Analysis: What's Up With the Ending?
Check out our ending:
And when he had lived long, and was borne to his grave a hoary corpse, followed by Faith, and aged woman, and children and grandchildren, a goodly process, besides neighbors not a few, they carved no hopeful verse upon his tombstone, for his dying hour was gloom. (73)
Well, that's cheerful.
This is one of those weird endings that is completely straightforward in some ways, completely ambiguous in others. Hawthorne's narrator never steps in and says whether it was all a dream or not. But the narrator does sum up everything that happens to young Goodman Brown after he returns to Salem, right up to that gloomy "dying hour."
At the same time, Hawthorne manages to show us some of Goodman Brown's most intimate moments—for instance, how he often "scowled, and muttered to himself" (73). (And probably yelled at the kids to get off his lawn.)
So, on the one hand, there's a "nothing more to see, folks" quality to the last paragraph of "Young Goodman Brown." That said, it's still a knockout conclusion. And we here at Shmoop aren't the only ones who think so. American novelist Henry James thought the ending was a crowning example of Hawthorne's "rich imagination" (source).