Young Goodman Brown and Other Hawthorne Short Stories

Ambiguity in Young Goodman Brown

Nathaniel Hawthorne's popular short story "Young Goodman Brown" incites mystery and intrigue in its readers for several reasons. "Young Goodman Brown" produces a multitude of questions and interpretations as to the precise events of the protagonist's nocturnal journey. Who does Goodman Brown really meet in the forest? Was his experience in the forest a dream, or reality? This ambiguity is central to the form of the story as a whole. Hawthorne intentionally creates ambiguity in "Young Goodman Brown" with the forest setting, which is conducive to optical illusions, his use of dubious descriptive language, and the narrator's doubt as to the reality of events to explore the ramifications of perceived reality.

One of the most noticeable elements in "Young Goodman Brown" is the eerie setting, which plays a key role in the ambiguity of the story. The deep, dark forest that Goodman Brown enters on his nighttime journey sets the stage for the doubt that consumes his mind for the remainder of his life. The darkness of the thick forest acts as a veil so that the reader does not truly know the reality of who or what Goodman Brown encounters on his excursion. As the narrator states,...

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