The story of Young Goodman Brown seems intended to confuse the reader at first in order to allow the imagination to decide what has truly occurred in the story. It seems that initially, Nathaniel Hawthorne wants the reader to accept the story is true, however, as goodman Brown’s journey continues through the woods it becomes more and more deceiving as to whether or not it is a dream or reality. Upon reflecting on the story I believe that initially, Brown was living in reality when he was bidding farewell to his wife, however, it seems he either began to dream or a traumatic event occurred that when he fell asleep that night turned into an exaggerated version of reality. This is what caused him to believe it himself so much and inevitably turned the night’s events into an exaggerated mistrust towards those in his community. In the opening passage when goodman Brown is saying goodbye to his wife faith he alludes to the idea that he is beginning to dream when he says, “she dreams too” (Hawthorne 346). He had heard her stories of evil and this seemed to be the catalyst for his experience.
During the time the book was written, the worry and intrigue over supernatural witchcraft powers were very prominent, I accept that he was truly leaving to go view the devil which led him to witness a witch’s meeting. The commitment Brown exhibits toward venturing to flirt with the devil proves that he really was going to see what the puritan at that times were so afraid of. He justifies this deception of his wife by telling her he is simply venturing on an errand he must go on and “after this one night I will cling to her skirts and follow her to Heaven” (346). The particular passage that made me begin to realize that his story might be a figment of his imagination was when Brown entered the woods and once he turned the crook in the road he was met by the man who had traveled a seemingly impossibly quick time from Boston. Brown’s uncertain statement that he was “surprised by the sudden appearance of his companion though no wholly unexpected” (346) seemed to turn his assured confidence in his actions into unease. This was further exemplified when he explained the man’s staff was similar to a snake but was likely due to ocular deception. When his doubts set in during this section, his determination to simply go out, do the evil deed, and return to his loyal wife wavered and he becomes comforted by the cloaked companion coaxing his doubts of wrongdoing.
Even going as far as to say that his forefathers have traversed on the same path as he is now. After being obviously shaken in his faith by speaking to the elderly man who presents himself as an image of the devil, Brown decides to hold steadfast and states he will not move a further step. However, soon he sees the minister and his deacon passing along the same path he was upon. Following the relevelation that Goody Gloyse the respected woman from the village is actually a withc herself, this all leads to Brown realizing he no longer trust anyone in town for if the minister, the deacon and Cloyse are all seeking after the very evil deed Brown is so wrought up over, then everyone else must be corrupt as well. Those that he sees “Sabbath after Sabbath look devoutly heavenward” (352) are now present at this place of evil. Perhaps the most magical occurrences that made Hawthorne’s short story appear to be based on a dream is when goodman Brown shouts, “Faith! Faith! Look up to the Heaven and resist the Wicked One!” (354). He then suddenly found himself transported to the calm of the forest as if being suddenly awoken from a dream.
This incidence makes it seem as though the reason for the whole nightmare was the see how Brown would react when faced with the devil and his followers. With his final cry to Faith, Brown made clear the path he chose. This led to him to feel greatly troubled throughout his life by the hypocrisy of others. Brown’s loss of faith in God and humanity turned him into a gloomy man unable to handle the insincere deceit of those around him. Before entering the forest, he was rather innocent and had great trust in his wife and fellow citizens, but he returned from the woods a man enlightened to the likes of evil and wrongdoing.
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