The Ambiguity In Hawthorne's Young Goodman Brown

1655 words - 7 pages

The Ambiguity in “Young Goodman Brown”

 
     The literary critics agree that there is considerable ambiguity in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown.” This essay intends to illustrate the previous statement and to analyze the cause of this ambiguity.

 

Henry James in Hawthorne, when discussing “Young Goodman Brown” comments on how imaginative it is, then mentions how allegorical Hawthorne is, and how allegory should be expressed clearly:

 

I frankly confess that I have, as a general thing, but little enjoyment of it, and that it has never seemed to me to be, as it were, a first-rate literary form. . . . But it is apt to spoil two good things – a story and a moral, a meaning and a form; and the taste for it is responsible for a large part of the forcible-feeding writing that has been inflicted upon the world. The only cses in which it is endurable is when it is extremely spontaneous, when the analogy presents itself with eager promptitude. When it shows signs of having been groped and fumbled for, the needful illusion is of course absent, and the failure complete. Then the machinery alone is visible and the end to which it operates becomes a matter of indifference (50).

 

When one has to grope for, and fumble for, the meaning of a tale, then there is “failure” in the work, as Henry James says. This unfortunately is the case of “Young Goodman Brown.” It is so ambiguous in so many occasions in the tale that a blur rather than a distinct image forms in the mind of the reader.

 

The Norton Anthology: American Literature states in “Nathaniel Hawthorne”:

 

Above all, his theme was curiosity about the receses of other men’s and women’s beings. About this theme he was always ambivalent [my italics], for he knew that his success as a writer depended upon his keen psychological analysis of people he met, while he could never forget that invsion of the sanctity of another’s personality may harden the heart even as it enriches the mind (548).

 

Ambivalence, or the simultaneous and contradictory attitude and/or feelings toward an object, etc., may well be the cause of the extreme ambiguity, doubt, uncertainty in the mind of the reader of “Young Goodman Brown.”  Intentional ambivalence on the part of the author in order not to offend too many is a plausible explanation, as I would see things.

 

Terence Martin in Nathaniel Hawthorne expresses what I interpret as a possible source for the ambiguity in “Young Goodman Brown”:

 

Assumed in the tale is a radical distinction between dream life and real life; the question proposed to Goodman Brown is into which of these categories good and evil naturally belong. At the outset of the story, Faith asks her husband to postpone his journey until sunrise and sleepin his own bed that night. . . . Mulling over the guilty purpose that has brought him into the forest, Goodman Brown recalls Faith’s talk of dreams. . . . In the forest he goes through a...

Find Another Essay On The Ambiguity in Hawthorne's Young Goodman Brown

The Allegory in Hawthorne's Young Goodman Brown

2099 words - 8 pages The Allegory in “Young Goodman Brown”       It is the purpose of this essay to show that Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown” is indeed an allegory. M. H. Abrams defines an allegory as a “narrative, whether in prose or verse, in which the agents and actions, and sometimes the setting as well, are contrived by the author to make coherent sense on the ‘literal,’ or primary, level of signification, and at the same time to signify a

The Symbolism in Hawthorne's Young Goodman Brown

2759 words - 11 pages  “Young Goodman Brown” – The Symbolism             Peter Conn in “Finding a Voice in an New Nation” states his evaluation of Hawthorne as a symbolist:   He was a secularized Puritan symbolist, who recovered the dramas enacted in cases of conscience by tracing the lines that bound men and women to their motives. Concerned with individuals as specimens or types, he endowed his characters with solemnly stylized features and then

Symbolism in Nathaniel Hawthorne's Young Goodman Brown

685 words - 3 pages Symbolism in Nathaniel Hawthorne's Young Goodman Brown Nathaniel Hawthorne's "Young Goodman Brown" is full of symbolism throughout the story. Perhaps the most interesting examples of symbolism include the title character, Young Goodman Brown, as well as his wife, Faith, and the woods that Young Goodman Brown enters on his journey. Included are many allusions to Christianity and also to evil and sin. These references are expressed mainly

Blind Faith in Hawthorne's Young Goodman Brown

939 words - 4 pages Young Goodman Brown:  Blind Faith Is it possible for a man to be SO hypnotized by faith that he is incapable of apprehending the truth that surrounds him? Yes. The principle of faith centers heavily around the confident belief of an idea set by a person or community. In Nathaniel Hawthorne's "Young Goodman Brown," the faith of an individual conflicts with the faith of the community. The story takes place during the period where all devoted

Sin in Nathaniel Hawthorne's Young Goodman Brown

2509 words - 10 pages ).   While changes to the Catechism would have occurred from the 17th to Hawthorne's own 19th century, the idea that his father's family had wished a proper Puritan education for Hawthorne is an important issue.  To accept as a child that you have in no way sinned but are completely sinful by nature is but one way in which "Young Goodman Brown" speaks out against Puritanism.  As Young Goodman Brown witnesses the exchange between the “devil” and Goody

Hawthorne's use of the narrator in Young Goodman Brown

777 words - 3 pages In Nathaniel Hawthorne's "Young Goodman Brown," the story is told through the eyes of a limited omniscient third-person narrator. This style is very accommodating to the story because it allows the author perfect opportunities to express his points. The narrator can both describe what Goodman Brown is doing, and also evaluate and comment on the characters actions. This is a tool of the author to use the narrator to express his own personal

Theme in Hawthorne's Young Goodman Brown

1775 words - 7 pages Theme in “Young Goodman Brown”               The theme is the “general concept or doctrine, whether implicit or asserted, which an imaginative work is designed to incorporate and make persuasive to the reader” (Abrams 170). The theme in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown” is explained in this essay, but it is not as obvious or apparent as the theme is in many literary works.   The reader begins to receive an inkling or

Faith in Hawthorne's Young Goodman Brown

1113 words - 4 pages Missing Works Cited Nathaniel Hawthorne’s allegorical story “Young Goodman Brown” is set in Salem, Massachusetts during the late sixteen hundreds in a time of religious hysteria and only a few generations after the infamous witch trials. Although "Young Goodman Brown" is a fictional tale, it is based on the cynical environment of Salem during this time period. The short story is filled with many literary elements, leading you to question what

The Hero's Journey in Hawthorne's Young Goodman Brown

1241 words - 5 pages The Hero's Journey in Young Goodman Brown   Faith is accepting what you are taught or told without trying to prove or disprove it, rather than discovering it through experience. Those who believe in God have faith. It has not been proven that God exists; similarly, it has not been proven that humans are kind, honest, and good by nature. Young Goodman Brown is a character in "Young Goodman Brown," who leaves his known world in

Literary Motifs in Hawthorne's Young Goodman Brown

1849 words - 7 pages Literary Motifs in “Young Goodman Brown”           A literary motif “is a conspicuous element, such as a type of incident, device, reference, or formula, which occurs frequently in works of literature” (Abrams 169). Incredibly, this one tale, “Young Goodman Brown” by Nathaniel Hawthorne, contains an array of familiar literary motifs (Axelrod 337).   First of all, the tale involves the common motif of a journey in quest of

Characterization in Hawthorne's Young Goodman Brown

2858 words - 11 pages Characterization in “Young Goodman Brown”          The dialogue, action and motivation revolve about the characters in the story (Abrams 32-33). It is the purpose of this essay to demonstrate the types of characters present in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown,” whether static or dynamic, whether flat or round, and whether protrayed through showing or telling.   There are only three well-developed, or three

Similar Essays

Ambiguity In Hawthorne's Young Goodman Brown

1847 words - 7 pages Ambiguity in “Young Goodman Brown”             There is no end to the ambiguity in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown”; this essay hopes to explore this problem.   Peter Conn in “Finding a Voice in an New Nation” makes a statement regarding Hawthorne’s ambiguity:    Almost all of Hawthorne’s finest stories are remote in time or place. The glare of contemporary reality immobillized his imagination. He required

Ambiguity In Hawthorne's Young Goodman Brown

1727 words - 7 pages Ambiguity in “Young Goodman Brown”               Peter Conn in “Finding a Voice in an New Nation” makes a statement regarding Hawthorne’s ambiguity:  “Almost all of Hawthorne’s finest stories are remote in time or place. The glare of contemporary reality immobillized his imagination. He required shadows and half-light, and he sought a nervous equilibrium in ambiguity” (82). There is considerable ambiguity in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Young

Ambiguity And Uncertainty In Hawthorne's Young Goodman Brown

1536 words - 6 pages Ambiguity and Uncertainty in Young Goodman Brown     In "Young Goodman Brown," Nathaniel Hawthorne, through the use of deceptive imagery, creates a sense of uncertainty that illuminates the theme of man's inability to operate within a framework of moral absolutism.  Within every man there is an innate difference between good and evil and Hawthorne's deliberate use of ambiguity mirrors this complexity of human nature. Hawthorne's Young

The Themes In Hawthorne's Young Goodman Brown

3322 words - 13 pages The Themes in “Young Goodman Brown”              In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown” the reader finds several themes. These will be discussed in this essay.   Morse Peckham in “The Development of Hawthorne’s Romanticism” explains what he interprets Hawthorne’s main theme to be:   Once the self has been redeemed from society it can be explored in its own terms, and for this purpose Hawthorne developed his
The Last Witness | Pусский | Watch Now