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The Importance of the Eerie Setting in “Young Goodman Brown”


Nathaniel Hawthorne’s popular short story “Young Goodman Brown” incites mystery and intrigue in its readers for several reasons. “Young Goodman Brown” produces a wide range of concerns and interpretations regarding the precise events of the lead character’s nocturnal journey. Who does Goodman Brown really meet in the forest? Was his experience in the forest a dream, or truth? This uncertainty is main to the kind of the story as a whole. Hawthorne purposefully develops ambiguity in “Young Goodman Brown” with the forest setting, which contributes to visual fallacies, his usage of dubious descriptive language, and the storyteller’s doubt regarding the reality of events to check out the implications of perceived reality.

One of the most visible elements in “Young Goodman Brown” is the spooky setting, which plays an essential function in the uncertainty of the story. The deep, dark forest that Goodman Brown enters upon his nighttime journey sets the stage for the doubt that consumes his mind for the rest of his life. The darkness of the thick forest serves as a veil so that the reader does not really know the truth of who or what Goodman Brown encounters on his expedition. As the storyteller states, “The traveler knows not who may be concealed by the many trunks and the thick boughs overhead; so with lonesome footsteps he may yet be passing through an unseen wide variety” (610 ). From the minute Brown gets in the forest, Hawthorne notifies the reader to the truth that the idea of doubt plays a main role in the story. The narrator also describes that the “unsure light” might allow for “ocular deception” (614 ). This statement functions as a foundation from which the reader can build a case for shock in the truth of the night’s events. Another instance of intentional uncertainty through a possible impression takes place when Brown’s senses detect figures and events throughout the story. “He might have sworn … he recognized the voices of the minister and Deacon Gookin” (614 ). Still, even in this example, when Brown appears sure of their existence, he never ever plainly sees the figures. His view is obscured by the blackness of the night and the forest development, and hence his acknowledgment of his fellow townspeople relies only on his sense of hearing. Hawthorne purposely sets the tale in the depths of the forest, an environment that cultivates a sense of impression and doubt in both Brown and the reader.

Similarly, Hawthorne produces obscurity through dubious descriptions of the characters Brown encounters on his journey. Even when Brown does see figures in the forest; the storyteller explains them as simply that, “figures”– an uncertain term in and of itself. The term “figure” indicates a representation of a thing or individual, and does not explain the actual thing or individual itself. When describing the characters Brown meets along the way, Hawthorne likewise uses the term “visage”, which likewise indicates the appearance or representation of a person, and not always the true individual (617 ).

Hawthorne intentionally explains the occasions and characters of the story in such a method regarding stimulate questions from the reader. A prime example of another questionable description is when Brown first fulfills his taking a trip buddy. Upon entering the forest, after Brown asks, “What if the devil himself should be at my extremely elbow,” a figure appears (611 ). Because Brown’s question precedes the appearance of his traveling companion, it leads the reader to question whether the taking a trip companion is indeed the devil– a truth never ever verified by the storyteller. In addition, the storyteller keeps in mind that Brown and this male figure “might have been taken for father and child” (611 ). This declaration is supported when Goody Cloyse asserts that the taking a trip buddy is the devil looking like Brown’s daddy, Goodman Brown (613 ). Is the devil simply taking the kind of Brown’s daddy, or is Hawthorne suggesting a much deeper connection between the devil and Goodman Brown? The reader can not be particular. The continual use of language such as “may”, “may yet be”, and “as if” even more blurs the line between reality and fantasy and plays an essential role in Hawthorne’s formula for obscurity. The reader can find this deliberate usage of qualified and conditional language throughout the story. The doubt of both the storyteller and Brown lead the reader to question the occasions of the story.

Simply as the descriptions provided for the occasions in the forest evoke uncertainty in the reader, so too do the direct declarations of the storyteller’s doubt relating to the events of the story. Throughout the text, the narrator continuously raises explicit questions worrying Goodman Brown’s experiences, therefore deliberately puzzling the reader. When Brown hears the voices of the minister and Deacon Gookin, the storyteller questions, “Whither, then, could these holy guys be journeying so deep into the heathen wilderness?” (614 ). When Brown discovers the figure of a woman alerting him back during the black mass, the storyteller asks, “Was it his mother?” (617 ). And lastly, after Goodman Brown reenters the village an altered man, the storyteller obstacles, “Had Goodman Brown fallen asleep in the forest and only imagined a witch-meeting?” (618 ). This series of concerns, together with others found throughout the text, leads the reader to question every aspect of the tale, including the location of the occasions, who existed at the black mass, and the credibility of the tale as a whole. Hawthorne deliberately sprays these concerns throughout the story to toss the reader into a state of questions and disbelief.

Though Brown, the narrator, and the reader all question the truth of the night’s events at different points throughout the story, it is clear at the conclusion of the tale that Brown’s experience has very real ramifications on his life, despite whether the events are real or pictured. After the narrator concerns whether the occasions were a dream or reality, he specifies: “Be it so if you will. However alas! It was a dream of evil prophecy for young goodman Brown. A stern, a sad, a darkly meditative … guy did he become, from the night of that afraid dream” (618 ). The storyteller explains that the real impacts of the night consist of a distant relationship with his better half, kids, and neighborhood and asserts that: “his dying hour was gloom” (619 ). The viewed reality has enduring results on Brown even though the reader picks up on Hawthorne’s purposeful ambiguity and is therefore relocated to question the credibility of the tale.

Hawthorne explores the nature of imagination and reality in this mystical and grim tale by allowing the reader to actively question the tale despite the truth that the lead character seems to believe wholeheartedly in the reality of the night’s events. He combines a plethora of elements in “Young Goodman Brown” to create a sense of mystery. The dark setting of the forest, which supplies camouflage for the figures, making use of language which alludes to possible doubles entendre, and a storyteller who appears to be unsure of the events of the story himself, are all examples of how Hawthorne uses uncertainty as a crucial element in the development of this narrative. Nevertheless, regardless of the ambiguity, the reader witnesses the genuine implications that the occasions have on Brown’s life, which in turn leads them to question the very ideas of imagination and truth.

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