Literary Analysis of Young Goodman Brown

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Hawthorne's ambiguous ending in "Young Goodman Brown" leaves the reader asking one question. "Had Goodman Brown fallen asleep in the forest and only dreamed a wild dream of a witch hunting?" Most readers of this allegory try to answer this question, believing that Goodman Brown did in fact take the "dreary road, darkened by all the gloomiest trees of the forest." Hawthorne himself has avoided answering the question, and has instead left it up for the reader to decide Goodman Brown's fate. The reader can never be certain about what actually happened in the forest; the reader can, however, be certain, not only of the nature and stages of Goodman Brown's despair, but also of its probable cause. This can be seen through Faith, Brown's journey into the forest, and the devil. By analyzing these three symbols, the reader can concur that it is he, Goodman Brown, that is responsible for his despair, an not the world, a view deviant from what many believe.

Before Goodman Brown begins his dismal journey into the black abyss, it is apparent in the beginning of the story the suffering Goodman Brown will have when he enters the forest, and if he does, returns. "A lone woman is troubled with such dreams and such thoughts…" In "Young Goodman Brown", Faith, Brown's wife, is symbolic of Brown's faith, which he gradually loses as he doubts more and more the existence of any goodness in man. The physical movement away from Faith, marking his own loss of faith, can be traced through the forest. Brown is conscious of the dangers of the mission but is impelled onward by the thoughts of evil, which overwhelms him until it is too late to turn back to his wife and so to his faith in God.

"He had taken a dreary road, darkened by all the gloomiest trees of the forest, which barely stood aside to let the narrow path creep through, and closed immediately behind him." Hawthorne uses this vivid illustration in "Young Goodman Brown" to show us a picture of what is awaiting...
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