Young Goodman Brown

Read Complete Research Material

Young Goodman Brown


One of Nathaniel Hawthorne's most anthologized tales; “Young Goodman Brown” shares themes and techniques with much of his other work. Hawthorne's probing of what might be called the psychology of sin (however secular are modern readings), expressed through his characteristic manipulations of symbolism, merge the tale with his other short stories, such as “The Birth-Mark” (1843) and “Ethan Brand: A Chapter from an Abortive Romance” (1850), as well as his novels The Scarlet Letter (1850) and The Blithedale Romance, published in 1852. (Hawthorne's short stories were written mostly before 1850, and his novels were written after that date.) Hawthorne's ideas, moral vision, and artistry have established him as one of the nation's greatest writers. The suggestive ambiguities in his fiction have made his work particularly amenable to treatment by the full range of modern critical perspectives.

Summary of the Story

Newlywed Goodman Brown sets forth at sunset for the nearby forest, where he apparently has an appointment. Leaving Salem village, he promises his wife, Faith, that he will return after this single night. Confused by Brown's odd behavior and mysterious errand, Faith fails to convince him to remain at home, or at least to delay his journey until the following morning. Criticizing her for doubting his purposes, Brown nevertheless seems conscience-stricken about his own motivations. He vows to be true to Faith and to their religious faith — after this one night. Asked by the man why he is late for his appointment, Brown responds that Faith had delayed him. As the two walk and talk, Brown periodically voices his apprehension and says he must return to Salem and Faith.

Asserting his family's virtue, Brown disbelieves his companion's account of being well acquainted with the people of New England, including Brown's father and grandfather. Brown then observes the man meeting with his pious catechism teacher, Goody Cloyse, who exclaims the devil's name when the man startles her with a touch of the serpent-staff. Brown congratulates himself with the thought that, however evil Goody Cloyse proves to be, he will return to Salem with a clear conscience to talk of religious truths with the minister and Deacon Gookin. Brown then overhears the minister and the deacon discuss an unholy congregation and new converts. Brown is led to a clearing in the forest where pine trees blaze like gigantic candles above an altar made of stone. The satanic congregation's holy hymns have unholy lyrics. Brown and Faith stand as converts, soon to be initiated into this bizarre congregation and the belief that evil is the sole and essential nature of humankind. In a final impulse of virtue Brown tells Faith to resist Satan. Brown finds himself alone in the dark, damp, and cool forest. Villagers cannot understand Brown and his strange and inexplicable transformation. After a long and lonely life, he dies despairing and joyless.


The symbolic significance of places, times, names, and objects seems obvious in “Young Goodman Brown.” Salem is the dwelling place of family and community, religion and faith (“faith” the belief ...
Related Ads