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Allegory in "Young Goodman Brown" by Nathaniel Hawthorne

 Nathaniel Hawthorne is America's greatest anti-transcendentalist. His writing is known for its symbolism and psychological exploration of guilt and sin. Young Goodman Brown is one of Hawthorne's most important short stories, combining his preoccupation with guilt and sin with symbolism and allegory. The story is about a newlywed man walking toward spiritual crises with the devil. Set in Salem during the witchcraft trials, it's a weird journey into the dark forest and human heart.

All the story's characters, objects, and settings represent abstract ideas. Young Goodman Brown and his wife Faith have symbolic names. Brown symbolises man's innate evilness. He symbolises man's evil nature. His wife Faith embodies Christian virtue and faith. Brown's marriage to Faith shows he has faith in good. Faith's pink ribbon symbolises heavenly faith. When Brown meets his friend in the woods, he says, "Faith kept me back." Hawthorne uses Brown's wife's name to symbolise his goodness. Brown's conscience prevents him from adopting his companion's evil ways. Hawthorne's image of Brown putting his head back across his threshold to kiss his wife goodbye symbolises Brown's resistance to the devil's evil ways. Despite his wavering conscience, Brown follows an evil impulse into the woods. Brown's errand in a dense forest suggests he's up to no good.

Brown's forest journey is narrow, dark, and boring. Darkness and gloom symbolise forest evil. The path's narrowness symbolises Brown's evil. The woods closing behind Brown suggests he may never return to innocence. Long and winding trail symbolises how far Brown's conscious must travel from innocence to recognise evil.

Brown's forest companion represents the devil. He's about 50 and looks so much like Young Goodman Brown that he's called Elder Goodman Brown. The devil is his evil side. The devil represents Goodman Brown's hereditary evilness. This idea of evil past, present, and future is another allegory for the Fall of Man. Hawthorne wants to show us the sin we inherited from Adam and Eve and the psychosexual, religious, and historical pretexts for events like the Salem witch trials. Goodman Brown references Moses, the Jewish prophet, whose staff could turn into a serpent. Hawthorne mocks all religious figures by portraying the elder Brown as a devil. The devil gives Brown his "snake-like" walking staff. The snake-like appearance of the staff symbolises Young Goodman Brown's serpent-like companion. Brown's refusal of the staff symbolises his resistance to evil.

Goodman As the devil tells Brown that he knows his family well, Brown's forefathers become symbols of evil. The devil says he knows New Englanders. Goody Cloyse taught Brown catechisms. She's a witch now. Brown feels conflicted about following the elder and returning to Faith. This shows he avoids evil and believes in good. He gives him a maple branch before leaving. Brown's acceptance of the devil's new staff accelerates his descent into evil. Accepting the staff symbolises Brown's acceptance of evil in his world. He becomes more confused when he sees the minister and deacon Gookin as evil. The falling pink ribbon symbolises Brown's new commitment to evil. The ribbon symbolises Faith's fall from good and Brown's loss of faith.

Goodman Brown resisted evil more than once and kept his mental strength until his faithful wife turned evil. Faith's conversion to evil shattered his faith in good and made him evil. Faith is like Adam's lost innocence for Eve.  The story allegorizes that man is inherently evil and cannot escape its grasp.

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