Another work that is also well-known throughout American literature is Hawthorne’s, Young Goodman Brown. Here, the reader is exposed to Hawthorne’s use of symbolism and ambiguity. Like The Scarlet Letter, the setting also took place in Salem. As Goodman Brown says his farewells to his wife, Faith, she is worried about being left alone while her husband embarks on a journey into the woods. Brown encourages his wife to say her prayers, as it will prevent her from any harm or evil. Throughout the story, one can notice the various symbols being portrayed with Brown and how he connects with God. Faith’s pink ribbons are one particular symbol that seemed to alter Brown’s own beliefs.
Before the reader is introduced to Faith and Brown’s situation, we can see the images that are being illustrated at the beginning of the story. Faith is seen playing with her pink ribbons which signifies her purity and innocence. As Brown goes into the forest, he stumbles upon an unfamiliar man with a walking staff. Here, the reader can get a sense that this man appears to be the devil. Much to Goodman Brown’s disclosure, he has come to realize that everyone he once knew back in his community has some evil in them. As he tries to refrain from the devil and return to his “Faith,” he notices that his wife’s pink ribbon has fallen which can only mean one thing, she has fallen to the dark side. These pink ribbons symbolize that we are all sinners in a way. Hawthorne manages to distinguish Brown’s perception of people.
From physical appearance, he believes that Faith is innocent as she appears childlike. However, she’s the complete opposite as she is a sinner herself. Not only did Brown lose his wife, but he lost faith in himself and everything that he had believed in. Along with Hawthorne’s use of symbolism, he manages to include his use of ambiguity as well.
The reader is left questioning the balance between good and evil. During Brown’s encounter with the devil in the forest, one is left with an open interpretation. Is Brown dreaming or is he actually facing reality? An important ambiguous scene to note is the ceremony that has taken place in the forest. As the whole community is gathered, Brown sees each individual for who they truly are, which happens to be “sinners.
” As he sees his own wife, Faith, take part in the evil ceremony, he can’t help but lose his own “faith.” Here, we can see how frightened Brown appears to be as he calls out to Faith. “Faith! Faith! Look up to heaven and resist the wicked one,” Brown mentions with intensity in his voice.
From this scene, Hawthorne is discrete with his writing as he leaves room for the reader’s analysis. As Goodman Brown wakes up the next day, he finds himself in the Salem village. Now, did the evil witch ceremony actually take place or was it all in his head? Despite what Brown witnessed the previous night, it altered him in ways one could imagine. He views each person in the village differently, as he can’t help but associate them with their sinful acts. As Brown discovers the truth about good and evil, he lives out the rest of his life as a traumatic and bitter man. He feels betrayed, as people’s physical appearance can be deceitful. This also shows Brown’s poor judge of character.
Although he likes to see the “good” in people, he’s more disappointed when he uncovers their dark side. Due to this revelation, he wants to disaffiliate himself from all the people he once knew, even his own wife.