Ambiguity and Uncertainty in Hawthorne's Young Goodman Brown

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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 Goodman Brown, is misled by believing in the perfectibility of humanity and in the existence of moral absolutes. According to Nancy Bunge, Hawthorne naturally centers his story upon a Puritan protagonist to convey the "self-righteous" that he regards as the "antithesis of wisdom"(4). Consequently, Young
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This contrast is easily revealed in the following sentence: "the wind tolled like a distant church-bell, and sometimes gave a broad roar around the traveler, as if all Nature were laughing him to scorn" (Hawthorne 1204). Whereas the wind affectionately "plays" with Faith's pink ribbons, it noisily taunts Young Goodman Brown. Also, as Nina Baym suggests, both the wind and the pink ribbons may, in fact, provide "concrete symbols that link the saving power of the woman with her body and through her body to Nature" (138). Hawthorne visually enhances the ambiguity surrounding Faith's dual role in nature through his repetitive and symbolic use of the pink ribbons. There is deceit and uncertainty in the very color pink that exists somewhere between the extremes of white, representing grace and purity, and red, symbolizing fiery passion and sin. However, Young Goodman Brown, in his naïve belief of moral absolutes, is unable to decide upon the essentially complex double meaning that may be behind the very being of Faith's character. As a result, he sees Faith gracefully adorned with her pink ribbons, as the essence of angelic purity.

Young Goodman Brown's inability to acknowledge, and even embrace Faith's humanity, leads to the climatic loss of his "faith" in the forest. He beholds the pink ribbon that has
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