Young Goodman Brown as an Allegory

Question: Young Goodman Brown is an allegorical story- discuss. Young Goodman Brown as an Allegory.


Allegory means that a story is told in the guise of another story. The story “Young Goodman Brown” by eminent American author Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864) is a candid story from a surface perspective if it does not have any deeper meaning and validity.


The word allegory comes from the Latin word “allegoria” meaning ‘veiled language’. Allegory as a literary device is an indirect comparison of a character, place, or event to deliver a broader message as to real-world issues and occurrences.

According to Cambridge Dictionary, “Allegory is a story, play, poem, picture, or other work in which the characters and events represent particular qualities or ideas that relate to morals, religion, or politics.

Young Goodman Brown as an allegorical story

There are two types of allegory such as historical or political allegory and allegory of ideas. The allegorical genre of the story is the allegory of ideas in which characters represent abstract ideas and plots serve to communicate a doctrine.

Allegorical characters, objects, and settings

All the characters, objects, and settings in the story have allegorical significance since representing abstract ideas. Young Goodman Brown and his wife Faith are both symbolic. Brown stands for man’s hereditary preference for evil. He represents everyman’s inherent desire or propensity to evil. Faith denotes true Christian faith and virtue. Marriage between Brown and Faith symbolizes Brown’s adherence to goodness. The pink ribbon of Faith’s hair serves as an emblem of heavenly faith, innocence, and virtue. Later in the story, when Brown meets the devil, he declares:

“Faith kept me back awhile”

The image that Hawthorne creates of brown putting his head back across the door of his house to kiss his wife for valediction symbolizes Brown’s reservation of surrendering to the devil. So. Brown’s errand or short journey into the dense woods suggests that he is up to something ominous or bad.

Men’s inherent predilection to the devil

In the story, the author would like to show a hereditary predilection to the devil and set up a link to the “Fall of Man”. The allegorical central character begins his errand with a devil through a dense forest. He meets a person who is about fifty years old and resembles Goodman Brown so much that he has been called elder Brown.  Goodman Brown’s earnestness to the devil his hereditary predilection to the devil.  Hawthorne’s intention the sin that we have all inherited through Adam and Eve. Brown says about elder Brown:

“But the only thing about him, that could be fixed upon as remarkable, was his staff,…………….that it might almost be seen to twist and wriggle itself like a living serpent”

The elder gives us an allusion to Moses, the prophet of the Jews, whose staff could become a serpent at his will. It indicates that here Hawthorne mocks at religious figures and all things associated with religion through the presentation of the elder Brown as a devil.

Allegory of the fight against the devil

In the middle of the mission, Goodman Brown shows his unwillingness to follow the elder Brown. By such vacillate consciousness, the author means to say that people have a tendency to be good, but it is really difficult to be consistent because the devil has a number of tricks to make people fool. Goodman Brown sees his forefathers as a symbol of honest and good Christian men, but the devil asserts that he has been well acquainted with his forefathers and the people of New England to help them to commit evil doings. Then Brown saw Goody Cloyse who taught him Christianity. But she is now an embodiment of a witch. With this Brown feels a conflict within his mind and refuses to follow the elder and go back to his wife Faith. This is evidence of a fight to stay away from the devil and keep faith in good.

“While he still gazed upward…….and had lifted his arms to pray, a cloud, though no wind was stirring, hurried across the zenith, and hid brightening stars.”

Loss of faith and ultimate submission to devil

Loose belief cannot fight against the devil and loses the battle that is the final allegorical aspect of the story. At Brown’s refusal to drag mission, the elder Brown leaves him giving a maple staff that symbolizes a tool of the devil, and Brown’s acceptance represents his beginning to accept the evil in his world. He then gets much more confused when he sees all the so-called good men like- the minister and deacon or priest Gookin being evil. Another symbol o Brown’s new commitment to evil is the pink ribbon that he catches falling from the sky. The ribbon symbolizes Faith’s conversion into evil and Brown’s loss of faith in good. Here Faith can be compared with Eve for whom Adam lost his innocence.

“Now ye are undeceived! Evil is the nature of mankind Evil must be your only happiness. Welcome, again, my children, to the communion of your race.”


In a few words, the story allegorizes the fact that man is inherently disposed to evil and once in its grip cannot wriggle out.

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SR Sarker
SR Sarker
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