The Ambiguity of "Young Goodman Brown"
"Young Goodman Brown" is a short, fictional story written by Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864). Along with symbolism and religious allusion, Hawthorne uses an interesting technique in his works, keeping his audience wondering about what they just read. This technique can best be described as a multiple-choice technique, where there are different choices to interpret the text. The multiple-choice technique is ambiguous in which it allows for open interpretations by contradicting an event that recently happened, which questions it's legitimacy. The reader is able to make his or her own perception of what is happening in the story. "Young Goodman Brown" is an excellent source for examples of the captivating literary method which Nathaniel Hawthorne has mastered and perfected.
The main subject of this text is young Goodman Brown. He is leaving his wife, Faith, for the night to make a journey. She tries to make him stay because she is worried about what is going to happen during the night. He leaves anyway, traveling in the forest with an older companion to attend some sort of gathering.
One example of the multiple-choice technique happens right after they start traveling. "But the only thing about him that could be fixed upon as remarkable was his staff, which bore the likeness of a great black snake, so curiously wrought that it might almost be seen to twist and wriggle itself like a living serpent. This, of course, must have been an ocular deception, assisted by the uncertain light" (Hawthorne 1034). Hawthorne uses descriptive imagery to illustrate the snakelike staff to appear as if it was truly happening. His use of words, such as "might almost", removes some perception of complete validity to his statement, therefore leaving a sense of wonder. The usage of simile adds to the imagery and mysteriousness of the anfractuous staff, by stating "that it might...