One of the major themes in “Young Goodman Brown” by Nathaniel Hawthorne is duplicity and the way that nothing is as it seems. Using elements from essay question 1, consider the role and importance of names in this text. For instance, the title character “Goodman Brown” has a name that at first suggests innocence and the will to do good (good-man) yet the last name—Brown suggests something that is darkened or otherwise soiled. This is especially interesting considering what the old man tells Young Goodman Brown of his father and his lineage. Equally worthy of note (and along similar lines) is the name “Goody” for the old woman or “Faith” for his wife. Assuming that Young Goodman Brown was not simply dreaming, the names are all ironic because they reflect characteristics that are not present.
One of the best ways to consider many of the themes in “Young Goodman Brown” by Nathaniel Hawthorne, is to look it in the context of his other works. In other short stories by Nathaniel Hawthorne such as “The Minister’s Black Veil” or novels like “The Scarlet Letter,” Hawthorne consistently explores similar ideas about the nature of good and evil, the influence of Puritan ideas and the Puritan community in general, as well as guilt, both in a public and private sense. For this essay on “Young Goodman Brown” examine one theme (for example, guilt, sin, or the Puritan community) and compare it to both “The Minister’s Black Veil” “The Birthmark” or “The Scarlet Letter.” A good structure for this essay would involve a thesis statement discussing the theme you’re examining, followed by one or two paragraphs devoted to each other text. Conclude the essay with a statement on how, through these works, Nathaniel Hawthorne is making a statement about the theme or even set of symbols you’ve chosen or about Puritan society in general.