Was the story of "Young Goodman Brown" a dream or a reality to Brown? Explain why you think so.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The events that take place in this short story might have been a dream, but they certainly do not feel that way to young Goodman Brown himself. After Brown begs Faith, his wife, to resist the devil, he finds himself all alone in the dark forest. He returns to the...

See
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

The events that take place in this short story might have been a dream, but they certainly do not feel that way to young Goodman Brown himself. After Brown begs Faith, his wife, to resist the devil, he finds himself all alone in the dark forest. He returns to the village, a changed man from the one he was just the evening before, and the narrator asks,

Had Goodman Brown fallen asleep in the forest, and only dreamed a wild dream of a witch-meeting? Be it so, if you will.

We, the readers, can tell ourselves that it was a dream if we prefer, but Goodman Brown does not seem to think of his experiences as a dream. He acts as though he believes that the events took place in reality. "A stern, a sad, a darkly meditative, a distrustful, if not a desperate man, did he become [...]." When Brown sees Goody Cloyse with a little girl, he "snatched away the child, as from the grasp of the fiend himself." He cannot even take comfort in Faith, his wife. Then, "On the Sabbath-day, when the congregation were singing a holy psalm, he could not listen, because an anthem of sin rushed loudly upon his ear, and drowned all the blessed strain." Brown spends the remainder of his life in "gloom," unable to trust, or have faith, in anyone or anything. If Brown believed he'd only had a dream, it seems unlikely that he would be so irrevocably altered.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

I do not believe that the story is intended to be taken as a dream--although Hawthorne leaves that possibility open as a way out for a reader who does not wish to believe what the story actually says, i.e., that everybody has an evil side to his or her nature which he or she wants to keep hidden. I do not believe that Faith and her husband resist the temptation to become a part of the secret sinners and "fiend worshippers" for the reason that they have come there voluntarily in the first place. If Young Goodman Brown was going to dream the whole story, then he would most likely have done so while he was home in his bed and not while he was out in the forest on his way to the meeting. If it was only a dream, then the accusations contained in the story would be attributable to only one fictitious character rather than to the author himself. What seems especially shocking about the story is that Faith and other young women are indicted as wicked. Hawthorne suggests a couple of ways in which women commit evil deeds:

...how many a woman, eager for widows' weeds, has given her husband a drink at bedtime and let him sleep his last sleep in her bosom....how fair damsels--blush not, sweet ones--have dug little graves in the garden, and bidden me, the sole guest to an infant's funeral.

Guy De Maupassant wrote a similar story titled (in the English translation) "Was It A Dream." It can be read online. 

Posted on