Study Guide

Young Goodman Brown Loss of Innocence

By Nathaniel Hawthorne

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Loss of Innocence

Hawthorne is pretty straightforward about what becomes of our hero in "Young Goodman Brown": "A stern, a sad, a darkly meditative, a distrustful, if not a desperate man, did he become" (73). No sugarcoating it. That night in the forest was the night young Goodman Brown went off the deep end. But that doesn't mean there's nothing to discuss. One night can be a long time, especially when you're being bombarded with one disillusioning sight after another. Beyond that, Hawthorne doesn't just give us a chain of events. He gives us intellectually rich passages that force us to stop and wonder when, why, and how young Goodman Brown lost all that innocence. And we at Shmoop are here to wonder along with you. Who's ready for some questions?

Questions About Loss of Innocence

  1. When exactly does young Goodman Brown's loss of innocence happen? Is there a specific scene or a specific moment when he goes over to the dark side?
  2. Does young Goodman Brown have any innocence left after he returns from the forest, or is he 100% darkness and pessimism?
  3. Can you imagine how any other character in "Young Goodman Brown" lost his or her innocence? Or do these look like characters who never had life-changing experiences?

Chew on This

Because of his ancestors' sins, young Goodman Brown never experienced a state of genuine innocence.

Young Goodman Brown thinks many evil thoughts, but he only becomes guilty at the story's climax—when his evil thoughts give way to evil actions.

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