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Allusion in Young Goodman Brown

Biblical Allusions: “Young Goodman Brown” contains a number of allusions, mostly to the Bible. Because the focus of the story is on the 17th-century community of Puritan colonists in Salem, and because Puritanism is a sect of Christianity, the story is rich with images and symbols from the Christian Bible. The character of the devil himself is a biblical figure, and his serpentine staff is an allusion to the snake in the Garden of Eden. There are also references to the many customs and traditions of Christianity, from the swearing of a covenant and the taking of communion to the observation of the Sabbath and the concept of Faith.

Allusion Examples in Young Goodman Brown:

Young Goodman Brown

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"the Egyptian magi..."   (Young Goodman Brown)

This is an allusion to the biblical book of Exodus, in which sorcerers in the Egyptian Pharaoh's court turned their staves into serpents to intimidate Moses. Moses and his brother Aaron also had staves capable of magic, but that power was believed to have come from God rather than the devil.

"Goody Cory..."   (Young Goodman Brown)

The name “Cory” is a possible reference to Martha Corey, who was one of the women accused of witchcraft during the Salem Witch Trials. She was a respectable community member who was eventually hanged for witchcraft, despite Hawthorne’s saying that she is “unhanged.” Martha Corey’s story is also told in Arthur Miller’s play The Crucible.

"it might almost be seen to twist and wriggle itself like a living serpent..."   (Young Goodman Brown)

The serpent staff alludes to the biblical story of the Garden of Eden. This tale helps inform readers as to the man’s purpose. In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve lived in a natural paradise. However, the devil, in the form of a serpent, tempted them with knowledge, eventually coaxing them into sin. The man and his staff not only draw a connection between Goodman Brown’s temptation and that of Adam and Eve but also blend evil with nature. The complexity of this association encourages readers to consider how the human capacity for sin and evil take root in the natural world.

"But the only thing about him that could be fixed upon as remarkable was his staff..."   (Young Goodman Brown)

Readers ought to pause and consider the nature of this man. He may be plainly dressed, but the presence of a staff that looks like a large, black snake helps reveal his true nature. Snakes are associated with evil in the Christian biblical tradition, as the devil presents himself to Adam and Eve in the form of a serpent in the book of Genesis. The man’s clothes may allow him to pass as a member of a Puritan community, but the staff reveals him for who he really is: the devil.

"my broomstick..."   (Young Goodman Brown)

Her description, the fact that she is muttering a "prayer," and the mention of a broom are all allusions to the image of a witch.

"the cry of the desert..."   (Young Goodman Brown)

Perhaps Hawthorne alludes to the forty days Jesus spent in the wilderness, during which time Satan tried to tempt him with earthly power to abandon God.

"to set fire to an Indian village..."   (Young Goodman Brown)

This refers to one of the worst atrocities committed by Puritans against Indians.  A group of Puritan men from Massachusetts attacked an Indian village near Mystic, Connecticut, killing men, women, children, and animals by burning them to death.  Hawthorne, a descendant of Puritans, was horrified by their behavior.

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