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Young Goodman Brown

Young Goodman Brown

by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Analysis: Writing Style

Intentionally Complicated

Hawthorne has a tendency to pack lots and lots of information into long, twisting sentences. For instance:

And yet, though the elder person was as simply clad as the younger, and as simple in manner too, he had an indescribable air of one who knew the world, and who would not have felt abashed at the governor's dinner table or in King William's court, were it possible that his affairs should call him thither. (13)

Zzzzzz… wait, what? Did someone say something?

Jokes aside, this sentence is a doozy. (That doesn't mean it's not worth reading—it's just dense.) And brace yourself for another one:

At one extremity of an open space, hemmed in by the dark wall of the forest, arose a rock, bearing some rude, natural resemblance either to an alter or a pulpit, and surrounded by four blazing pines, their tops aflame, their stems untouched, like candles at an evening meeting. (55)

"Young Goodman Brown" may not have an SAT word in every phrase, but it does have plenty of intricate sentences (and paragraphs, and entire episodes) like these. Is Hawthorne writing the kind of hyper-detailed prose that virtually everyone wrote in the middle of the 19th century? Sure.

But is he also creating a text with real philosophical ambitions—a text that demands thoughtful and attentive reading (and re-reading)? As we here at Shmoop see it, absolutely.

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