Study Guide

Young Goodman Brown Versions of Reality

By Nathaniel Hawthorne

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Versions of Reality

Confusion isn't always a bad thing. We here at Shmoop are die-hard fans of intricate spy movies, tilt-a-whirl rides, and lots of other sources of weirdly enjoyable confusion. One of the greatest things about "Young Goodman Brown" is how right it gets the feeling of being confused. There are plenty of sights that aren't what they seem, events that are open to any and every interpretation. So three cheers for Nathaniel Hawthorne, Master of Confusion! Differing versions of reality add an extra layer of complexity and excitement to "Young Goodman Brown." Too bad young Goodman Brown himself doesn't have much fun.

Questions About Versions of Reality

  1. Is there anything about the forest adventure that, in your opinion, definitely is a dream? Or definitely is real? Are there any clues or methods that we can use to distinguish dreams from reality in "Young Goodman Brown"?
  2. Does young Goodman Brown ever wonder what, exactly, is going on in the forest? Does he ever try to distinguish dream from reality, or is this challenge left mainly to readers like us?
  3. After young Goodman Brown returns, who are some characters whose versions of reality are different from his? Do these characters' versions seem more reasonable, or is young Goodman Brown more insightful?

Chew on This

Goodman Brown learns to see the world in terms of pure good versus pure evil. But Hawthorne's narrator uses strange or ambiguous description to suggest that moral matters are never this clear-cut.

Young Goodman Brown is not interested in whether his experiences in the forest are a dream or reality—only in what his experiences indicate about human nature.

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