“Young Goodman Brown” Short Answer Assignment

Hawthorne, N. (1974). Young Goodman Brown. In Mosses from an Old Manse. Vol 10 of The Centenary Edition of the Works of Nathaniel Hawthorne (pp. 74–91).


Young Goodman Brown is a story written by Nathaniel Hawthorne. The story recounts the dreams of a man who hails from Salem. In his dream, Goodman Brown comes into contact with evil and is made to witness and observe the world and its evil nature from his dreams(Hawthorne, 1974). The use of imagery throughout the story helps the reader capture the main themes of the story and gain the perspective that the author intends for the audience. The faith of the young man is repeatedly tested and explored in the story.

The Plot

The story starts with Goodman in a dream as he goes to the forest to meet the devil. The author depicts the devil as having to be similar to Young Goodman Brown. As he goes through the forest, he comes across a man from his village who he believes to be religious and pious. He is surprised that he is also on the same errand to meet the devil as he is. As he walks deeper into the forest, he also encounters a feast which even his wife is attending; it is the witches Sabbath, Walpurgis Night orgy, and the deacon and the minister are also there. This is the climax of the story.  In anger, he calls out to his wife from a distance. The scene is dissolved, and he returns to the village worried but convinced of the evil nature of the world. From that point on, his life is transformed, and he lives suspecting others of evils. The story ends with Goodman Brown being a desperate old man and dies a hopeless man unable to trust anyone(Hawthorne, 1974).

The Structure

The story is well arranged, beginning with the dream and developing to capture the imagination and the attention of the reader. From the moment Goodman sets out to the forest, there is a strategic flow of events along the way. However, every time Goodman encounters an incidence that shakes his trust, he uses the moment to help the reader flashback to situations in real life that would support his lack of trust on a particular character(Becnel, 2006). However, the life of Goodman, after the dream changes and there are incidences that he, in his mind, refer to the dream and the encounters with a resultant inability to trust people.

The flashbacks and the flow of the story help to support the author’s depiction that Goodman only uses suspicion to support thoughts of people as evil without any sufficient proof. The shakiness of the flashbacks and the failed relationship in most of them demonstrates him as ignorant and arrogant.

Type of Story

This is a short story. The story is based on a single major theme and is very simple to read and understand. Further, there are no contradictory settings and the characters are few and all related to the setting and the outline of the story. The author uses the main characters to support his identified themes, and since the plot is simple, the story can be read in a single setting.


The main and central character in the story is Young Goodman Brown. The author writes the story surrounding the experiences and encounters of this character. The character is depicted as pious and a good member of the community. However, he is convinced that the rest of the people are evil and only pretend to be good.

Other characters in the story are Faith, Goodman’s wife, the devil. Goodly Cloyse, and Gooking. Faith is shown as a devoted wife from Goodman’s flashbacks but also as a hypocrite who goes out at night to the witches Sabbath. The devil, in the dream, is seen as the evil and dark side of Goodman and is also used in the story to depict the evil nature of Goodman’s society and his ancestors. The minister and the deacon (Cloyse and Gooking) are described as hypocrites and people who are untrustworthy according to Goodman Brown’s observations(Hawthorne, 1974).

The Setting

The story’s setting is in Salem, at the end of the 17th century. Historically, this was around the time when the popular Salem Witch Trials when there were night feasts with the witches. This is symbolic because that was the time when most ministers were realized to be evil. The setting is historical as it is symbolic, depicting Hawthorne’s experience as a resident of Salem during this time(Little, 1997).


The author uses symbolism in the story. The dark night, the devil, and the names of Goodman and Faith are all symbolic. The dark night symbolizes the dark life that people live with the inability to see others as they are or to recognize evil. The devil is seen as resembling Goodman himself. This symbolizes the fact that people are evil inside even if they may appear different and ‘good’ from outside(Little, 1997). The name Goodman symbolizes the self-righteous belief of the main character as he witnesses the evils of others and is convinced that no one can be trusted. Faith, on the other hand, symbolizes the devotion that the main character’s wife has in everything she does.



Language and Style

The author uses a simple, understandable language without complex styles or details. This makes the story easy to understand and relate to. In addition, the simplicity allows room for imagery and symbolism which are then made clear to the reader. The writer’s style is informal.

The Theme

The main theme of this story is that of triumph against evil. Goodman Brown is seen as a character who has observed and realized the evil in the world and is determined to keep off evil. Even when he is lonely and hopeless, he does not allow evil to change him. Although he does it in a way that he tries to prove himself, the theme confirms moral values that we should keep away from bad company and evil characters(Little, 1997).

Historical Context

This story was written at a time when people had developed such evil behaviors that even the Christians were involved in witchcraft and sorcery. At the time of Salem Witchcraft trials in 1652, twenty people were executed for witchcraft in Massachusetts(Becnel, 2006).

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