Study Guide

Faith in Young Goodman Brown

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If young Goodman Brown has a "type," it's probably pure, innocent, and just a tad silly. Because Faith is just that "type." She isn't really selfish or frivolous. However, as a character, she sometimes seems no deeper than the "pink ribbons of her cap" (1). Get used to these ribbons. You'll be seeing them every single time Faith shows up.

And that's not a bad thing. A story as short as "Young Goodman Brown" can deal with one psychologically complex protagonist, but two? Not even the Hawthornator is that good. The pink ribbons give us a quick insight into the character, so Hawthorne doesn't have to spend a lot of time building her backstory.


But Faith is a "type" in another way. The kind, reassuring woman who inspires a questing hero is a common literary type, or stock character. Think Daisy from The Great Gatsby (which Hawthorne might know, in an alternate universe).

And Hawthorne lays it on even thicker, by making Faith's name a piece of symbolism: a devout Christian like young Goodman Brown is driven by his family, his faith, and his Faith. We see that Brown's reactions to Faith, and to the Puritan faith, sour as the story nears its end. "My Faith is gone!" he cries in a fit of loneliness, and obviousness (50). And it's all downhill from there.

Boy, do we here at Shmoop like wordplay!

But we have to ask: is Faith capable of this type of radical transformation? Hawthorne never really lets us look into her mind. For all we know, her motives and desires could be fascinating and complex. But we readers never see too far beyond her cheery outside. And neither, perhaps, does her husband.

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