Nathaniel Hawthorne and Washington Irving both use allegories in “Young Goodman Brown” and “Rip Van Winkle” to convey certain meanings throughout their stories. An allegory is a literary device that is hidden with complex meanings. These complex meanings can be seen through symbolic figures, imagery, events, or actions, all in which create the political, moral, and spiritual meaning these authors are trying to convey to the reader. By reading and understanding Hawthorn and Irving’s stories, the purpose behind each story can be seen through the allegorical writing.
Nathaniel Hawthorne depicts the story “Young Goodman Brown” to be a religious allegory, he does so by including the devil, Christianity, and Satan in his allegory. Goodman Brown is a Puritan minister, but don’t let that fool you. He later lets his beliefs and pride interfere with the relationships he has within the community. Hawthorne writes this story as an allegorical writing to express what happens when one chooses to turn their back on God. Faith, Goodman Brown’s wife plays a major role with being an allegorical symbol. Faith is used to symbolize Goodman Brown’s faith in Christ, his marriage, and everything he does in life. Goodman Brown is wanting to get away, but his wife, Faith, but she does not want him to leave. When Goodman Brown chooses to leave his “faith” behind, he chooses to open up the door for sin to come in. In fact, he will make a mistake that he will never be able to fix. Goodman says to his wife, “My love and my Faith,” replied young Goodman Brown, “of all nights in the year, this one night must I tarry away from thee. My journey, as thou callest it, forth and back again, must needs be done ‘twist now and sunrise. What, my sweet, pretty wife, dost thou doubt me already, and we but three months married!” (Hawthorne). This is one of the many allegory examples Hawthorn uses in the beginning of this short story. When Goodman Brown says his “love” and his “Faith” he is referring to not only his wife, but also talking about his “faith” with God. Goodman Brown is saying his goodbyes to his wife, as he heads into the woods for his adventurous journey that awaits ahead of him. Once being in the woods for a while, Goodman Brown approaches a figure of a man. “You are late, Goodman Brown,” said he. (Hawthorne). “Faith kept me back awhile,” replied the young man, with a tremor in his voice, caused by the sudden appearance of his companion, though not wholly unexpected.” (Hawthorne). Hawthorne uses “Faith” again to express allegory in his writing. In the quotes above, Goodman Brown is referring to “Faith kept me back awhile” as not only his wife, Faith, holding him back from going into the woods, but also the “faith” within himself, the religious faith is holding him back from the devil. Hawthorn’s fiends and devils, rarely presented in corporeal form, generally prove to be a force that corrupts mankind in the realm of the psyche (Maus).
The further you read into this story, you can grasp that Young Goodman Brown is actually having to search for himself, because he left everything he was accustomed to behind. However, once he has the meeting with the devil in the woods, his whole demeanor changes. The meeting he has results in his pride being at an upmost high, it starts to affect his relationship with his community, and eventually making himself his own enemy. Since Goodman Brown turns his back against his faith, he is not able to reclaim it. Sadly, he will live the rest of his life alone, separated, and in misery. Not only is he separated by everyone in the community, but he is separated from God. It is just him, Goodman Brown.
As seen in the previous story, “Young Goodman Brown” by Nathaniel Hawthorne, it is written as an allegorical writing. Washington Irving’s “Rip Van Winkle” is also written in the form of allegorical writing for the reader to be able to fully understand the message that the story is trying to portray. However, the two have completely different allegories. Rip Van Winkles setting takes place before and after the Revolutionary War. Since there was so much involvement with the war, Washington Irving based his allegorical writing around the war itself. The reader can’t depict that, unless they read between the lines. Irving did a really good job with the “hidden” meaning of Rip Van Winkle. Winkle is a Dutch villager who lives in a village on the Catskill Mountains. Van Winkle is a popular one in the village. He is known by many, he is very outdoorsy, he loves to be around the children, and he likes to hang out at the inn with his friends. “I have observed that he was a simple good-natured man; he was, moreover, a kind neighbor, and an obedient hen-pecked husband.” (Irving). Winkle is married, however he has a nagging wife that gripes about everything. In fact, his home and his farm have fallen apart, because he tends to avoid work of his own due to his wife’s negative attitude. “If left to himself, he would have whistled life away in perfect contentment; but his wife kept continually dinning in his ears about his idleness, his carelessness, and the ruin he was bringing on his family.” (Irving). Rip had enough, he decided to wonder into the mountains with his dog. Rip meets some guys and drinks a potion they offer him. This potion makes him fall asleep for 20 years. “During Rip’s subsequent twenty-year sleep, his country experiences a monumental transformation: the Revolutionary War. Rip returns home, a generation gone by, ignorant of any change but the growth of his beard, mystified by his nearly unrecognizable hometown.” (Wyman). Washington Irving uses allegory throughout this story. A few examples that he mainly focuses on are, The Revolutionary War, and America. Rip, the main character is used to represent American in an allegory. Irving does so by, explaining to us how lazy Rip is, not to mention he never wants to listen to his wife; he does as he pleases. Rip is not educated, he usually spends most of his time away from his wife, and gossiping with friends while getting drunk. He is not a homebody due to his wife, he loves to be outdoors as mentioned earlier. The way that Washington Irving ties allegory in with The American Revolutionary War and the story “Rip Van Winkle” is he uses Rip to represent the way that Americans were seen in the eyes of people who lived in England. People that were in England did not care to listen to the English government. Once Rip returns from the woods, and being gone for twenty years, Irving uses him to express how Americans felt about their new government; confused, they did not like it. “Perhaps so, but read as myth, Rip’s story enthralls because of the possibilities in doubt that it presents. Irving uses the generations to expose the sequent toil and casual hostilities in the life cycle. Laughter and pleasure guide us through the cohorts before and after us, but so do anger, fear, indifference, conflict, and inevitable tears. “Rip Van Winkle” survives as a story because it loads the balance of transfixing time in our favor. The lonely, confused, anachronistic vagrant who comes out of the hills enjoys astounding and timely good fortune. His comic rebirth against the facts inspires us. It gives us hope that will come when ourselves are left alone to face the torments of existence.” (Ferguson).
To achieve their purposes, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Washington Irving include allegorical writing in “Young Goodman Brown” and “Rip Van Winkle.” Hawthorne writes with the desire for the reader to interrupt the story in two different ways. The allegory used in this story helps the reader to understand the in depth meaning. Young Goodman Brown came out a changed man from the woods he once entered into. His “faith” had vanished him, not only his wife, Faith, but also his spiritual faith with God. Whereas Washington Irving uses allegory in his story “Rip Van Winkle” to express the changes that America was undergoing while in The American Revolutionary War. He uses allegory through Rip. Rip was used to represent the Americans, the government, and how the England people felt. The two authors used allegory to help the reader depict what the underlying hidden message was for these stories.