Ambiguity in Hawthorne's Young Goodman Brown Essay

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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 shadows and half-light, and he sought a nervous equilibrium in ambiguity. . . . Where traditional allegory was secured in certitude, however, Hawthorne’s allegorical proceedings yield only restlessness and doubt. The stable system of correspondences that tied allegory’s images and ideas together was…show more content…
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
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