Free Essay: Formalistic Approach to Hawthorne's Young Goodman Brown

Free Essay: Formalistic Approach to Hawthorne's Young Goodman Brown
To understand Young Goodman Brown fully the reader must analyze the story using the formalistic approach. In class we described the formalistic approach as using allegory, historical background, allusion, and symbolism to interpret a work. When using these methods of interpretation, the story became clearer to me because I understood some of the historical background that the story was based on, as well as what some of the symbols meant, that I had previously been unaware.
?In allegory (a narrative containing a meaning beneath the surface one), there is usually a one-to-one relationship; that is one idea or object in the narrative stands for only one idea or object allegorically?(p.59). In Young Goodman Brown the allegory lies in the main character?s desire to walk down the evil path for a little while just to see what it is like, then come back to the good life. He plans to do this by walking with the man in the forest and then coming back to Faith, his wife, who personifies his faith. The tricky part about encountering evil is that one must veer from faith, again this is allegorical to his wife and his having to leave her that one night.

The historical background to this story helps to clarify why this story is significant and why some things happen during the tale. The Puritans believe in Predestination. I learned in American history that Predestination was the belief that certain people were destined to go to heaven while the others were destined for a place much less comfortable. The basis for whom went was up to God and it didn?t reflect on how righteous the person appeared to be on the outside. This becomes important in Young Goodman Brown because when he hears of and sees people that he believed were good people following the devil, he begins to doubt that anything is good. Another Puritan practice was to name their children after traits that they found to be admirable such as Faith, Patience, or Young Goodman Brown in hopes that that virtue would stay with them and be prevalent in their lives.

The use of allusion is also apparent in Young Goodman Brown. The main character?s wife is named Faith. This is an allusion to his own faith. For example, Mr. Brown loses Faith when he goes into the dark woods with the spooky guy that walks with a serpent-staff. This is an allusion to his losing his moral faith when he decides to experience evil. Another example is where he meets the evil man in the dark forest and is fifteen minutes late. When asked what had kept him from being on time, he replied that his Faith had kept him behind. This is an allusion that plays on his wife?s name in the same way as the previous example. His moral faith kept him from coming to the meeting on time.

Symbolism runs rampant through the text of Young Goodman Brown. The first instance of symbolism is expressed in the second sentence when the wife?s name turns out to be Faith and she symbolizes his faith in religion and the righteous path. When Young Goodman Brown is entering the forest he says to himself ?What if the devil himself should be at my very elbow!?(p.376). The elderly traveler does symbolize the devil and he does appear at the man?s elbow at that very moment. The ribbon in Faith?s hair also symbolizes something. It?s a symbol of sex and purity, because it is the mixture of red and white. Red of course symbolizing sex and white symbolizing purity. When Young Goodman Brown sees the ribbon floating to the ground the ribbon is symbolizing that his wife is lost and has chose the devil. This symbol is so meaningful to Young Goodman Brown that he goes psycho and runs around like a mad man.

The symbolism in Young Goodman Brown is what mainly pulls the meaning out of the story. The other formalistic approaches provided a basis for understanding the story and added further depth to it. In all I feel that this method is better than the psycho-analytical approach because I don?t feel that every author intends to write about sex or have everything they write about be turned into a soft porn, but I guess that means that I?m repressing my sexual desires. Another reason I hate the psychoanalytical approach is because it is based on circular reasoning. Circular reasoning is where something is considered right because, and only because, it is right. (Makes no sense huh. Well I didn?t think so either, that?s why I went with the formalistic approach).

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