.. s. In three separate instances throughout the story, these ribbons are mentioned: when Goodman Brown leaves on his journey, in the middle of the forest while he is alone, and finally at the end of the story when Faith greets Goodman upon his return. A unique characteristic of these ribbons is their color, pink. Generally, people associate the color white with words such as peace and purity.
The color red we associate with things like anger, unrest, and lust. The color pink lies somewhere in-between these colors. Pink in this text seems to represent sexual desire and on a more basic metaphoric level, human skin and flesh. Along with the color, the ribbons themselves allude to Faith. At each point when the reader hears of the ribbons, Faith is either present or spoken about. The most interesting action with the ribbons involved is the forest scene.
Goodman Brown stopped to rest in the forest when he notices a dark cloud cross the sky. Brown hears voices in the forest and cries out for Faith. Suddenly the cloud sweeps away, and a pink ribbon falls from the sky. Most critics agree that this is an important point in the story. “The ribbon falling from the sky in the dark forest indicates that she has succumbed to temptation”, says Harry Campbell(5). He goes on to say, “Brown’s perception of the falling ribbon indicates also that he has ceased to struggle against temptation, and immediately rushes to the Witches’ Sabbath” (5).
Indeed this is a critical point to the structure of the story. Brown discovers that his wife has given in to sin and the evil side, therefore causing Brown to break down and fall victim to what he believes is evil. Another aspect of the ribbons in the forest scene is their contrast to the staff that Goodman Brown carries. “The pink ribbons blend with the serpentine staff in what becomes a fierce orgy of lust”, says Campbell (4). Along with the contrast of the staff and ribbons, the staff itself is an item of interest for psychoanalysis. As with all psychoanalysis, there is generally some mention of phallic figures.
This staff given to Goodman Brown is an obvious one. Although the staff has penis-like qualities and is described as “serpent-like” and “it seem to twist and wiggle”, the staff is representative of something more profound. The staff originally belonged to the man Brown meets in the woods. The stranger is described as older and more traveled, therefore we can assume him to be more experienced in worldly matters than Brown. The staff given to Brown is representative of the knowledge and understanding the stranger has gathered over his travels.
Not only does it hold the information about his lifestyle, but it also holds information to all the things the stranger has witnessed and done. At first, Brown is reluctant to take the staff, and assures the man that he does not need the assistance. After the pair encounter Goody Close, they continue walking until Brown sits down on a tree stump and refuses to continue on their journey. After he sits, the stranger makes a significant remark, “You will think better of this by and by.” Again, the stranger tries to assure Brown that his so-called “sin” of becoming homosexual is no greater than any other sin. The statement of the stranger represents the ego trying to accomidate the desires of the id, while processing the information from the superego. After he makes this remark to Brown, he throws the staff to Brown and walks off at a hurried pace. The passing on of the knowledge has taken place. At this point in the story, critics are divided as to the reality of the events that take place.
Some will treat the rest of Brown’s journey through the woods as a dream, others will treat it as an actual chain of events. It is my belief that after Goodman Brown sat down on the tree stump to rest, he fell asleep. With this in mind, the rest of the journey may be analyzed as Goodman Brown’s dream. From this point in the story, Brown’s dream cast the stranger in the roll of the devil. Brown has created this role for the stranger by projecting his sinfulness onto the man. Michael Tritt states, “Through Brown’s experiences in the forest, he comes to know the duplicity of human nature.
His more lurid revelations, however, involve the depths of his own corruption (114). Brown in his dreamlike state creates a world where his everyday friends and family are evil, deceitful, and led by the devil (i.e. the stranger) in satanic worships. Thomas Walsh writes of the “The Black Man” as an “Objectification of the dark side” and further states “the characters Brown meets in the forest are the embodiment of his own thoughts” (114). Tritt’s counterpart Claudia Johnson describes “the hellish landscape through which [Brown] travels” as a “hellish externalization of his own heart” (114). Therefore, the reader can conclude that Brown has created this new landscape by projection (a defense mechanism of Freud’s) of his own thoughts. This world is also created as a way for Brown to let the audience see how the public would view his actions and feelings.
The last episode of significance is the assembly of the “evil church.” Goodman Brown follows through the forest until he comes upon the “devil” and his followers deep in the forest. The “grave and dark-clad company” were gathered around a fire near a pulpit or altar of some kind. The significance lies within the people gathered at the assembly. Not only was the stranger speaking from the pulpit with multiple signs of witchcraft and evil surrounding him, but also around the circle stood: “faces that would be seen next day at the council board of the providence, and others which, Sabbath after Sabbath, looked devoutly heavenward, and benignantly over the crowded pews, from the holiest pulpits in the land. Again, Brown has located his own self-perceived sin and evil in others.
Finally, the presentation of Faith to the evil group is a final episode of corruption. After Brown caught her ribbons in the forest, he knew she had succumbed to evil. At the climax of the meeting, Brown yells at Faith to “look towards heaven” and escape the evil, then he suddenly wakes from his dream in the middle of the forest. The conclusion of the story represents the unrest of Brown’s ego for the remainder of his life. The narrator says of Brown, “he sank from the bosom of Faith, when the family knelt at prayer he scowled and muttered to himself .. they carved no hopeful verse upon his tombstone, for his dying hour was gloom.” Brown’s unresolved struggle with his id and superego led to his unhappy and restless existence.
When his ego could not provide a realistic outlet for his id’s desires, a multiple of neurosis were created which prevented Brown from having a fulfilling life. The story of “Young Goodman Brown” is an unconscious endeavor into the psyche of Nathaniel Hawthorne. Hawthorne’s characters represent the struggle of his id’s sexual desires, the superego’s moral and ethical presence, and the ego’s failed balance between the two. From this failed balance, Goodman Brown is doomed to struggle in Hawthorne’s world of neurosis. English Essays.