Professor Christopher McBride
23 June 2013
Essay Assignment One: Reader-Response Criticism
Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown” is a short story in which the author attempts to convey several different messages or themes throughout the literary piece. Themes in literary works can sometimes be better understood by analyzing the piece with a specific literary criticism technique. A few of these literary criticism techniques include Marxist, Formalism, and Reader Response just to name a few. Given Hawthorne’s style of writing and this short story in particular, a reader or critic can benefit from analyzing his work with the Reader Response literary criticism approach. The Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms define reader response criticism as, “a type of literary criticism that focuses on reading as an active process and on the diversity of readers’ responses to literary works,” (Murfin & Ray 425). By analyzing “Young Goodman Brown” using the Reader Response method the reader adequately comprehends the themes of loss of innocence, fear and public image that Hawthorne depicts in his short story.
Goodman Brown, much like the title alludes, is the main character in this story that is faced with a series of decisions that illustrates his morals and society as a whole. Using the Reader Response literary criticism technique the reader relates to Goodman Brown in his first major decision. This decision comes as Goodman Brown is leaving one evening and his wife is pleading with him not to go. Mr. Brown sets the tone for the short story and gives the audience some insight into his personality as he responds to his wife by stating, “of all nights in the year, this one night must I tarry away from thee,” (Hawthorne 3). Brown then turns the focus from himself back towards his wife’s trust in him by questioning, “my sweet, pretty wife, dost thou doubt me already, and we but three months married?”...
Cited: Hawthorne, Nathaniel. “Young Goodman Brown.” Literature; A Portable Anthology. Third Edition. Janet Gardner, Beverly Lawn, Jack Ridl & Peter Schakel. Boston & New York. Bedford/St. Martin’s. 2013. 3-13. Print
Murfin, Ross & Supryia Ray. The Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms. Third Edition. Boston & New York. Bedford/St.Martin’s. 2009. 425-429. Print
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