Do the narrator and the author feel the same way about Goodman Brown? What are their opinions of him, and how can you tell?

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sagetrieb eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Great question.  One of the distinctive marks of Hawthorne's literature (or much of it) pertains to irony, the distance between the author's voice and that of the narrator, and ambiguity, a multiplicity of interpretations all operating simultaneously. We see that ironic distance when, for example, the narrator says "With this excellent resolve for the future, Goodman Brown felt himself justified in making more haste on his present evil purpose."  The narrative voice is limited omnicient; the point of view is that of Brown, who is a creatiion of the author Hawthorne, who implicitly criticizes the character for what now seems to be his hypocitical farewell to Faith as he sets off on his "evil purpose." The story itself is full of ambiguity as to whether Brown imagines this adventure: if he dreams it, if it is a product of his unconscious, or if it is real.  Indeed, the narrator tells it to us as if it were real, but the author causes us to think this might not be so, leaving cluses such as Brown crossing the threshold at the beginning of the story.  Here the narrator relates a fact, but the author establishes a symbol of moving from one state of consciousness to another, a symbol that is not a concern of the narrator.

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Young Goodman Brown

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