Essay on The Ambiguity in Hawthorne's Young Goodman Brown

1587 Words7 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…show more content…
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 dreamlike experience. . . . The devil, furthermore, introduces a further notion of a dream. . . . Thus the counterpoised terms, dream and relity, are shown to depend for their application upon a prior attitude toward the moral nature of the world. For the devil, virtue is a dream; evil, the only reality(91). It would seem that Martin’s analysis
Open Document