Archetypal Analysis of “Young Goodman Brown”
Many authors throughout history do not intend to incorporate archetypal symbols in their stories, but from an archetypal critic’s point of view, it is evident that all of them do use these symbols. In the short story “Young Goodman Brown”, written by Nathaniel Hawthorne, archetypal colors, characters, and garden imagery are evident and help the audience realize the theme, as Hawthorne writes, “’Evil is the nature of mankind’” (636). Archetypal colors are evident throughout the story “Young Goodman Brown.
” There are many colors used throughout the story, and some of the important ones are brown, pink, and black. Brown is the most important color in this story. It is obvious that it is important, hence the title, “Young Goodman Brown. ” The color brown in this story symbolically represents the spiritual death of Goodman Brown. In the title, the word young symbolically means the person is of innocence. When young is put with the word goodman, it makes sense, but when the word brown is added, it creates a completely ironic name for a man.
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Brown, meaning spiritual death, cannot be attached to goodman without creating irony. If a person is classified as a goodman, he cannot be spiritually dead. The color pink in this story symbolically represents the corruption of the flesh. Goodman Brown’s wife, Faith, has pink ribbons in her hair. This means that the faith of her husband and herself, are corrupt and cannot be changed. As Faith and Goodman Brown are about to be conformed to the ways of Satanism, Goodman Brown says, “’Faith! Faith! […] look up to heaven, and resist the wicked one’” .
Then later in the story, Hawthorne states, “he spied the head of Faith, with the pink ribbons” (636). The audience can infer that Faith did not look up to heaven when Goodman Brown told her to, because if she had done so, the corruption of her faith would have been reversed and her ribbons would have been white. The color black symbolically represents evil and death. The setting of the story mainly takes place at night, which shows the audience that something terrible is to come in the near future. On Goodman Brown’s journey to the evil ceremony, he meets up with an older man. This man symbolically represents Satan.
The elder man shows his evil ways and that he is Satan by saying, “’it was I that brought your father a pitch-pine knot, kindled at my own hearth, to set fire to an Indian village’” (637). This man carried a staff with him, a staff that “bore the likeness of a great black snake” (637) Hawthorne writes. This black, snake-like staff symbolizes the tool he uses to lure people into his trap of worshipping him and shows that he is truly an evil man. Due to the darkness and blackness of the night, Goodman Brown is tricked to believe that the staff “must have been an ocular deception, assisted by the uncertain light” as Hawthorne states.
The color black in this story is used to show the evil nature of all humans, and the darkness behind everyone’s soul. The colors brown, pink, and black are archetypal symbols that enhance the meaning behind this story. Throughout the story, archetypal characters are used to represent something much bigger than what they physically are. Goodman Brown’s wife, Faith, and Goodman Brown himself, are some of the characters that are seen to be used in an allegorical way. Faith not only represents Brown’s wife, but also his religious Faith as a whole.
When Brown reached the meeting point with the older man, the man says, “’you are late, Goodman Brown’” (626), and Brown replies with, “’Faith kept me back a while’” (626). When Goodman Brown says this, he not only means that his wife made him late by talking to him, but his spiritual Faith made him hesitant to finish his journey to the ceremony. This shows that his religious Faith was only strong enough to hold him back for a short period of time, not long enough for him to miss the ceremony. This shows that Brown has weak Faith, and cannot keep himself away from the horrors to come.
Goodman Brown is seen as an archetypal character because he not only represents himself, he represents all mankind. Brown experiences these things, whether a dream or real, to gain a type of knowledge that he will never forget. Brown learns that, “’Evil is the nature of mankind’” (636), as Hawthorne writes, and that boon that he gains will remain with him forever. When Brown gains this knowledge, it not only means that evil is in his nature, but it is in every man’s nature and the only way to keep evil from empowering anyone’s mind, is with strong Faith.
Archetypal characters are used in this story to deepen the meaning and engage the audience to dig deep into the characters and understand what they truly are. Throughout “Young Goodman Brown,” there are several cases where garden imagery is shown. By using garden imagery, Hawthorne directly relates Brown’s trials to that of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Both accounts take place in nature, or the garden, they are tempted by a serpent, gain knowledge, and suffer for them gaining that knowledge.
In “Young Goodman Brown,” Brown leaves the comfort of Salem and travels into nature, where he is tempted by a man with a “staff, which bore the likeness of a great black snake” (627), as Hawthorne writes. The man tells Brown, “’Come, Goodman Brown,’ […] ‘Take my staff, if you are so soon weary’” (627). This same thing occurs in the Garden of Eden when Eve is tempted by the serpent to eat the forbidden fruit. After Brown is tempted and falls under the temptation, he gains knowledge that has an effect on every man in the world to come.
He learns that deep inside every man, darkness and evil hide, even in the hearts of the most “righteous” men. In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve both gain the knowledge of sin and how they can do things for their own pleasure rather than for the grace of God. After Goodman Brown gains his knowledge, he will suffer. Brown understands that these people, who are thought to be righteous and holy, really are dark and evil people. Every time Goodman Brown hears the minister or Deacon Gookin sing the church hymns or preach their word, he understands the things they are saying have a deep, evil meaning behind them.
Brown cannot stand to have this knowledge and hates knowing that these people, who he himself looked at as holy, are dark, evil people. Adam and Eve also suffered in the Garden of Eden after falling to the temptation of the serpent. When Eve ate from the forbidden fruit, sin came upon them and when they had children, they revolted against each other and eventually led to Cain slaying his brother Abel. Throughout “Young Goodman Brown,” it is evident that it is representing the trials and tribulations that Adam and Eve went through in the Garden of Eden.
Although Nathaniel Hawthorne did not intend to incorporate many of these archetypal symbols, as mythological and archetypal critics, the audience can dig deep into those symbols to understand a deeper meaning to the story. Through the use of archetypal colors, allegorical characters, and garden imagery, the audience can better comprehend what Hawthorne is trying to describe. “’Evil is the nature of mankind’” (636), as Hawthorne writes, is the main theme that is evident to the audience after analyzing this story from an archetypal point of view.