Cumulatively, the different elements in the short story Young Goodman Brown combine to give it a hue of an allegory. First and foremost, the journey into the evil forest might be considered as a conscious effort by the lead character to search the soul of the society. Young Goodman Brown makes the deliberate effort to test the strength of the structures which support some of the fundamental institutions, assumptions, and character of the people he has lived with and taken for granted. Character is usually deceiving when considered at face value. The real essence of an individual can only be evaluated by journeying below the surface in order to establish the actual substance in totality.
Young Goodman Brown comes to the grim realization that there is an underlying element of evil and pretense in the people he has considered as upright. The traveler’s staff also acquires symbolic qualities that can be condensed into allegorical qualities. The staff is supposed to guide the traveler into the evil forest. In terms of description, the staff is said to resemble a serpent (Hawthorne 23). In this sense, it acquires biblical allusions of the devil or the tempter. In real life, this serpentine staff might be considered to represent the fetish items that deceive mankind to pursue a course of evil which at first glance promises some element of satisfaction and pleasure but which ultimately turns out to be ruinous. It must be remembered that this staff acquires some kind of mystical powers that are very instrumental for survival in the evil forest.
The allegorical dimension of the journey and the mystical staff represent the conflicts that work within the heart of man. On the one hand are the virtuous forces that restrain the individual from acting in certain peculiar ways that are evil in themselves. On the other hand are the tempting elements of life that force n individual onto a journey that exposes him to certain truths and actions that do not conform to the good of the society. Young Goodman Brown finds himself at the cross-roads knowing certainly well that the decision he makes will decide which side of morality his life will take. Worthy of note is the fact that Young Goodman Brown remains divided on the merits of the journey into the evil forest. He is not quite sure whether he should proceed or stop and go back home to his wife (Hawthorne 16). Equally of note is the fact that Young Goodman Brown keeps the details about his journey a closely guarded secret. Although he loves his wife Faith and demonstrates this fact, he does not let her into the gruesome details about this journey (Hawthorne 13).
Allegorically, this action might be considered to represent the secretive nature of the soul of man. Real intentions will always be hidden so that the outside does not really represent what goes on at the core of the heart. The evil party of conversion represents the social forces that configure the way individuals make decisions. Generally, individuals are social constructs. They tend to act in ways that conform to the social environment in which they live. Sometimes, the social environment may be carrying some negative elements. The negative elements may contain subliminal qualities of evil so that adjusting to them implies submitting to the force of evil. Another important element that concludes the allegory in this story is contained in the names of the lead characters. The name Young Goodman Brown carries connotations of a young man who is untested by the pressures of the world. His journey into the evil forest represents the process of awakening. The choice of the name of his wife Faith shows that it is the faith of the young man that is put to the test.
Hawthorne, Nathaniel. Young Goodman Brown. New York: Wildside Press LLC, 2005.