What is the mood of "Young Goodman Brown" by Nathaniel Hawthorne?

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favoritethings eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Mood refers to the general feelings created for the reader by the text. This story's mood is somewhat eerie and melancholic, even foreboding and tense. The story begins as Goodman Brown leaves his home "at sunset," just before nightfall; he even says his journey "must needs be done 'twixt now and sunrise." The story is set in Salem Village.  Now, nighttime is often associated with mystery, dark deeds, and sinfulness, so it seems pretty shady that he has to do something that can only be done at night. Moreover, most readers have a general knowledge of the terrible witch hysteria that resulted in tragedy for so many in Salem in the late seventeenth century. Therefore, simply beginning the story with these details helps to set the mood. 

Further, the fact that Brown's wife, Faith, is "troubled" with strange dreams and begs her husband to delay his journey foreshadows something terrible. Her anxiety for him and his safety prompts readers to feel a similar sense of apprehension. 

As Brown leaves home, he takes a "dreary road" that is made darker by "the gloomiest trees of the forest." The path is "lonely" as he travels deeper into the forest. Like nighttime, the forest is often associated with evil and/ or temptation, especially in Hawthorne's works, and this is no exception. Brown even thinks, "What if the devil himself should be at my very elbow!" Again, this foreshadows the evil waiting for him in the woods, as well as those corrupt qualities within himself that allow him to believe "after this one night, [he'll] cling to [Faith's] skirts and follow her to Heaven." Brown is not planning a late-night prayer session; he is up to something bad, something he knows that he really shouldn't be doing (as a Puritan man), and that something turns out to be spooky and upsetting.

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Young Goodman Brown

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