What is the meaning or theme of "Young Goodman Brown"? Use evidence from the story to demonstrate.

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timbrady eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One of the motifs in this story is the journey to maturity which all of us must make (this is a common literary technique); you leave your Faith/faith behind, and come to experience life not as a journey in black and white, but one you make in shadow (the forest).  Nothing on this journey is definite; as he often does, Hawthorne makes things ambiguous.  Does Brown really see the staff turn into a snake?  Does he see old Goody Gloyse there?  Are the stories about what his guide has seen, the mixture of the pious with the impious, real?  Does the "Black Mass" ever happen?  Was Faith/faith really there?  Was it her pink ribbon?  Was it a real experience or just a dream?

We'll never know, but in my reading of the story, it is unimportant.  What Brown does realize is that all of us are mixtures of good and evil.  For example, it is an interesting time in each of our lives when we find out that our parents, gods to us in most of our youths, are "real" people with failings.  The people Brown meets in his return from the forest haven't changed; he has.  Nevertheless, he insists that people live up to his ideal of what they should be, and refuses to accept them as they are.   Because of this, he lives a miserable and untrusting life, isolated even from his Faith/faith.

"The enemy of the good is the perfect."

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Young Goodman Brown

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