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Young Goodman Brown Essay

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While there are as many possible interpretations of a work as there are readers, a reader should not have to go beyond a work to understand an author’s intentions for a work. They should be able to have a somewhat similar interpretation to the author’s intended interpretation, given that the author was successful in their rhetoric and stylistic devices. In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s case with his short story “Young Goodman Brown”, one does not have to go far to understand what he wanted to achieve. Hawthorne was a master of societal criticism, symbolism, rhetoric, and narration. Hawthorne meant for his readers to feel conflicted and confused. There are countless cases of ambiguity and contradictory symbols in his short story, and they serve their…show more content…
Nearly all of the story takes place in a forest, something that traditionally symbolizes the ‘unknown’. Forests are often depicted as dark and gloomy, and filled with monsters and things that want to hurt the main characters of a story. Early American audiences knew this, as do modern audiences today. Hawthorne also uses a lot of religious imagery, which is generally viewed as positive. In this case however, the religious imagery is extremely negative in nature and depicts satanic rituals, something typically disapproved of. The Devil himself appears in the story, which is customarily a negative element in a story. It is still negative in “Young Goodman Brown”, however, the Devil is likened unto Brown’s father. This conflicts readers, as fathers are usually strong moral figures. Readers are also predisposed to highly approve of the character Faith with her pink ribbons and submissive personality. Faith becomes a symbol of hope and innocence throughout the story and is Brown’s greatest influence for good. Though the character herself does not do much in the story, she is the main fighting force against evil and sin; that is why it is so traumatic for Brown when it is unclear whether or not she rejected evil in the end. Readers end up conflicted over opposing preconceptions of certain images and ideas, and may be perplexed over the directions Hawthorne takes this short
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