Young Goodman Brown

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Faith’s pink ribbons Symbol Analysis

Faith’s pink ribbons Symbol Icon
Hawthorne draws attention to Faith’s pink ribbons in the story’s first few paragraphs, when she tries to convince Goodman Brown to stay at home. Delicate (Faith lets “the wind play with the pink ribbons) and naively or childishly cheerful (Faith has a “melancholy air…in spite of her pink ribbons”), the pink ribbons symbolize faith and innocence. In the forest, Goodman Brown loses his innocent faith and becomes certain that Faith has been tempted by the devil when he sees her pink ribbon fluttering down from the cloudy sky and snagging in a tree. As Goodman Brown begins to fear that everyone he knows is a hypocritical sinner, the pink ribbons take on a new meaning: they now symbolize the mere superficial appearance of innocent faith. When Goodman Brown returns to Salem in the morning, he sees that Faith is still wearing her pink ribbons, but their meaning, which was so clear and favorable when he set out for the forest, is now muddied: do her untouched ribbons mean that Faith never left Salem, and Goodman Brown’s experience in the forest was all a dream? or did Faith simply replace her lost ribbon, and are the ribbons further proof of her hypocritical ability to seem moral despite sinful actions?

Faith’s pink ribbons Quotes in Young Goodman Brown

The Young Goodman Brown quotes below all refer to the symbol of Faith’s pink ribbons. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The Hypocrisy of Puritanism Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Vintage edition of Young Goodman Brown published in 2011.
Young Goodman Brown Quotes

Turning the corner by the meeting-house, he spied the head of Faith, with the pink ribbons, gazing anxiously forth, and bursting into such joy at sight of him that she skipped along the street and almost kissed her husband before the whole village. But Goodman Brown looked sternly and sadly into her face, and passed on without a greeting.

Related Characters: Goodman Brown, Faith
Related Symbols: Faith’s pink ribbons
Page Number: 205
Explanation and Analysis:

Goodman Brown has now fled the forest and returned to the orderly and pious town of Salem, but he cannot forget what he saw, and he can no longer separate in his mind the goodness of Salem from the evil of the woods. While he seems to be returning to Faith (and to his religious faith), he cannot embrace either after what he has seen. 

That Faith is at home unperturbed with her pink ribbons intact (Goodman Brown saw them fall in the woods) makes us question whether or not Goodman Brown truly saw what he believed he saw. He and Faith met each other's eyes in the woods, but Faith seems either undisturbed by or unaware of this meeting. As Goodman Brown cannot speak with her about his experience (as his family did not speak with him about theirs), he is left wordlessly suspecting her. Her innocence and joy could mean either that she is truly a sinner who is unbothered by having witnessed her husband in the woods, or Goodman Brown has dreamed/imagined the whole encounter, and Faith is not such a wicked sinner. Goodman Brown decides to occupy the space in between, remaining with Faith in name, but feeling his family and his faith to be ultimately empty. 

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Faith’s pink ribbons Symbol Timeline in Young Goodman Brown

The timeline below shows where the symbol Faith’s pink ribbons appears in Young Goodman Brown. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Young Goodman Brown
The Hypocrisy of Puritanism Theme Icon
Losing Faith and Innocence Theme Icon
Saints vs. Sinners Theme Icon
Family and Individual Choice Theme Icon
...leans out toward the street to embrace him. Faith is wearing a cap adorned with pink ribbon s that flutter in the wind. (full context)
Losing Faith and Innocence Theme Icon
Nature and the Supernatural Theme Icon
Family and Individual Choice Theme Icon
...street. He looks back one last time and sees Faith watching him sadly despite the pink ribbon s on her cap. (full context)
Losing Faith and Innocence Theme Icon
Nature and the Supernatural Theme Icon
...name three times and hears a scream in reply, followed by distant laughter, before her pink ribbon drifts down from the sky and catches on a tree branch. Goodman Brown snatches the... (full context)
The Hypocrisy of Puritanism Theme Icon
Losing Faith and Innocence Theme Icon
Saints vs. Sinners Theme Icon
Family and Individual Choice Theme Icon
...catechism, and Goodman Brown snatches the girl away. Finally, he sees Faith, still wearing her pink ribbon s. She runs up to him joyfully and almost kisses him on the street, but... (full context)