Does Goodman Brown really attend a witches' Sabbath or does he dream about it?

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favoritethings eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The short answer is this: we don't know for sure.  When Goodman Brown implores his wife, Faith, to "'Look up to Heaven, and resist the Wicked One!,'" he is snatched away from the scene.  He finds himself alone, in the woods; the night is calm and everything he'd seen and heard moments earlier has vanished.  The next morning, he walks back into Salem, looking around at everyone with suspicion, though they all act precisely as they had before he had seen them (or dreamed he saw them) in the forest.  The narrator asks, "Had Goodman Brown fallen asleep in the forest, and only dreamed a wild dream of a witch-meeting?"  However, the narrator seems to imply that it really doesn't matter because, even if the Sabbath wasn't real, Brown believes that it was, and he is profoundly and negatively affected by it for the rest of his life.  He no longer takes pleasure in his wife, Faith, and he avoids her as much as he can.  Brown can never trust anyone again, and he has -- figuratively -- lost his faith, and so "his dying hour was gloom."

gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Nathaniel Hawthorne purposely leaves the question of whether Young Goodman Brown was awake or dreaming unanswered at the end of his short story. Readers are forced to make their own interpretations of whether the wicked communion in the depths of the forest actually happened. Many scholars have also debated whether Goodman Brown was awake or simply dreaming. In my opinion, Young Goodman Brown dreamed the entire evil communion. The fact that Goody Cloyse vanishes in the forest after the Devil gives her his serpentine staff as well as the fact that Goodman Brown flies through the forest indicates that he was having a dream. As was mentioned in the previous post, Nathaniel Hawthorne purposely leaves Goodman Brown's experience ambiguous and instead focuses on the theme of humanity's inherently sinful nature.

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Young Goodman Brown

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