Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Short Story Summary

Young Goodman Brown

Young Goodman Brown is a short story based in the 17th century. The story starts out with Goodman Brown saying goodbye to his wife, Faith, as he sets off on his journey. Goodman Brown tells his wife that if she says her prays and goes to bed by dusk then no harm will come to her. Goodman Brown’s journey begins down a “dreary road, darkened by all the gloomiest trees of the forest”.  Goodman Brown thinks there are devilish Indians behind every tree, and the devil himself should be at his elbow.

As Goodman Brown walks down the forest he passes a crook in the road and comes upon a man in decent attire that tells Goodman Brown that he is late. Goodman Brown explains that Faith kept him back a while. Goodman Brown appears to be nervous in the presence of this man as his voice trembles as he speaks with him.

It is now dark in the deep forest as a second traveler makes his presence and tells Goodman Brown to follow him and offers him a walking staff, that will allow them to walk faster. Goodman Brown refuses and tells the traveler "My father never went into the woods on such an errand, nor his father before him. We have been a race of honest men and good Christians since the days of the martyrs; and shall I be the first of the name of Brown that ever took this path and kept".

The traveler tells Goodman Brown that he is well acquainted with his family and his father and grandfather were his good friends. Goodman Brown is confused by what the traveler is telling him and wants to return to town and leave the forest. As Goodman Brown is speaking he notices a female traveler on the path, Goody Cloyse, a pious woman, respected from the town.

Upon seeing Goody Cloyse, Goodman Brown still wants to return to Faith. The male traveler tells Goodman Brown to rest a while and gives him his staff for when he feels like getting up. While resting Goodman Brown hears hoof tramps and voices of riders. “Goodman Brown alternately crouched and stood on tiptoe, pulling aside the branches and thrusting forth his head as far as he durst without discerning so much as a shadow. It vexed him the more, because he could have sworn, were such a thing possible, that he recognized the voices of the minister and Deacon Gookin, jogging along quietly, as they were wont to do, when bound to some ordination or ecclesiastical council.”

After learning that minister and Deacon are on the same journey as himself, Goodman Brown cries: “with heaven above and faith below, I will yet stand firm against the devil.” As Goodman Brown is talking to himself he thinks he hears voices from the ceremony in the forest. He shouts to Faith, as he thinks he hears her. He cries her name over and over but hears no response. Goodman Brown thinks Faith is gone and there no good left on earth. He welcomes the devil and sets forth on his way to the ceremony.

As Goodman Brown reaches the ceremony he recognizes many people, but does not see Faith. He has hope that she is not there. Goodman Brown starts to hallucinate and thinks he sees his father and mother. Goodman Brown shouts to Faith to look up to heaven and resist the devil. Goodman Browns finds himself alone in the forest wondering if he dreamed such a wild dream.

The next morning as Goodman Brown returns home, he passes the minster, Deacon, and Goody Cloyse, whom now seem evil to him. When he gets home he doesn’t greet Faith, but looks at her sternly and sadly and walks right past her. Goodman Brown was never the same. He turned into an old bitter man, who lost his faith. When Goodman Brown lived long and was borne to his grave, no hopeful verse was carved upon his tombstone, for his dying hour was gloom. 

Close Reading to the Short Story

The short story of Young Goodman Brown features many symbols and words that could produce different meanings, depending on how the story is looked at. A good example of this is how the word “faith” is represented in this story. One way faith functions in the story is that Faith is the name of Goodman Brown’s wife, however references in the story also reflect how Goodman Brown is feeling about his own faith. In the beginning of the story it is clearly noted that Faith is Brown’s wife: “And Faith, as the wife was aptly named.” As Brown is making his journey into the woods he states: "Faith kept me back a while”, this could either mean his wife kept him back or his own faith kept him back. I think Brown feels unsure about the trip he is about to make and he is maybe questioning his own faith or religion. Brown also states: “With heaven above and Faith below, I will yet stand firm against the devil!” This is a powerful message because Brown goes on to say, “There is no good on earth.” Brown must be in a really bad place where he thinks there is no good on earth and he seems very confused about his beliefs. Brown also stated: "My Faith is gone!" I think Brown is experiencing situations that he has never been in before and they are really testing his own faith and beliefs. This quote could also mean being that Brown thought he lost his wife that with her being gone and without loving her there is no good on earth. At the end of the story when Brown partakes in the mystery of sin he cries: "Faith! Faith! Look up to heaven, and resist the wicked one." Brown seems to be either calling out for his wife or for his own faith that he needs help to resist the devil or evil and come back to his own beliefs. At the very end Brown seems to become a lost sole and angry man. “When the family knelt down at prayer, he scowled and muttered to himself, and gazed sternly at his wife.” Brown has lost all his faith and became an evil man. Faith is significant because she is warning Brown not to go on the journey and along his journey there are many references back to faith, which are his own beliefs, trying to keep him from evil. Ultimately, Brown’s faith ends up losing the war to evil and his own wife Faith seems to have lost the husband she used to know. 

There are a couple symbols in this short story that represent different meanings. A good example of this is the wooden, or devils staff that is given to Goodman Brown by the traveler. Before Goodman Brown ventured on his journey he was a pure, Christian man. Goodman Brown felt overcome to go on this journey where he knew he would be faced with challenging and uncomfortable situations. When Goodman Brown is in the forest with the traveler (the devil) he decides he wants to return home to his wife, Faith. "Well, then, to end the matter at once," said Goodman Brown, considerably nettled, "there is my wife, Faith. It would break her dear little heart; and I'd rather break my own.” The traveler tries to persuade Goodman Brown to carry on his journey but Goodman Brown is still hesitant and claims he wants to return home. The traveler then gives Goodman Brown his staff and tells him to rest;
"You will think better of this by and by," said his acquaintance, composedly. "Sit here and rest yourself a while; and when you feel like moving again, there is my staff to help you along." Goodman Brown ends up giving into the temptation of continuing on his journey and ends up losing his own faith to the devil. 

Another symbol in this story is the pink ribbons Faith wears. The pink ribbons represent that Faith has innocence and purity, something Goodman Brown loses when he went on his journey. “Faith, as the wife was aptly named, thrust her own pretty head into the street, letting the wind play with the pink ribbons of her cap while she called to Goodman Brown.” As Faith calls out to Goodman Brown as he is leaving it is noted that she has her pink ribbons. "Then God bless youe!" said Faith, with the pink ribbons; "and may you find all well when you come back." As Goodman Brown is on his journey he begins hear Faith talking, which he assumes she is at the ceremony as well. “There was a scream, drowned immediately in a louder murmur of voices, fading into far-off laughter, as the dark cloud swept away, leaving the clear and silent sky above Goodman Brown. But something fluttered lightly down through the air and caught on the branch of a tree. The young man seized it, and beheld a pink ribbon. "My Faith is gone!" cried he, after one stupefied moment. "There is no good on earth; and sin is but a name. Come, devil; for to thee is this world given." Goodman Brown thinks Faith has gone down an evil path and accepted the devil. Faith’s pink ribbons being caught on the tree show her innocence and purity is gone. Once Goodman Brown returns home Faith is there to greet him “Turning the corner by the meeting-house, he spied the head of Faith, with the pink ribbons, gazing anxiously forth, and bursting into such joy at sight of him that she skipped along the street and almost kissed her husband before the whole village. But Goodman Brown looked sternly and sadly into her face, and passed on without a greeting.” This quote shows that Faith was never in the forest and she still has her innocence and purity. I think Goodman Brown is angry when he sees this because of what he hallucinated in the forest and how he lost his faith due to attending the ceremony. 

Author Biography

Nathaniel Hawthorne was born on July 4, 1804, in Salem, Massachusetts, a descendant of a long line of Puritan ancestors including John Hathorne, a presiding magistrate in the Salem witch trials. In order to distance himself from his family's shameful involvement in the witch trials, Hawthorne added the "w" to his last name during his early 20s. After Hawthorne graduated from Bowdin College he turned to writing. His first novel, Fanshawe, was unsuccessful. He went on to write several successful stories including: My Kinsman, Major Molineux,Roger Malvin’s Burial, and Young Goodman Brown.

At first writing didn’t earn him enough money so Hawthorne was forced to end a career, as a Boston Custom House measurer is 1839. By 1842, his writing finally took off and made him enough money to marry Sophia Peabody. The couple has three children, Una, born in 1844; Julian, born in 1846; and Rose, born in 1851.

In 1845, he devoted himself to his most famous novel, The Scarlet Letter, which was an immediate success. Hawthorne temporarily left his Salem home for a residence in Lenox, a small town in Berkshires, where he completed The House of the Seven Gables. In 1852, after the publication of The Blithedale Romance, Hawthorne returned to Concord and bought a house called Hillside.

Hawthorne passed away on May 19, 1864, in Plymouth, New Hampshire, after a long period of illness during which he suffered severe bouts of dementia. Hawthorne was buried in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord, Massachusetts. Though Hawthorne was perpetually dissatisfied with his body of work, he remains lauded as one of the greatest American writers.


My Kinsman, Major Molineux

Roger Malvin’s Burial               

Young Goodman Brown                     

The Scarlet Letter

The Blithedale Romance

Annotated Bibliography of Scholarly & Critical Essays/Sources

McCabe, Michael. "The Consequences of Puritan Depravity and Distrust as Historical
Context for Hawthorne's "Young Goodman Brown"." American Literature Research and Analysis. Web. 2 May. 2012. <>.

This critique is about the Puritan society and dealing with problems such as church and God. “Puritanism required their followers to doubt themselves and their community so much that a reality in which one could achieve Grace did not exist.  It taught that one could not trust anyone.  In the Witch Trials men turned on their accused wives just as Goodman Brown himself has lost both his spiritual faith and his wife Faith because of something that may not have happened at all.” I thought this article was very interesting because it states how Puritans are made to believe that they cannot trust anyone. In the end of Young Goodman Brown, Goodman Brown looks at everyone as evil and really doesn’t trust anything they say or do. I like how this critique explained Puritan ways because it gave me a better understanding of the story.

Gregory, Leslie. "The Text of Nathaniel Hawthorne's "Young Goodman Brown"."
American Literature Research and Analysis. Web. 2 May. 2012. <>.

This critique explains the various images found in Young Goodman Brown. Some of the examples the author reviews are the Salem Village, the pink ribbons on Faith’s hat, the fellow traveler, the staff, and using of the word “faith”, and the forest. I found it to be interesting that the author noticed that the Salem village is the center of the witchcraft delusion. With all the evil noted in Goodman Brown it makes sense that Hawthorne would use a Salem village for this story. In my closer reading post I noted the pink ribbon and staff, which were used as symbols as innocence and evil. The author and I had the same ideas for these two items. It was interesting to read what someone else got out of the story and what images meant to them. 

Shoemaker, Jacqueline. "Hawthorne's Realm of Morality." American Literature
Research and Analysis. Web. 2 May. 2012. <>.

This critique is about why Hawthorne wrote Young Goodman Brown and how his life played into the story. The author notes how Hawthorne was born in Salem, Massachusetts, which was then a Puritan village. The author also states how Hawthorne spent one-third of his life in isolation. During this time Hawthorne tried to see two sides to every story, which increased his skepticism. I can see where Hawthorne would get the imagination to create such a short story because he had so much in common with what the story is about. Writing about evil and the devil when he lived in Salem, which is known for witches’ evil surroundings. Back then people didn’t like to talk about evil and they tried to hide it. I like how Hawthorne shows in his story that the minister and Deacon were in the forest but once it was over went back to living a “Christian” life. This shows that there is two sides to how people act in a public setting, and how people really want to be. 

Image Collection

Photo of Nathaniel Hawthorne 
This image is important to the story because Goodman Brown sets forth on his journey into a dark forest and this picture represents that dark forest Goodman Brown traveled down. 

Throughout the story the reader learns of an "evil ceremony", this picture represents what Goodman Brown saw when he attended that ceremony. 

The unmarked tombstone is an example of what Goodman Brown's tombstone looked like. At the end of the story it states that "they carved no hopeful verse upon his tombstone, for his dying hour was gloom."

The Word Of Faith - QwickStep Answers Search Engine
This image represents how faith was used many ways in Young Goodman Brown. Faith was used as his wife's name but also the journey Goodman Brown had with his own faith.

This walking staff represents the walking staff what was used by the traveler  in the forest. It represents both a walking staff but also the evil that was used in the story.

These pink ribbons represent the innocence and purity of Goodman Brown's wife, Faith and how Goodman Brown lost his innocence and purity to evil once he went on his journey. 
Photo of Nathaniel Hawthorne



This link is about Goodman Brown leaving his faith behind and how he became a bitter man because he lost his faith. Goodman Brown seemed to be a happy man before his journey, but temptation got the best of him and never lived a happy life once he completed his journey.


This link is a symbolic analysis of Young Goodman Brown. The author discusses and analyzes all the symbols that Hawthorne introduces in this short story.


This link is a detailed biography of Nathaniel Hawthorne. The biography describes all parts of his life and his writing career.