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The Allegory in Hawthorne's Young Goodman Brown Essay

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The Allegory in “Young Goodman Brown”

 
    It is the purpose of this essay to show that Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown” is indeed an allegory. M. H. Abrams defines an allegory as a “narrative, whether in prose or verse, in which the agents and actions, and sometimes the setting as well, are contrived by the author to make coherent sense on the ‘literal,’ or primary, level of signification, and at the same time to signify a second, correlated order of signification” (5).

 

Yvor Winters in “Maule’s Curse, or Hawthorne and the Problem of Allegory” says that Hawthorne is essentially an allegorist (11). Stanley T. Williams in “Hawthorne’s Puritan Mind” states that the author was always “perfecting his delicate craft of the symbol, of allegory” (42).

A. N. Kaul states : “In an effort to apprehend and adequately reflect the new complexity of man’s life, he [Hawthorne] molded the venerable – in his case directly inherited – allegorical method into the modern technique of symbolism” (3). It is quite obvious from the names of the characters in the short story that their names are contrived to give a secondary signification. Goodman is on the primary level a simple husband who is following his curiosity about evil; on the level of secondary signification he is Everyman or the new Adam: R. W. B. Lewis in “The Return into Rime: Hawthorne” states: Finally, it was Hawthorne who saw in American experience the re-creation of the story of Adam and who . . . exploited the active metaphor of the American as Adam – before and during and after the Fall” (72). Goodman responds in this way to the fellow-traveller when the latter implicates the governor in devilish deeds:

 

"Can this be so!" cried Goodman Brown, with...


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Kaul, A.N. “Introduction.” In Hawthorne – A Collection of Critical Essays, edited by A.N. Kaul. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1966.

 

Leavis, Q.D. “Hawthorne as Poet.” In Hawthorne – A Collection of Critical Essays, edited by A.N. Kaul. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1966.

 

Lewis, R. W. B. “The Return into Time: Hawthorne.” In Hawthorne – A Collection of Critical Essays, edited by A.N. Kaul. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1966.

 

Williams, Stanley T. “Hawthorne’s Puritan Mind.” In Readings on Nathaniel Hawthorne, edited by Clarice Swisher. San Diego, CA: Greenhaven Press, 1996.

 

Winters, Yvor. “Maule’s Curse, or Hawthorne and the Problem of Allegory.” In Hawthorne – A Collection of Critical Essays, edited by A.N. Kaul. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1966.

 


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