Introduction to English and American Literature, TUE78
Prof. Grace Ma
Paper 3: Young Goodman Brown
08 Jan 2013
In the darkness of night, newly-wed Goodman Brown, resident of Salem Village, has a dark and ominous experience of the Powers of Evil, which are very terrifying. Unable to transcend the paradoxes of his life, as he experienced it, he lives out the rest of his days in deepest gloom. The story may be read in several ways. The ambiguities of the narrative make it possible to consider Goodman Brown experience as an unholy dream. “Be it so if you will. But alas! It was a dream of evil omen for young Goodman Brown. A stern, a sad, a darkly meditative, a distrustful, if not a desperate man did he become from the night of that fearful dream.” (Hawthorne, line 376-378) The narrator never definitely says whether it was a dream or an actual experience that Goodman Brown had in the forest. However, by use of ambiguous phrases such as “it seemed,” “as if it were . . . ,” or “he could have sworn,” the reader is led to believe that Brown took part in a meeting of witches and wizards.
Hawthorne deliberately structured the story to suggest two different interpretations: (1) Goodman Brown dreamed his nocturnal experience in the forest; (2) Goodman Brown actually experienced a witches’ meeting near Salem Village in the days of Goodies Cloyse, Corey, and Carrier. One cannot accept one interpretation to the exclusion of the other. The Romantic ironist, when he presents a paradox, invites the readers to accept multiple meanings simultaneously. The narrator relates the reaction of Young Goodman Brown, who finds the mixing of the so-called "good" people with the so-called "wicked" people to be "irreverently consorting" in the clearing in the forest. The verb "consort" is packed with meaning; it is often used in judgments about someone's illicit sexual behaviors or even their alleged relations with the devil. In this scene, Young...