What is the significance of the dream-like quality of the story?

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chelsea85 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Good question.  The depth of this story relies on the uncertainty of the forest meeting.  The end of the story paints a dismal picture of Goodman Brown's life after the forest encounter.  He spends the rest of his days quite cynical about the people in his community and their devotion to God.  He is unsure of himself, his wife, and his religion.  What happens is we, as readers, get to attempt to decipher whether or not the main event in the story was a real occurrence or a figment of Brown's imagination.  Either way, the dream-like quality forces the reader to consider Brown's character.  We are left wondering if the townspeople are hypocrites who have failed Brown and destroyed his innocence and faith, or if the events of the story revolve around Brown's own internal struggle with his faith.  On the one hand, we get a condemnation of the Puritans, and on the other hand, a condemnation of too much doubt and paranoia.  The significance of the dream-like quality in this story is to show the reader that things aren't always what they seem, but also to suggest that too much concern for others' faults leaves one out in the cold and loveless.

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Young Goodman Brown

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