Nathaniel Hawthorne's unusual story, Young Goodman Brown, is a tale that can be analyzed through many different perspectives. The author uses mystery and bizarre scenarios that create gaps in the plot, leaving the reader asking questions about what the intent of Hawthorne's style is. To answer these questions, many readers approach the story with a type of critical analysis, such as authorial intention, historical and biographical criticism, mythological and archetypal criticism, or reader response criticism. All may apply to this particular story, depending on the reader.
Authorial intent criticism is based on the idea that whatever meaning coming from the passage is none other than what the author intended it to be. This type of approach may be beneficial or may cause more confusion to some readers. If you were to know what the author intended a certain complicated passage to mean, it would be much easier to grasp the meaning of the entire text. There is one problem related to this approach, however. If the author is not present or has no notes explaining the intention of a passage, it is impossible to have questions answered. This is the problem that I ran into while reading Hawthorne's Young Goodman Brown.
The plot to Hawthorne's story is filled with mystery, leaving the reader questioning certain scenes and acts. For example, the biggest question that I had for Hawthorne was did he intend for Young Goodman Brown's experience in the forest gathering to be a dream or a hallucination, or was it real? Some students question whether or not the dark traveler who was waiting for Brown was the Devil or was an alter ego for Brown himself. Unfortunately, these are both intent questions that cannot be answered.
Almost opposite in character is reader response criticism. This is an approach where the reader's interpretation of the text is how it is supposed to be seen. How the reader responds to actions, conflicts, circumstances, and other gaps...
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