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Essay on Loss of Faith in Hawthorne's Young Goodman Brown

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Young Goodman Brown:  Loss of Faith

 

Faith can be defined, as a firm belief in something for which there is no proof. "Young Goodman Brown" is about a man who leaves his wife, Faith, at home alone for a night while he takes a walk down the road of temptation with the devil. Along the road he sees many people that he would never expect to see on this road, his wife included. He returns to his life in Salem a changed man. In "Young Goodman Brown" Nathaniel Hawthorne uses symbolism and characterization to imply that when individuals lose their faith in the goodness of mankind, they may begin to imagine that their peers have yielded to temptation.

            Hawthorne uses symbolism to imply that when individuals lose their faith in the goodness of mankind, they may begin to imagine that their peers have yielded to temptation. The character of Faith is Goodman Brown's spouse, but she is also a symbol of his faith in mankind. Brown's relationship with Faith changes as the story progresses, from tender and caring love to judgmental scorn. Brown's thoughts about Faith as he leaves on his journey are: "Poor little Faith...she's a blessed angel on earth; and after this one night, I'll cling to her skirts and follow her to Heaven"(212). This statement shows that the protagonist has a deep love for his faith and knows that it can be his salvation. Later in the journey Brown offers his faith as the last reason to abort his walk with the devil: "Well, then, to end the matter at once,... there is my wife, Faith. It would break her dear little heart; and I'd rather break my own!" (214). At this point his faith is still more important to him than his own life. Later, just...


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...e wizard pray to?" (220). The experience in the woods causes Brown to imagine that even his wife has yielded to temptation: "He spied the head of Faith ... gazing anxiously forth, and bursting into such joy at sight of him ... But, Goodman Brown looked sternly and sadly into her face, and passed on without a greeting." (220). Brown's once steadfast faith in mankind is damaged to the point that he is suspicious of all his peers.

            Hawthorne uses symbolism and characterization to show how easy it is to imagine that our peers have yielded to temptation when faith in the goodness of mankind is lost. Brown loses faith in humanity and starts imagining that all his peers are guilty of sin. Is mankind unworthy of our faith? No. Faith in the goodness of mankind is a belief in something for which there is proof.


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