Young Goodman Brown
Versions of Reality Quotes
How we cite our quotes:
It was as lonely as could be; and there is this peculiarity in such a solitude, that the traveler knows not who may be concealed by the innumerable trunks and the thick boughs overhead; so that, with lonely footsteps, he may yet be passing through an unseen multitude. (8)
We get it: the woods are creepy. Trees look like witches; normal night noises sound like creepy devils coming out to get you. The point here is that Hawthorne is setting us up for confusion. Just like Brown, the dark woods are confusing our sense of truth and fiction.
"There may be a devilish Indian behind every tree," said Goodman Brown, to himself; and he glanced fearfully behind him, as he added, "What if the devil himself should be at my very elbow!"
Young Goodman Brown's idea that "there may be a devilish Indian behind every tree" is probably not strictly accurate. But it sure lets us know that his fear and anxiety are real—and that his imagination is probably over-active.
So saying, he threw it down at her feet, where, perhaps, it assumed life, being one of the rods which its owner had formerly lent to the Egyptian magi. Of this fact, however, Goodman Brown could not take cognizance. He had cast up his eyes in astonishment, and, looking down again, beheld neither Goody Cloyse nor the serpentine staff, but his fellow-traveller alone, who waited for him as calmly as if nothing had happened. (35-36)
So: is the staff alive or not? Is Goody Cloyse there, or not? We don't know. Instead of giving a more reliable viewpoint than young Goodman Brown's, the narrator actually deepens the story's sense of uncertainty and ambiguity.