Symbols in Young Goodman Brown by Hawthorne


The historical events in Young Goodman Brown are not the point of the story, but they help clarify the principal concerns of the author, Nathaniel Hawthorne. The protagonist of Young Goodman Brown is a Puritan whose faith in righteousness and social morals is shaken by the corruption of his neighbors. Finally, Hawthorne weaves in themes of faith and guilt through his protagonist’s internal conflict over whether to remain faithful to God for faith’s sake. Goodman’s suspicions are eased as he sees his wife decked out in her hat with pink ribbons for the unrighteous meeting in the forest. Hawthorne employs the name Faith, the pink color, and the forest setting as symbols to uphold the theme of Young Goodman Brown.


The term ‘Faith’ is significant to the story’s themes because of Hawthorne’s usage to symbolize purity, youthfulness, and innocence. Similar to how Goodman was not chosen randomly as the protagonist’s name, Faith was also deliberate. Goodman’s convictions and the Puritan ideals he grew up with are represented through this character. The name is meant to convey that the bearer is devout and moral. As Magee points out, Hawthorne likens Faith to an angel (2). The story paints an image of a naive young woman with childlike behavior and a fresh, innocent demeanor. Her pure character and unwavering belief in a decent world are symbolized by the pink ribbons adorning her cap. Faith is afraid of being left alone at night, so she begs her husband not to go. This incident indicates her highly attuned sensibilities and reflective mind, which allow her to instantly discern when something sinister is afoot. The young lady stands for Goodman’s concern with the ethics of others. Deeper in the woods, he Last Name 2 looks at a picture of Faith, who represents virtue and the Puritan way of life. As Brown continues walking, his memories grow hazy, and his uncertainty grows.

Additionally, the village and Faith both represent security and stability. Goodman’s faith and ability to overcome the devil weaken the further he is separated from his wife. His wife may be the ultimate straw that finally breaks him, but the corruption of his beliefs began long before that. It seems that Brown’s wife had already guessed his evil plans by telling him to stay until daylight at the start of the chapter (Magee 12). Despite this, Goodman takes her to bed, which might symbolize his decision to ignore his conscience and begin the first step toward sin. As he begins to question the integrity of others around him, he thinks about his wife and is reassured that he cannot afford to give in to temptation so long as she is still good at heart. As soon as Brown spots Faith in the woods, however, his good intentions go by the wayside and his dark face takes over his mind. Goodman’s swift about-face demonstrates how readily his trust can be shaken because it rests solely on the moral standards of others rather than his own.

Furthermore, Brown loses hope in Faith once there is no shared experience of the sacred and sane. It is the protagonist’s terrible decision to turn away from God that, in Magee’s view, ultimately leads to his separation from his wife (22). Faith, or Goodman’s trust in the divine, is not something he holds on to strongly enough, and as a result, he is constantly let down by those around him and meets with nothing but bad luck. The protagonist’s hypocrisy in relying on the virtue of others illustrates a major problem in the Puritan culture, which places a premium on outward appearance at the expense of inner conviction. Faith is a potent symbol in Young Goodman Brown because it represents Brown’s trust in God and other people and his subsequent loss of that trust, which exposes the hypocrisy of the time.

Pink Color

In Young Goodman Brown, Hawthorne employs the color pink and its symbolic connotations to convey his point. Pink has long been a symbol of virginity and youngness. Goodman wife’s hat has ribbons, and this expression is utilized to characterize them. The emblem is striking and stays in the mind of the reader all through the narrative. In the scenario where Faith tries to persuade her husband to remain at home, Hawthorne first brings up the subject. It is fitting, considering Faith is a young wife who is also described as fragile, naïve, innocent, and infantile (Levin 346). Goodman’s wife, who looks as pure and innocent as pink, is a perfect match. Brown’s faith is later tested as he travels through the woods, haunted by the thought that his wife may be present at the satanic gathering. Goodman notices a pink ribbon floating down from above, and he gets a glimmer of optimism that his wife can resist the demon.

Moreover, Brown thinks faith is necessary but not as necessary as righteousness when it comes to undermining his convictions or fighting temptation. He cannot believe his wife has abandoned her faith in God and discarded her pink ribbons, symbolizing her innocence. He relied on a sham of faith, and now the sign has taken on a new meaning. As Levin explains, Faith’s pink ribbon indicates that Brown’s journey was all in one big dream (349). Nonetheless, the protagonist rejects his wife upon seeing her return safely in the morning, confused about the significance of her pink ribbons. This may be interpreted as evidence that the devilish encounter was fake or could be seen as supporting the idea that faith is merely skin deep. After their encounter in the woods, Hawthorne utilizes pink to emphasize the character’s innocence and leaves it up to the audience to question it.

Forest Setting

The author paints a picture of the foreboding forest as a metaphor in the story. Thinking symbolically makes it easy to see how a forest might represent what is hidden or taboo. The devil persona in Young Goodman Brown, who personifies evil and danger, furthers this interpretation (Cherry 347). According to Puritan belief, Satan maintains a forest lair, and Brown becomes suspicious when he sees what appears to be a man in the woods. The woods have a reputation for being a place of untamed beauty and purity, yet they also serve as a place to hide one’s sins, vices, and deepest desires. Brown knows that going to the forest is terrible and evil, but he still does it. He is even more shocked that many locals take the same route through the woods. As a result, it is easy to see how exposure to nature can lead to immoral, devil-worshipping thinking.

In addition, the passage from Salem’s settlement in the forest represents, in Cherry’s interpretation, a shift from rational to irrational thought (344). Brown’s voyage of self#discovery officially begins when he leaves his wife at home and ventures out into the night. Despite his growing skepticism, his efforts to maintain his devotion to God and his true belief bear this. In time, Brown gives in to Satan’s temptations, and his faith wanes as he is exposed to wicked people. The village seems safer than the temptations and devil lurking in the forest. Hawthorne likens Goodman Brown’s dilemma between remaining at home with his spouse Faith and venturing into the woods to discover what lies waiting for him to the scriptural Garden of Eden. He loses his purity the instant he opts to join Satan. Lastly, although the devil is a common emblem of the forests, other figures are also employed. Hawthorne also uses other images, such as Indians and wild creatures hiding in the forest, to portray the potential pitfalls of the Puritans and their convictions. The dark romance genre is exemplified by Young Goodman Brown, which includes such traditional components as depictions of horrible characters and occurrences. The protagonist’s confrontation with Satan and subsequent emotional anguish deepen the reader’s understanding. The revelation that Faith participates in the ritualistic gathering in the forest serves as the story’s zenith. The woodland becomes a haven for sin once Brown loses faith and the sounds of nature mock him. However, Hawthorne does not specify whether the nighttime happenings are genuine or merely occurring in Goodman’s dreams. According to Cherry, it is difficult to tell fact from fiction in the narrative (348). As a result, the forest serves as a significant motif in Young Goodman Brown, standing in for both wickedness and the imperceptible.


In his short story, Young Goodman Brown, Hawthorne used several symbols, such as the pink color, the character Faith, and the forest setting to illustrate his message. Two of the author’s key themes are the insincerity of Puritan culture and the fallibility of faith based on external symbols of right and wrong. The symbolic significance of the places, people, and colors heightens Goodman Brown’s inner battle. Goodman and his noble spouse Faith oppose Satan, who desires to bring forth the worst in all persons. As a metaphor for the ugly side of humanity, the good against evil element is stressed.

Works Cited

Cherry, Fannye. “The Sources of Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown”.” American Literature, vol. 5, no. 4, 1934, pp. 342-348.

Levin, David. “Shadows of Doubt: Specter Evidence in Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown”.” American Literature, vol. 34, no. 3, 1962, pp. 344-352.

Magee, Bruce. “Faith and Fantasy in “Young Goodman Brown”.” Nathaniel Hawthorne Review, vol. 29, no. 1, 2003, pp. 1-24.

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