one hand, he is leaving his wife, who doesn’t want Brown to leave her and tries to get him to stay by saying, “…put off your journey until sunrise…” (420). On the other hand, he is leaving his faith in a sense of religion, or his faith in God.

The next use of symbolism is when Brown is going into the darkness.   He is leaving his home and going into the night, “[taking] a dreary road, darkened by all the gloomiest trees of the forest…” (420). Brown is going out at night, where all the bad things are and harm could be waiting.   In a religious sense, he is leaving the goodness of light and going into the darkness of evil.   He knows he is doing this but still proceeds on his journey.

      Some other uses of symbolism are brought up in smaller parts of the story.   When Brown starts into the forest, the trees are open for him to walk in as if a path is there.   After Brown walks through the path, the trees “…closed immediately behind.” (420). This can be symbolic of entrapment of Brown in a bad place, a point of no return, or the door closing behind Brown as he pursues his own damnation.   The old man is also symbolic in that he resembles Brown, hinting that this could be Brown in the future.   The old man doesn’t look evil, meaning all evil can look tempting and inviting. The staff that the old man has is another use of symbolism.   The old man uses it as a tempting device to get Brown to...


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