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Young Goodman Brown

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Nathaniel Hawthorne's unusual story, Young Goodman Brown, is a tale that can be analyzed through many different perspectives. The author uses mystery and bizarre scenarios that create gaps in the plot, leaving the reader asking questions about what the intent of Hawthorne's style is. To answer these questions, many readers approach the story with a type of critical analysis, such as authorial intention, historical and biographical criticism, mythological and archetypal criticism, or reader response criticism. All may apply to this particular story, depending on the reader.

Authorial intent criticism is based on the idea that whatever meaning

coming from the passage is none other than what the author intended it to be. This type of approach may be beneficial or may cause more confusion to some readers. If you were to know what the author intended a certain complicated passage to mean, it would be much easier to grasp the meaning of the entire text. There is one problem related to this approach,

however. If the author is not present or has no notes explaining the intention

of a passage, it is impossible to have questions answered. This is the problem that I ran into while reading Hawthorne's Young Goodman Brown.

The plot to Hawthorne's story is filled with mystery, leaving the

reader questioning certain scenes and acts. For example, the biggest question that I had for Hawthorne was did he intend for Young Goodman Brown's experience in the forest gathering to be a dream or a hallucination, or was it real? Some students question whether or not the dark traveler who was waiting for Brown was the Devil or was an alter ego for Brown himself. Unfortunately, these are both intent questions that cannot be answered.

Almost opposite in character is reader response criticism. This is an approach where the reader's interpretation of the text is how it is supposed to be seen. How the reader responds to actions, conflicts, circumstances, and other gaps left within the story is what makes the plot form. With every different reader, and every different reading, a new plot is formed, and none of these readings are any more correct than the other. It is the methodology and transaction between the reader and the text interpretation that counts, and has nothing to do with the intent of the author. With my questions unanswered about Hawthorne's intent, I was forced to use reader response and provide my own interpretation. I personally believe that Brown was dreaming and that he lived his afterlife unhappy for

foolish distrust in his own faith. A reader response critic would tell me that my

interpretation was correct, but only for me. Any other reader would have to have his or her own reaction and own interpretation for it to be reader response. Some authors, like Hawthorne, write so that their intent is to provoke a reader response type of criticism. Reader response and authorial intent approaches may compliment each other, but they are two different ways to read a story.

Historical background and biographical criticism are almost identical, so they tend to be grouped together. This approach dissects a story by using information taken from the author's life, or information about the period in which the author lived. Critics believe that particular occurrences in the author's life have a great influence on the events an author writes about, characters that the author creates, or feelings that their characters experience. An example of historical and biographical criticism from Young Goodman Brown would be both the Salem witch trials, and the questioning of religious beliefs going on around Hawthorne at the time in which he wrote this story. The story is based on Brown going on a "coming of age" journey, where he experiences a questioning in Faith (both literally and figuratively), and comes across a gathering of friends practicing witchcraft. A historical and biographical critic would say that the questioning of Faith and witchcraft are directly influenced by the contemporary concerns happening all around Hawthorne. Mythological and archetypal criticism is used to explain common themes and symbols

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