Although many readers may say Hawthorne’s writing is difficult to understand, the descriptions of the characters and settings are vividly depicted through the use of allegory, and his many instances of symbolism throughout his stories. “Young Goodman Brown” is an excellent example how allegory is shown through the writing of Nathanial Hawthorne. The story’s beginning shows Goodman Brown as he bids farewell to his young wife, Faith, before running an errand into the forest.
From that beginning of the story, you know his errand had an immoral purpose, which is shown in the following quote, “With this excellent resolve for the future, Goodman Brown felt himself justified in making more haste on his present evil purpose. ” The allegorical aspect of this story reveals that Brown represents the average person and the sins that he commits in every day life. His faith is built on the people and his surroundings. Brown is not a bad person, but like the majority of mankind, he has a curiosity for evil.
He is tempted by the man who guides him through the dark forest just as our society is tempted by immoral things such as crime and money. The dark man states that Goodman Brown is late. Brown then replies “Faith kept me,” meaning that his wife Faith physically made him late and also the faith he has in God restrained him from venturing into the woods. Notice the character’s names, Goodman, and Faith. Goodman being just that, a good man. Faith, his wife, represents the Christian faith.
Hawthorne illustrates the forest which Goodman Brown and his mysterious companion are traveling in as “dreary” and “darkened by gloomy trees”. These descriptions show an evil aura to the setting. The fact that the man traveling with Brown knows the dark forest very well also gives the man an evil aura. The man, who shows characteristics of the devil, had a staff with him that “bore the likeness of a great black snake”. The staff, which looked like a snake, could be a reference to the snake in the story of Adam and Eve, which man first sins.
Hawthorne seems to feel a necessity to see everywhere a reenactment of the Fall from Eden” (Donohue 164) “Young Goodman Brown” depicts today’s culture because it represents how everyone is tempted by an “evil” of some sort at one time or another. Our culture is also one that yearns for perfection amongst our evil tendencies. Hawthorne’s “The Birthmark,” shows a direct connection between the nineteenth century cultural views and the current views that are shared in the society in which we live today.
Allegorically, “The Birthmark” represents our culture and our quest for perfection. Aylmer, has just married Georgianna. He thinks she is perfect in every way except for a small birthmark on her face. The mark is an impurity, which begins to drive Aylmer crazy. The sight of it makes the beauty of Georgianna diminish, and he cannot notice anything but the small birthmark. Aylmer represents culture in that he strives for perfection, even in an imperfect world. Nature is impure and Georgianna can be seen as a part nature with her birthmark being an impurity.
Though nature is beautiful with its flaws, it shouldn’t be altered in order to reach perfection. As an author, Hawthorne is known to use a great deal of symbolism to portray his ideas. The Scarlet Letter shows many uses of symbolism, almost too many. “In the Scarlet Letter, there is a great deal of symbolism, there is, I think, too much. It is overdone at times. ” (Henry James Jr. 52) Every character symbolizes an object or an emotion that is brought up in the novel. Hester Prynne must bear the letter A upon her breast to show she has broken the law.
Although the word adultery is not even mentioned in the book, we are aware that she has committed adultery. The letter A has many meanings, but the basic representation is sin. The letter is a constant reminder that Hester committed a crime. Pearl is the product of Hester and Dimmsdale’s sin and she ultimately represents the union of their love. “and little Pearl, herself a symbol, and the connecting link between the two. ” Every time Hester looks at Pearl, she is reminded of her burning sin, which she cannot extinguish. The forest appears in many scenes, most of which Hester are in.
The forest provides a hiding place for Hester and Pearl, a place where they don’t have to deal with the scrutiny of the public. The forest is the place where Dimmsdale and Hester confess to each other their love and their desire to leave Boston together. Therefore, the forest symbolizes a hiding place. In conclusion, you can see how Hawthorne’s use of allegory, and symbolism have intensified these pieces of literature. By looking at these literary devices, we are able to look deeper into the characters and analyze their true thoughts and feelings.