Young Goodman Brown Questions and Answers
by Nathaniel Hawthorne

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Why does the author leave it unclear whether Goodman Brown's experience is a dream or real in "Young Goodman Brown"? How is this noted in the story, or what does the author state to explain why this part of the story is left unanswered or a mystery? Does it matter?

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Thanh Munoz eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Early nineteenth-century writers were preoccupied with examining unusual mental states, the power of imagination, and the borderline between illusion and reality. The literary preoccupation with these concepts was symbiotic with developments in philosophy. Beginning especially with the works of Immanuel Kant, and his successor (in some sense) Arthur Schopenhauer, philosophers believed the external world, as we perceive it, is basically a projection of our minds, different from actual, unmediated reality, or the "thing in itself" as Kant referred to it.

Hawthorne is part of this literary trend that sees the outside world as what could be an illusion, or sees the power of the human mind as such that it can create its own reality. His stories generally possess a dreamlike quality even when there is no explicit mention of the supernatural. What is important in "Young Goodman Brown " is the moral concept behind the story; the unanswerable question of literal reality versus dreams or...

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