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Formalistic Approach to Young Goodman Brown
The Formalistic Approach can be found throughout "Young Goodman Brown," a short story written by Nathaniel Hawthorne. The Formalistic Approach is one of the most frequently used approaches. It concentrates on the concepts of form, tension, image, and symbol; as well as point of view, irony, and paradox. These styles appear throughout the story. Form in the past has meant what is now known as external form, the way one identifies the work. This type of form is usually associated with poetry. Organic form is important to critics. "Emphasis on organicism is not just in literary forms but in a broader, philosophical context, where the world itself is organic..." Point of view is another device in the Formalistic Approach. Point of view, " preserves the internal form, the organic quality of the work." (Handbook pg.87) Tension, irony, and paradox are "the resolution of opposites. " "The basic terms -tension, irony, and paradox- are often nearly indistinguishable, so closely do they work together."(Handbook pg. 90) "A term introduced by Allen Tate, meaning the integral unity that results from the successful resolution of the conflicts of abstraction and concreteness..." (Handbook pg. 90)
Ambiguity is also present in "Young Goodman Brown." "Paradoxical as it may seem, we suggest that ambiguity is a formal device in 'Young Goodman Brown'."(Handbook pg.97) One way to see ambiguity in the work, as suggested by the Handbook of Critical Approaches, is to trace the relationships of light and dark. The daylight and darkness of the town and the (dark) forest is important.
"Young Goodman Brown" is a story that is easily understood. The broad use of symbolism jumps out to the reader making the story fun and interesting, while displaying the meaning and ironic twists of events. In "Young Goodman Brown," the "image" almost immediately takes on symbolic qualities. For example, the pink ribbons in the hair of Faith, Brown's wife. This is a reference to and has the same meaning as Hester Prynne's scarlet "A". Another good example of ambiguity and symbolism is the fact that Faith's ribbons are pink, an in between color. Red is a symbol of evil or being provocative and white is a symbol of purity and innocence. "Like the admixture of light and dark in the tale... the ribbons are neither red nor white. They are somewhere between: they are ambiguity objectified.
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