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Ambivalence and Ambiguity in Young Goodman Brown Essay


Nathaniel Hawthornes, Young Goodman Brown is a story that exhibits ambivalence, but it is so much more than this. Hawthorne in his efforts to write a story based on seventeenth century events has revealed a story that has double meaning throughout. He uses theme, plot, characters and symbolism to bring forth a story that is based on human nature and the fight between good and evil. Hawthorne is interested in exploring the psychological and social effects of guilty knowledge, whether or not that knowledge is founded on fact. He uses the combination of these such things to make the story one that everyone can relate to. The ambiguous symbolism and the allegorical nature of Young Goodman Brown ensure continued interest and vigorous critical attention.

Ambiguity is defined as having a double meaning. Hawthorne uses this throughout his story as one of the themes. "Young Goodman Brown" begins when Faith, Brown's wife, asks him not to go on an "errand". Goodman Brown says to Faith, his love, that "this one night I must tarry away from thee." When he refers to his love he is talking to his wife, Faith, but he is also talking to his "faith" to God. Another example is when Goodman Brown finally meets with the Devil, he declares that the reason he was late was because "Faith kept me back awhile." This statement has a double meaning because his wife physically prevented him from being on time for his meeting with the devil, but his faith to God psychologically delayed his meeting with the devil. The reader can tell that Hawthorne uses Goodman in his story to display the natures of mankind.

Hawthornes use of ambivalence is used through his character, Goodman Brown. Ambivalence is the opposed feelings that occur within the same person when the person is faced with specific values. In the story, Goodman faces a battle within himself between good and evil. In the story, Hawthorne remarks about "the instinct that guides mortal man to evil". This is a direct statement from the author that he believes that man's natural inclination is to lean to evil than good. Goodman Brown had at one point in the story lost his faith in God, therefore there was nothing restraining his instincts from moving towards evil. Goodman Brown goes mad and challenges evil. He feels that he will be the downfall of evil and that he is strong enough to overcome it all. At this point, Hawthorne reveals an inner conflict of a mans faith in religion and the knowledge of mankinds indiscretions with sin.

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