The Meaning of Colors in the Story “Young Goodman Brown”

Colors have meaning when they are used in a piece of literary work. Although societies accord different meaning to colors, it is usually possible to get the meaning when going through a piece of literature. Color is an important element of symbolism used in literature. Colors are symbolic in the story “Young Goodman Brown”. They create nature of the scene in which events are taking place. Hawthorne has not only used the colors to set the tone of the narrative but also to describe personality of the characters. He has succeeded in bringing out emotions and strong feelings through the use of colors. Color has been used to identify classes of people resulting to either segregation or negative attitude towards a certain group of people. Many colors have been used in the story and each has a meaning.


The ribbons used by Faith for decoration are pink in color. Pink indicates purity of Faith as a young married woman. She is portrayed to be an innocent woman who loves her husband. Pink can mean happiness. Faith is happy in her first year of marriage and she wants her husband to stay close to her most of the time. Purity, innocence and happiness of Faith make her husband believe that she is the most important person on earth. She gives hope to her husband. When Faith loses her pink ribbons she is no longer pure and innocent. Her husband gives up on her thereafter.

Black color has been used in many instances in the story. Black is associated with evil. The meaning of black in the story is demonic, deceptive and signifies death. Young Brown Goodman loses trust in his companion when the black staff that looks like a snake is introduced in the story. Young thought that his companion is deceiving him and suggests he should go back home to his wife. When Young’s companion points the black staff to Goody Cloyse she shouts the word “devil” a fact Young’s companion agrees with. Black clouds have been associated with bad events. Faith is suffering and moaning as she loses her pink ribbon while the beautiful blue skies with bright stars are being covered completely with the black clouds. These are the only hopes Young has after he perceived everyone to be evil. The black clouds mean death of hope and faith to Young. He finds himself in dark wilderness signifying world of evil and death. The devil in the story is so dark that he cannot be seen clearly.

The blue skies give Young hope amidst darkness. Blue color means heavenly life, hope and peace while stars are a sign of success. Young felt some peace when he saw the blue sky. He consoles himself that even though everything seems evil, he still has heavens and Faith. He expects his life to be better after the journey. He is convinced that heavens and his wife Faith can motivate him to defeat any form of evil. When the dark cloud is passing he feels himself dead because he has lost all the hopes. He decides to be evil like everyone and his life changes completely thereafter.

Red color in the story means danger, violence and confusion. Fear subdues Young when he sees the red light. He hides himself from any danger until he ascertains that it is the red fire glowing at the rock alter. Initially he is confused. He knows neither what people are doing nor where the blood like water comes from. Violence is seen when Young sees the red water, he tries to encourage his wife but he loses consciousness. He is like a dead man killed by the red water. In that context red color can also mean death.

The meaning of pale is despair or defeat. Faith is very pale at the rock alter and it is a sign that she is tired and has given in to her fate. Her husband sympathizes with her only to lose consciousness when he tries to utter words of encouragement to her. Young Goodman Brown is pale when he attends the church service. He cannot believe façade in the church. He is defeated and seeks for external intervention. He wishes God could bring down the church to destroy everyone.

In conclusion, it is vivid how color an element of symbolism has been used in the story for specific meaning. Hawthorne is precise in the use of color to overcome the ambiguity. Color portrays people’s personality which is evident in Young’s companion who is evil. Main colors used are pink that depicts purity, black that is associated with evil, blue meaning hope and life, red that portrays death and pale that is a sign of despair. Color like Indian is used to classify a race of people associated with witchcraft. This story has therefore proved that when color is used appropriately in literature, it contributes a lot towards achieving the objectives of writing. I also appreciate the importance of symbolism in literature.