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English 140A April 17 2000 Term paper Symbolism and the Unconscious in Young Goodman Brown Nathaniel Hawthornes work is typically fraught with symbolism much of it deriving from his puritan ancestry Not surprisingly Hawthorne was obsessed with the themes of sin and guilt John Roth notes that A number of recurring thematic patterns and character types appear in Hawthornes novels and tales Roth 76 Because he is speaking of what we would later come to call the unconscious Hawthorne extensively employed the use of symbolism which bypasses the conscious to tap into its more dream- like process below Roth 76 In his short story Young Goodman Brown the main character Goodman Brown goes off into the woods and undergoes what will be a life changing experience Young Goodman Brown was written in the nineteenth century but is undoubtedly set in the seventeenth century and for the early Americans in this time period the forest was a symbol of the test of strength courage and endurance It took a lot of courage to survive there and the young person entering the forest would not emerge the same But the story is more symbolic than realistic and the dangers that Goodman Brown encounters in the forest are not Indians or bears they are dangers of the spirit It is no accident that such an experience should have taken place in the forest because there is a long and extremely profound tradition in American literature where experiences of this nature haven taken place in forest settings Psychologist Bruno Betelheim observes that Since ancient times the near impenetrable forest in which we get lost has symbolized the dark hidden near-impenetrable world of our unconscious Betelheim 94 However this does not appear in Young Goodman Brown Instead of bravely battling down the dangers of the forest and emerging a more mature person Goodman Brown emerges a ruined man It should not go unrecognized that Goodman Browns wife a light hearted
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