Faith Brown, in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown,” is presented as a righteous and good person; however, she is no better that Young Goodman Brown himself. In class we have discussed how Faith is representative of both Goodman Brown’s lack of Faith as well as how her name is showing the conflict of people’s lack of faith throughout the story.
At the beginning of the story Hawthorne takes the time to point out the color of the ribbons on Faith’s bonnet. Is this a way for Hawthorne to show, without actually saying it, that she is not as good as we want to believe that she is? In order to figure this point out we need to look at the cultural implications of the color pink. In today’s day and age we see pink and think of babies, specifically baby girls, which we know are innocent and sweet. But if we look at the colors that mix to make the color pink we know that it is made by mixing white and red together. White is perceived as a sign of innocence, and red as a sign of power and perhaps sin. By pointing out the color of the ribbons Hawthorne is saying that she is not all good.
Throughout the story Faith and Goodman Brown are both quoted saying things that lead you to feel that Faith is not as good as she seems on the surface but the reader is allowed to make their own decisions. Faith is quoted as saying “A lone woman is troubled with such dreams and such thoughts, that she’s afeard of herself, sometimes.” (pg. 340) Here Faith is saying that she’s not sure of her ability to be “good.” She is foreshadowing to the reader that things may not be exactly what they seem.
After Young Goodman Brown tells Faith that even though she’s afraid that he still has to leave her for the night, she responds by telling him “The God bless you and may you find all well when you come back.” (pg. 340) Here Faith is again telling him that she is uneasy about the fact that he is leaving. She seems to know that something bad is going to happen.
As the story goes on we are lead to believe that worst actually happens, that Faith is actually joining in the witchcraft. “By the blaze of hell-kindled torches, the wretched man beheld his Faith and the wife her husband, trembling before that unhallowed alter.” (pg. 347) Is this scene actually happening? Does Faith actually sign her name in the Devil’s book? We, as the reader, are left wondering.
“Turning the corner by the meeting- house, he spied the head of Faith, with the pink ribbons, gazing anxiously fort, and bursting into such joy at the sight of him, that she skipped along the street, and almost kissed her husband before the whole village.” (pg. 348) Here we see that Faith is willing to throw out the beliefs of the puritan faith to embrace her husband. Is she doing that because she does not care or because she is so overjoyed at the sight of him? So, is Faith actually bad? Let’s take a look at this quote from the story as our guide. Could it be that Faith is simply a young wife that doesn’t want to be away from her new husband. “ What my sweet, pretty wife, dost thou doubt me already, and we but three months married!” (pg. 340) She obviously is, in fact, deeply in love with Goodman Brown. She stands at the doorway of their house watching him walk away, heading for a trip that she knows nothing about. “He looked back and saw the head of Faith still peeping after him, with a melancholy air, in spite of her pink ribbons.” (pg. 340) She cares about him enough, and worries about him enough that her woman’s intuition is telling her that something bad might happen if he goes on the trip.
It is possible that Faith may not be all good as we, as the reader, may want to believe, but she also is not all bad. Clearly she cares about her husband, and knows that if he is there with her nothing bad will happen. But at the same time, we can see some defiance in her. Not every woman in Puritan society would run out into the street to embrace her husband in front of the whole town.
Faith Brown is a literary example of each of us as humans, we have to free will to choose what we will do. We are neither all good or all bad, and just like us she had a little of each in her.