In "Young Goodman Brown," how does the point of view affect the descriptions of secondary characters like Brown’s wife?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The third-person limited perspective of this text tells the tale by focusing on what happens around Young Goodman Brown and those characters he comes into contact with. We therefore do not have access to the thoughts and feelings of any other character except for Goodman Brown himself. This of course leads us to see characters in the same way that Goodman Brown does. We see the innocence and saintly nature of Faith through the words that she utters and how she appears:

"Dearest heart," whispered she, softly and rather sadly, when her lips were close to his ear, "prithee put off your journey until sunrise and sleep in your own bed tonight. A lone woman is troubled with such dreams and such thoughts that she's afeard of herself sometimes."

Note how her innocence and goodness are stressed. However, this is something that is challenged when she appears at the end of the narrative in a very different setting. Because we do not have access to her thoughts and feelings, the element of doubt that is presented in Goodman Brown is shared by us as readers to a certain extent. The point of view of the story, then, allows us to share in the experience of its title character. We do not know as much as we would like about other characters and have our ideas about them challenged.


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