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Young Goodman Brown

Young Goodman Brown

by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Good vs. Evil Theme

"Young Goodman Brown" is a story of good and evil at their most extreme. Okay, so it's not quite Lord of the Rings. But the life of one man can be an epic struggle between good and evil, even without elves or orcs or flaming catapults. (And there are flaming trees.) Young Goodman Brown faces some real devils, but also has to face his own devilish side—his temptations, his anger, his family's history of cruelty. It's an internal battle of good and evil, and one of epic proportions. In some ways, Frodo and friends had it much easier.

Questions About Good vs. Evil

  1. Does "Young Goodman Brown" depict a fair fight between good and evil? Or is young Goodman Brown hopelessly outnumbered by the story's villains?
  2. What do you think of the older version of young Goodman Brown? Is he a hero who recognizes and despises evil? Is he an anti-social villain? Or is he something much more complex?
  3. Which of the characters at the forest assembly are the most evil, and which of the residents of daytime Salem are the most moral and upright? Are there hierarchies of good and evil? And is there ever a clear relationship between how good a character is during the day, and how evil the same character is at night?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

In this story, Hawthorne shows that human nature is a mixture of good and evil by creating an everyman character—young Goodman Brown—who has both good and evil thoughts.

By turning away from his community, young Goodman Brown unknowingly embraces the evils of insensitivity and selfishness.

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