Young Goodman Brown

by: Nathaniel Hawthorne

Dreams

1

A lone woman is troubled with such dreams and such thoughts that she’s afeared of herself sometimes. Pray tarry with me this night, dear husband, of all nights in the year.

Faith explains why she does not want her husband, Goodman Brown, to leave her overnight. Being alone makes her afraid and sends her troubling dreams. “This night . . . of all nights” may indicate Halloween, a particularly frightening night for those who believe in the Devil. However, Faith seems to fear her own imagination. Faith’s fear of dreaming foreshadows Brown’s experience in the woods: a possible dream that makes him fear himself, seeing himself as tainted with sin. Faith’s troubling dreams may be similar, since all members of their community obsess about the dangers of sin.

2

She talks of dreams, too. Methought as she spoke, there was trouble in her face, as if a dream had warned her what work is to be done to-night. But no, no; ’twould kill her to think it.

Goodman Brown feels guilty because he intends to meet the Devil in the woods. He worries that his wife, Faith, senses his plan thanks to a premonitory dream, but he then dismisses the idea, being sure that such an evil thought could never occur to her. But just as he feels sure she could never think he would visit the Devil, she may feel equally sure that her husband could never do such a thing, even if a dream said so. Neither would dare speak openly of these fears because such evil thoughts demonstrate their own potential for sin.

3

Had Goodman Brown fallen asleep in the forest and only dreamed a wild dream of a witch-meeting? Be it so, if you will; but, alas! it was a dream of evil omen for young Goodman Brown.

Here, the narrator poses the idea that the events Goodman Brown experienced—his neighbors succumbing to the temptations of sin—may or may not have been a dream. Regardless, now he can never fully dismiss what he learned. Even if Brown believes that he dreamed the events, he cannot completely reject that the dream revealed the truth. He will always have doubts about the inner lives of his neighbors and whether they might be as wicked as the dream suggests. Thus, the dream functions as an evil omen specifically for Brown because he can no longer enjoy being a member of his community.