The Symbolism in Young Goodman Brown
Young Goodman Brown, one of the best short stories written by the American
romantic writer Nathaniel Hawthorne, is a typical work of Hawthorne’s style.
Hawthorne usually uses symbolism to express his views, just as what this story performs. Therefore, the writing techniques especially the symbolism is largely applied in the short story, including its character symbols, the environment symbols and other image symbols etc, which help our readers to think what happened and figure out our own themes.
Key words: Young Goodman Brown Hawthorne symbolism
1.1 Nathaniel Hawthorne
Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804--1864) was an American writer of novels and short stories and was considered an important representative of Puritanism, Symbolism and Romanticism in American literature. Hawthorne’s works, which are regarded as modals of profound thinking and highly skills, belong to dark Romanticism cautionary tales that suggest that guilt, sin and evil are the most inherent qualities of humanity. The sin and degeneration of human nature are also reflected in the short story Young Goodman Brown and the writing
technique---symbolism is largely applied in it. In Young Goodman Brown,
Hawthorne used his imagination to create various kinds of characters and symbols to show us profound significance and his special views about humanity and the society. Meanwhile, his use of symbolism, gives a wide space for our readers to think what happened and figure out our own themes of this story. All in all, the application of symbolism is infiltrating into nearly every part of the story, including symbols of its characters, environment and other image symbols etc, which helps to expound the theme of the story subtly. 1.2 Young Goodman Brown
In Young Goodman Brown, Hawthorne uses the background of the Salem
witchcraft trials to explore the uncertainties of belief that trouble a man’s heart and soul. He uses symbolism to describe a young man, Brown, who reluctantly leaves his world of innocence. Soon the young man realizes that evil is indeed very widespread and existent in this word. At last, Brown begins to hold a suspicious and cynical attitude towards his belief of God and all the people around including his wife. Even his dying hour was gloom. On April 1834, Young Goodman Brown was first published in the New England Journal and
then collected in Moss on the Old House. Herman Melville commented that
“Even though a child can easily know the story, but I think what Hawthorne wants to tell us is as deep as Dante.” In Hawthorne’s Young Goodman Brown,
you should bear in mind the characters and events are to be understood as representing other things and symbolically expressing a deeper meaning. 1.3 Writing purpose of the paper
In the short stories Hawthorne paid more attention to moral exploration than to the plot and he brought symbolism into practice. His brilliant writing ability was fully reflected in Young Goodman Brown where symbolism was
used to describe a young man who reluctantly leaves his world of innocence. In Brown’s world, evil was symbolically repressed through symbolism and I based my point of view on the following pars. First of all, I will give a brief account of Hawthorne’s symbolism. Then the character symbols will be
discussed. With the help of symbolism, Hawthorne showed us a new Garden of Eden. Meanwhile, he probed deep into every character’s spirit and found
that everybody in the village not only had a good side but also had an aspect of vicious. In addition, the environment symbols will be included next, involving
the dark forest, the village, a hanging twig and the coldest dew. The last part of the paper is called other image symbols, which includes the pink ribbon, the journey to the forest and the color. Through the discussion of the paper, it is not difficult to find that every of the story has the power to represent something else and we can found the special fascination of the symbolism used by Hawthorne as well.
2. Hawthorne’s symbolism
Symbolism is a writing technique usually used by writers no matter in western or eastern countries nowadays. It originates from centuries ago and develops through a long history. The influence of symbolism in literature has lasted till today. Nathaniel Hawthorne, who was named “the master of
symbolism”, showed us his special view about symbolism and made special contribution to it.
Symbolism is the practice of representing things by symbolism, or of investing things with a symbolism meaning or character. A symbol is an object, action, or idea that represents something other than itself, often of a more
thabstract nature. In the late 19 century a part of intellectuals in Europe were
dissatisfied with social life and the official salon culture. They didn’t dare to
face the reality and were reluctant to express their true feelings directly. They often expressed their wishes by resorting to symbolism and allegory, which is building another world by imagination. Then the art of symbolism was emerged. In 1886, the declaration of symbolism was published by Jean Moreas, where
the word “symbolism” was first proposed. Symbolism is the earliest, longest and the most influential literary school in modern literature. It originated in the mid-19 century in France and extended to Europe and the United States in the
thearly 20 century. It is a reflection of symbolist thought and a core branch of modern literature, which primarily covers two areas, drama and poetry. Most scholars of Western Academia hold the view that symbolism is the watershed of classical literature and modern literature. The French poet, Charles Baudelaire and American poet Edgar Allan Poe are the pioneers of symbolism in literature. The characteristics of symbolism literature are as follows: firstly, symbolism puts emphasis on subjective reality by using symbols as the main writing technique. That’s why it is called symbolism. Secondly, it expressed its theme by using association, implication etc. Moreover, it adopts a large number of symbolic associations to stimulate inspiration. Thirdly, symbolism emphasizes on the shift of feelings. Finally, it pursues the structure beauty and the rhythm beauty of the poem in order to form neatly and pronounce harmoniously. As an international literary trend, the developing characteristics of symbolism are different in countries and regions. It is because of different national temperaments, culture traditions and writers’ temperaments and so on.
But the influence of symbolism in literature has lasted till today.
2.2 Hawthorne’s symbolism
Hawthorne was the first American romance writer who initiated a new tradition in literature which is called symbolic romance. His stories were rich in symbolism and peculiar incidents. Although he knew the Transcendentalists, Hawthorne did not share their beliefs. His way of rebelling against the traditional New England outlook on life was to write imaginative “romance”,
stories and novels which were not necessarily realistic but which were designed to explore certain moral themes such as guilt, pride and emotional repression. Most of the characters and symbols, Hawthorne created were of profound significance and most of them are penetrating exploration of moral and spiritual conflicts. Hawthorne is outstanding in literature skills, especially in his use of symbolism. With the publication of The Scarlet Letter, his
masterpiece, Nathaniel Hawthorne was named “the master of symbolism”.
Hawthorne’s eyes were symbolic eyes, his mind worked with the help of signs and symbols. As one of the greatest writers in American literature, Hawthorne had been judged by contemporary critic Edgar Allan Poe as a truly imaginative intellect. He used his imagination to create various kinds of characters and symbols and showed us his special views about humanity and the society. His writing technique, symbolism, gave a wide space for our readers to think what happened and figure out our own themes. As a genius, Hawthorne’s writing
had a profound impact upon other writers at that time. Meanwhile, Hawthorne had set a lasting example in American literature of combining moral discussion with highly artistic representations and symbols as we can see from his short story Young Goodman Brown.
3. The Application of Symbolism in Young Goodman
3.1 Character symbols
In Young Goodman Brown, Hawthorne brought symbolism into practice to
create the characters. With the help of symbolism, Hawthorne probed deep into every character’s spirit and showed us a new Garden of Eden from his
special view in his short story.
3.1.1 Brown and Faith---symbols of Adam and Eve
In the story, the hero Brown symbolizes new Adam and Faith symbolizes Eve. In Bible, God made man from the dust of the earth, breathing into him the breath of life, and called him Adam. In order to have someone like Adam as a help, God took one of his bones from Adam’s side and joined up the flesh
again in its place. Then woman was created. She was named Eve. For this cause will a man go away from his father and his mother and be joined to his wife; and they will be one flesh. But the snake was wiser than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. He seduced Eve to take the
forbidden—fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. And Eve also
gave the fruit to her husband. Finally their eyes were open and they made themselves coats of leaves stitched together. Their behaviors made God very angry. Therefore the Lord God sent them out of the Garden of Eden and let Adam to be a worker on the earth from which he was taken. Since then, Adam and Eve and all their descendants bore the charge of original sin. They had to atone for the wrong, they had done forever in order to go back to the place flowing with milk and honey. Staying alone made Adam and Eve degenerate. Woman (Eve) was seduced by the serpent while man (Adam ) was tempted by woman, woman and man degenerated together. Therefore, man and woman cannot separate easily, or they will be tempted to give up their belief.
The story began with Brown’s leaving his home and Faith, his three-month
newly bride, to attend the party of the evils in the forest, which proposed the condition of degeneration—separation. Faith was not only Brown’ wife, but
also a symbol of kindness, loyalty and strong belief in Brown’s eyes. This is
just the same as Adam said about Eve,” This is now bone of my bone and flesh
of my flesh: let her name be Woman because she was taken out of Man.” Faith
was afraid of Brown’s leaving and begged her husband to put off the journey until sunrise. From the words Faith said, it is obvious that she had a premonition that separation means lonely. Being alone means she may be
tempted to lose herself. But Brown said to her” Amen! Say thy prayers, dear
Faith, and go to bed at dusk, and no harm will come to thee.” Virtually, Faith’s
belief in God is not faithful. Her pink ribbon symbolizes that she is coexistence of good and evil. It also means she will accept the temptation and give up her belief. And that is the fact. In the forest Brown was seduced by the devil, going to the sin step by step, sometimes hovering and hesitating, sometimes moving forward.. When he thought of Faith, he felt very embarrassed and upset for what he had done. But at last he gave up his belief of God, went to the evil party and saw Faith. He screamed: “My Faith is gone! There is no good on
earth; and sin is but a name. Come, devil! For to thee is this world given.”Finally, Brown didn’t resist to the temptation of the devil any more and admitted his guilt. As stated above, Faith became the predecessor Eve. Both of them had similar relationship with man and they all seduced by devil and did the wrong things. In addition, Brown became new Adam. Brown gave up his belief in God because he saw Faith in the devil’s party. Adam gave up his belief
in God because of he ate the forbidden fruit on the wisdom tree which was given by Eve.
3.1.2 The elder man—a symbol of Satan incarnation
In Bible, the Lord God made every beast of the field and every bird of the air from the earth, and took them to the Adam to see what names he would give them: and whatever name he gave to any living thing that was its name. But the snake was wiser than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. One day he induced Eve into taking the forbidden—fruit, which is
contrary to the God’s will. And Eve took the fruit to her husband, Adam, and led him to do the wrong thing. In the end Adam gave up his faith in God and was
punished by God. The elder man, who took Brown to the party, had a stick like a black snake. The snake was Satan incarnation in the eyes of the westerners; moreover, the black snake was more evil. And in the story, the elder man who played the same role of the snake in the Eden to seduced Eve and Adam to eat the forbidden fruits seduced Brown into sin and evil. He led Brown to the devil’s party and let him discover the mystery of sin and the secret guilt of others. Finally, astonished by what he had seen and heard Brown was tormented morally and psychologically. And he gave up his belief and was swallowed by black. Therefore, obviously, the elder man with a stick that likes a serpent was Satan incarnation.
3.2 Environment symbols
Hawthorne used symbolism to create a mysterious environment and horrific atmosphere in this short story. The environment symbols will be discussed next, involving the dark forest, the village, a hanging twig and coldest dew.
3.2.1 The dark forest
The dark forest is a symbol of evil, where the story took place. In addition, the story happened at sunset with the development of night. Sunset is the starting-point of night which signifies evil and arise people’s fear of the
unknown. Such a time will build up a horrific atmosphere and develop the dark side of the nature of human beings. In the Puritan mind the forest was ruled by the devil and was separated from our society. With the development of the story, Brown had taken a dreary road, darkened by all the gloomiest trees of the forest. As Brown stepped further along this road, he became nearer to devil. It seemed that the forest symbolized Brown’s mind, in which a secret spot was
buried, a kind of trauma, to which he would have to return. That the forest was filled with mysteries which implied that Brown’s mind was puzzled and lost.
The choice of forest as the place where the story happened by Hawthorne was not a coincidence. Forest at night was not only dark and evil, but also full of dangers as Brown said to himself “there may be a devilish Indian behind every
3.2.2 The village
The village symbolizes the rule of the society and the spirit. It is a place with family, consciousness and farmland, which are all products of human creations. The village is a counterpart of the dark forest, which is under control of human and the rule. Any kind of crime will be forbidden by the law, most of the evil behaviors will not be allowed. Order, standard and morality play major roles in the society which is different from the dark forest, the place where devils get together. The aim of employing of the dark forest and the bright town is to show the short distance between good and evil.
3.2.3 A hanging twig and the coldest dew
Goodman Brown was awakened to reality from his dream or version when it scatters cold dew on his check. It reminded Brown of what would be the correct behavior and attitude for a man in his situation. He should be
weeping, but he was not. Dew was sprinkled on Brown’s check to represent his
absence of tears, the outward sign of an inward sign of an inward reality, posited the absence of the innate love and humanity that would have made Brown’ moral and spiritual progression possible.
3.3 Other image symbols
The last part of the paper is called other image symbols, which includes the pink ribbon, the journey to the forest and the colors. Through the discussion above, it is not difficult to find that every part of the story has the power to represent something else and we can found the special fascination of the symbolism used by Hawthorne as well.
3.3.1 The pink ribbon
The pink ribbon, a decoration often wears by Faith, has appeared three times in the story. Pink combines red, which is the sign of enthusiasm, and
white, which stands for purity and innocence. Therefore, without denying, the
pink ribbon is a symbol of good and kindness. The first time, the pink ribbon was playing with the wind, indicating that Faith was pure and kind, just like an angel. At that time, Brown hadn’t begun his journey to the forest and
everything took on a good look. And Faith looked more graceful with the pink ribbon which increased her beauty. The second time it appeared was when Brown lost his way in the forest. He heard Faith’s voice and seized her pink
ribbon which was fluttered lightly down through the air. When he beheld the ribbon he cried “My faith is gone!” This meant the kindness and innocence had
disappeared and what took place of those were evil and sin. The couple are
controlled by the devil and moved further toward evil. The third time was the next morning in the street of Salem Village when Faith ran to Brown joyfully with the pink ribbon. As for Brown the pink ribbon was hideous because he believed that everything was but the evil.
3.3.2 The journey to the forest
The story describes a journey of young Goodman Brown, which is also a symbol of a life journey. Brown is a representative of all the naïve inexperienced young men. The forest journey symbolized the growth trip from innocence to sophistication, from the known world to the unknown world. Brown left home at sunset, into the forest, but when he came back, he was no longer the pure guy before. He stepped into a road, which was not only leading to know the original sin of human but also a process of unfortunate fall.
Communication can melt the doubts in our heart and can avoid they are being suppressed. Above all, it can wake up the tolerance and humanity of human beings. While, in order to have a perfect life and salvation of the soul, we must have a heart which is filled with tolerance and forgiveness. It is a pity that Brown didn’t resort to using the way of communication to eliminate the doubts in bud. On the contrary, he followed the evil impulse of his heart and insisted on touching the thorns of the rose, stamping the sludge of the clean water. In the end, the suspicion of his heart made him selfish, stubborn, and ruthless. Brown refused to reflect upon his own mistakes and insist that he is
morally perfect. His arrogance and paranoia let him lose the heart to love others. On the surface he looked like a good man and resisted evil but his arrogance, selfish, indifference and lack of kindness made him go on an unfortunate fall and a lonely road.
3.4 The colors
Color is used as a subtle technique to express the feelings of an individual or the public. It has rich symbolic meanings in literature. Using color to symbolize a person’s state of mind is Hawthorn’s modus operandi. As for
Young Goodman Brown, the title of the novel, Brown itself has a rich meaning, the short story also use other colors repeatedly, such as pink, red, black and so on. Each has its own purpose and deep meaning.
Brown, in addition to a name of a young man in the novel, it also has a rich meaning. As an adjective, it refers to a kind of color mixed with black, white and red. It is non-black and non-white but it also has the features of black and white. It itself is a very uncertain and obscure, uncertain plots. Brown changed from white to brown in the journey to the forest, that is to say, after seeing so many kinds of sins from human beings, his pure heart had been polluted by the black shadows. White means goodness of humanity and black means evil. The conflict and struggle between black and white is always being experienced by the protagonist in his inner side. The color “brown” can exactly
show the basic tone of the novel and the hero’s life journey.
The color “pink” appears several times in the novel, all used to describe Faith’s ribbon. Except the end of the story, the pink ribbons always appear with Faith, and the pink ribbon is used to represent the figure, Faith. As we all know, pink also contain neither totally depravity nor innocence meaning, because pink is a color between red and white. Usually in the novel of Hawthorne, red usually symbolizes evil while white always signifies purity. Therefore, pink is a color symbolizing a mixture of devil and purity.
Black is a taboo in western culture’s basic color. In the Bible black means
the evil, devil, suffering and misfortune. Therefore black also has another name called “dead color”, which shows the westerners’ disgusts to the color. It
symbolizes death, bad omen, crime, terror and misfortune, such as Black Mass, black words, Black Man, black guard, Black Magic and black sheep. In the short story, the author uses the word “black” or the synonyms (dark, sable)
several times to create a mysterious and frightening atmosphere. The elder man, who took Brown to the party, had a stick like a black snake. The snake was Satan incarnation in the eyes of the westerners; moreover, the black snake was more evil. In the story the man gave his stick to an old dame who flied to the devil’s party by the power of it. Thus, black has the features to
promote evil role, make people faster, more easily to evil.
Red is the color of blood and fire, is the color of the sun. In western culture,
the meaning of the red is rich. On the one hand, red represents the positive
meanings, is the symbol of love and life. According to Christian art tradition,
the red represents blood and passionate love when the Christian suffered martyrdom. Red, on the other hand, also has a negative meaning. In western
traditional, women who are easy to seduce are in red. And the idols of pagan are often painted red. In Apocalypse, the great prostitute was dressed in purple
and scarlet. Therefore, the red represents the hell and the devil. In Young
Goodman Brown, red appeared in the first time when Brown found the pink ribbon in the woods, he run by despair: “Thus sped the demoniac on his cause,
until, quivering among the trees, he saw a red light before him, as when the felled trunks and branches of a clearing have been set on fire, and throw up their lurid blaze against the sky, at the hour of midnight.” He gives give full play
to his animal disposition than run to the devil's party. Red light flashes ahead seem to guide him towards the underworld, go to hell. Red obviously is the color of the devil and hell here. Second time, red appears after brown has arrived in the glade, devil's party, he through the red light to see the people at the party--local celebrities, devout, honorable wife, lovely girl and debauchery woman of man, the reputation and Indian rituals, witches, they mix together. Under red light, the good and the bad, sinners and saints, are all in brown’s
eyes. Brown knows everyone's true nature; any disguise under the red light, no place to hide. Red is a kind of strength here, which penetrates the appearance, the nature of direct force.
4. The function of symbolism
In Young Goodman Brown, through the symbolic writing technique,
Hawthorne portrayed penetrably the hypocrisy and the dark side of human nature and well expresses its novel’s creation theme--the original sin, reflected his Puritan thought. In the background of the capitalism rapid development, Hawthorne felt confused and incapable on the reality of the conflicts and changes, only let his thinking reflect in the novels of Brown's ideological struggle.
Therefore, the use of symbolism in Hawthorne’s novels help author
developed multiple meanings of space in a few words description, it also provide different ways to interpret the story to readers. The use of symbolism can better suggest this story’s theme and aesthetic pleasure to readers.
Young Goodman Brown reveals the universal reality, the evil of sin and the disastrous consequences that a skeptical attitude to human moral will bring -- which reflects the confusion and depression of Brown’s afterlife. Though,
Hawthorne was a Puritan, but he criticized the creed about sin and total depravity in Garr. Hawthorne believes that everyone has the evil impulse in heart, but he does not believe that man is absolutely evil, or most people will carry out their evil impulse. Brown's tragedy is that he could not forgive. Although he has agreed on the meeting with the devil, when he found that his neighbor, mentor, even his dear wife joined the Wizards of the party, he no longer trusted anyone. Because of the doubt and cynicism, he has been living a miserable life -- no friends, faith, joy and the future, and then Brown died with depressed mood. This story shows to people is: one must have faith in any case, even if you find that everyone has the evil in his heart, you shouldn't lose faith, cannot let this thought ruin your life. In this short story, Hawthorne used Brown's experience to enlighten the people that person should be brave and calm in the face of all the evil in life, so that we can grow up healthily and mature really, we can give life to the positive significance, and then we can avoid 'Brown destruction'. Author tries hard to arouse the readers’ attention to
this kind of consciousness that everyone is evil.
一； introduction 应为独立一章；根据你的内容；可分设几个小标题；如？
1.1 Nathaniel Hawthorne
1.2 Young Goodman Brown
1.3 Writing purpose of the paper
二； 第二章Hawthorne’s symbolism
三； 将原来的二；三；四章合并为第三大章, 原来各章为3.1,3.2,3.3
3. The Application of Symbolism in Young Goodman Brown
四；第四章 The function of symbolism篇幅过短；与其它章