Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short story “Young Goodman Brown” is unique in its use of a first-person narrator. The narrator, who is also the story’s protagonist, is not named. This anonymity serves to heighten the sense of mystery and suspense that runs throughout the tale.
The narrator’s relationship to the other characters is also unclear. He refers to Goody Cloyse, a woman he knows, as “an old dame,” suggesting some distance between them. He also calls Faith, his wife, by her first name only, which could be seen as either intimate or cold.
The use of a first-person narrator allows Hawthorne to create a more immediate and personal experience for the reader. We are placed in the shoes of the protagonist and see the events unfold through his eyes. This also allows Hawthorne to withhold information from the reader, adding to the sense of mystery.
The anonymous narrator is an important part of “Young Goodman Brown,” helping to create an atmosphere of suspense and unease.
In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown,” the narrative is delivered from the perspective of a limited omniscient third-person narrator. This style is ideal for telling stories since it allows the author to provide his thoughts more freely. The narrator can not only tell what Goodman Brown is doing, but also evaluate and comment on his conduct.
For example, when Goodman Brown sees the pink ribbon in Faith’s hair, the narrator says “There was no magic in the ribbon. It was a simple child’s plaything.” This immediately shows us that while Goodman Brown may be seeing things that are not there, the narrator is not going to fall for it.
The use of a limited omniscient third-person narrator also allows Hawthorne to use foreshadowing effectively. When Goodman Brown leaves his house, the reader already knows that he will be going into the forest because the narrator has told us so. We also know that he will be meeting with evil because the narrator has shown us Faith’s ribbon which is an important symbol in the story.
The limited omniscient third-person narrator is an important tool that Nathaniel Hawthorne uses in “Young Goodman Brown.” It allows him to effectively tell his story and get his points across to the reader.
This is a literary device utilized by the author to employ the narrator as an instrument for expressing his own personal views on humanity. Goodman Brown, the young Puritan husband, is only able to read the protagonist’s thoughts and feelings among all of the characters.
The reason for this is that Goodman Brown represents Hawthorne himself. This is not to say that Goodman Brown is merely a surrogate for the author; he is a fictional character within the story with agency, but one whose experiences, thoughts, and emotions can be read as those of the author. The narrator’s ability to read Goodman Brown’s mind allows Hawthorne to step back from the events of the story and analyze them through his own personal lens.
When first looking at Young Goodman Brown, one might get the false impression that it is a simple morality tale. However, upon further inspection, it becomes clear that there is much more going on beneath the surface. Hawthorne uses symbols and allegories to explore deeper themes such as Puritanism, human nature, and Goodman Brown’s inner conflict. One of the most important aspects of the story is the use of the narrator.
The narrator plays a vital role in shaping the reader’s understanding of the events that unfold. As the story is told from Goodman Brown’s point of view, the narrator has access to his thoughts and feelings. This allows Hawthorne to step back from the story and offer his own commentary on the events that occur.
For example, after Goodman Brown sees his wife Faith in the forest with the devil, he tells her “we must always be together” (Hawthorne, Young Goodman Brown). The narrator then interjects, saying “whether in good or evil” (Hawthorne, Young Goodman Brown).
But, no! She would be crushed if she thought it. But what business have you in this world? I’m a miserable sinner that has abandoned her on such an errand! Dreams are something she speaks of too. There was worry in her expression as she spoke, as though a dream had warned her of the tasks ahead of her tonight. But no, no! It would kill her to believe it. Well; she’s a happy angel on Earth; and after tonight, I’ll cling to her robes and go to Heaven with her.’ “
This passage from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Young Goodman Brown” is significant for a number of reasons. First, it shows the reader that the narrator is sympathetic to Brown’s wife, Faith. He refers to her as a “blessed angel on earth” and feels guilty for leaving her behind while he goes off on his errand. Second, the passage foreshadows the events of the story. The narrator says that Brown thinks there is “trouble in her face, as if a dream had warned her what work is to be done tonight.”
This turns out to be true, as Faith does have a dream that warns her about the evil deeds that Brown will commit that evening. Third, the passage reveals Hawthorne’s use of the narrator as a means of revealing Brown’s thoughts and feelings to the reader. By having the narrator share Brown’s thoughts with us, Hawthorne allows us to understand Brown’s character and motivation better.
The narrator is a critical and judgemental presence who examines and comments on the characters’ actions and motives. When Goodman Brown decides that he will never do such a thing again, the narrator judges his resolve: “With this excellent future-oriented commitment, Goodman Brown felt himself free to proceed with his present evil aim with even more speed.”
The narrator’s comments reveal his lack of faith in Goodman Brown’s resolve, and indeed, the narrator is proven right when Goodman Brown succumbs to temptation again later in the story. This use of the narrator allows Hawthorne to explore the theme of human frailty and weakness. Without the narrator’s commentary, the story would simply be a tale of one man’s struggle with temptation; with the commentary, it becomes a story about all of humanity’s struggles with temptation and evil.
When a single narrator provides commentary in the third person, it limits the writer’s ability to vary perspective and depth. A typical third-person narrative would be unable to include additional commentary to the action. It also gives him the freedom to insert his own thoughts about mankind.
For example, the second half of the story, where Goodman Brown sees all of his loved ones and acquaintances participating in the Black Mass, is narrated by Hawthorne himself. This allows him to include his own thoughts on the darkness of human nature.
While Hawthorne’s use of the narrator in “Young Goodman Brown” gives him a great deal of flexibility, it also has its drawbacks. One drawback is that it can be difficult for readers to follow along. Another drawback is that Hawthorne’s own thoughts and opinions on the events in the story can sometimes get in the way of understanding what is actually happening.