To what extent is 'dream' indistinguishable from 'reality' in "Young Goodman Brown?"

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cmcqueeney eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It is very difficult to distinguish between dream and reality in this short story.  Hawthorne does not give very many indications one way or the other.  The reader can be assured that Young Goodman Brown did go into the woods for a night because Faith acts as a witness, but we cannot know what exactly happened in the woods.  At one point, YGB supposedly reaches up and grasps the pink ribbons of Faith as they fall from the sky.  This could be an indication that what he was experiencing was real, but Hawthorne never says whether Goodman Brown still has those ribbons in his possession when he wakes up in the forest, so again, we are left simply to question the reality of his experience.  Regardless of whether is was real or imagined, however, Hawthorne points to the tragedy of the situation being that Young Goodman Brown did believe that it had all happened.  His life was full of suspicion and despair from that point forward.  His perspectives on good and evil had been severely shaken and he never recovered.

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Young Goodman Brown

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