In the story "Young Goodman Brown", what are some examples of his use of reversals?

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sagetrieb eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One way to consider reversals is through the point of view of Brown.  Brown's perception of the townspeople completely reverses when he sees them in the woods. Before he goes into the woods "on his evil purpose," he has utter respect for them. When he meets them in the woods and the "traveler" explains who they really are (whether true or not), however, Brown can no longer hold his previous opinion of them. And its not as though he merely modifies that previous opinion (for example, Goody Cloyse is a good woman but cannot always resist evil); instead, his opinion completely reverses (Goodly Cloyse is evil through and through).  It is for this reason that the rest of his life is spent in despair: he sees people as either good or bad, not a bit of both, and he switches radically from one view to the other and cannot return to his original (and lifelong) opinions.

renelane eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One reversal is in how the young married couple deals with the night in question. Brown and Faith are apart from one another one whole night, yet they react in different ways.

While Brown is unable to get past his suspicion of Faith's attending a black mass, Faith forgives her husband's absence for a whole night. Brown has no true proof, because he cannot determine whether he experienced a terrible dream or real event, he still holds her "supposed" fall from grace against her.

Faith, on the other hand, definitely knows her husband disappeared for the whole night, but she forgives him this indiscretion.


sullymonster eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Another reversal is Brown's attitude from the beginning to the end of the story.  Brown goes into the forest as an idealistic and arrogant young man.  He is confident in his need to go, he ignores his wife's concerns, and he walks tall with a sense of righteous faith.

Brown exits the forest a very different man.  He has lost his confidence, he doubts his own eyes, he doubts his faith.  He has gone from idealistic to cynical, and it is cynicism that controls the rest of his life, so that he dies unhappy, with nothing written on his tombstone.

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Young Goodman Brown

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