Below you will find three outstanding thesis statements / paper topics for “Young Goodman Brown” by Nathaniel Hawthorne that can be used as essay starters. All five incorporate at least one of the themes found in “Young Goodman Brown” and are broad enough so that it will be easy to find textual support, yet narrow enough to provide a focused clear thesis statement. These thesis statements for “Young Goodman Brown” offer a summary of different elements that could be important in an essay but you are free to add your own analysis and understanding of the plot or themes to them. Using the essay topics below in conjunction with the list of important quotes from “Young Goodman Brown” by Nathaniel Hawthorne at the bottom of the page, you should have no trouble connecting with the text and writing an excellent paper.* For background, here is a plot summary and analysis of Young Goodman Brown *
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #1: The Theme of Duplicity in “Young Goodman Brown" by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Throughout Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short story, “Young Goodman Brown" the reader quickly realizes that nothing is as it seems. The old man who seems innocuous is a devil, his catechism teacher is taking part in secret evil rituals, and even his wife appears in on the action. Not only is almost everyone Goodman Brown meets very duplicitous, but even objects take on a dual nature. For instance, the staff that the man Goodman Brown meets carries (a man who, oddly enough, is a dual Goodman Brown in appearance—he just happens to be older) is both a staff and a snake that twists and seems to “wriggle itself like a living serpent." For this essay on “Young Goodman Brown" look at the role duplicity plays and consider the ways in which these dual characteristics of people and objects serves as an extended set of metaphors. Even if this was all a dream that Young Goodman Brown had, it might be more helpful for this essay to assume not.Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #2: The Meaning and Importance of Names in “Young Goodman Brown"
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.
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #3: “Young Goodman Brown" and Complimentary Themes Found in Other Works By Nathaniel Hawthorne
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.
* Other possible essay topics for “Young Goodman Brown" include examining the role of the setting and considering why Nathaniel Hawthorne goes through such great lengths to establish such a rich sense of place. Also, there are a number of symbols and rich examples of imagery (especially when used as metaphors) throughout the text to consider and looking at the representation of women (as either completely evil and witch-like or completely good and wholesome). One more essay idea might be to examine the way the forest and the natural world in “Young Goodman Brown" function as an actual character with motivations, moods, and an independent will.
* For background, here is a plot summary and analysis of Young Goodman Brown *
This list of important quotations from “Young Goodman Brown” by Nathaniel Hawthorne will help you work with the essay topics and thesis statements above by allowing you to support your claims. All of the important quotes from “Young Goodman Brown” listed here correspond, at least in some way, to the paper topics above and by themselves can give you great ideas for an essay by offering quotes and explanations about other themes, symbols, imagery, and motifs than those already mentioned and explained. Aside from the thesis statements for “Young Goodman Brown” above, these quotes alone can act as essay questions or study questions as they are all relevant to the text in an important way. All quotes from “Young Goodman Brown” by Nathaniel Hawthorn contain page numbers as well. Look at the bottom of the page to identify which edition of the text they are referring to.
“The road grew wilder and drearier and more faintly traced, and vanished at length, leaving him [Goodman Brown] in the heart of the dark wilderness, still rushing onward, with the instinct that guides mortal man to evil" (273).
A particular rock bore a “resemblance to either an altar or a pulpit" (274).
“The red light arose and fell, a numerous congregation alternately shone forth, then disappeared in the shadow, and again grew, as it were, out of darkness, peopling the heart of the solitary woods at once" (274).
(Of Faith) “Well, she’s a blessed angel on earth; and after this one night, I’ll cling to her skirts and follow her to Heaven" (272).
“On he flew, among the black pines, brandishing his staff with frenzied gestures, now giving vent to an inspiration of horrid blasphemy, and now shouting such laughter as set all the echoes of the forest laughing like demons around him. The fiend in his own shape is less hideous, than when he rages in the breast of man" (276).
“Another verse of the hymn arose, a slow and mournful strain, such as the pious love, but joined to words which expressed all that our nature can conceive of sin, and darkly hinted at far more. Unfathomable to mere mortals is the lore of fiends” (277).
“Nature was laughing him to scorn” (275)
“how hoary bearded elders of the church have whispered wanton words to the young maids of their households.”(276)
“my mind is made up. Not another step will I budge on this errand. What if a wretched old woman do choose to go to the devil, when I thought she was going to Heaven! Is that any reason why I should quit my dear Faith, and go after her?”(274)
“But he was himself the chief horror of the scene, and not from its other horrors”(277)
Young Goodman Brown
Young Goodman Brown was written by Nathaniel Hawthorne who was an American Novelist. This short story was published in the year 1835 and was set during the 17th century and was addressing the desperate state of the human society back then. This was in accordance to Hawthorne’s interests whose general purpose was to reveal the hypocritic facets of the Puritan Literature. A study of loss of beliefs and virtues, the story shows how the world is full of misery for all but for those who are born in a well-established household.
The protagonist of the story is Young Goodman Brown who happens to be married to a woman named faith. Three years in the marriage, Goodman Brown ventures out for a journey into a forest. Despite protest from his wife he chooses to go on the journey which he claimed was necessary and had to be performed that very night. During the course of journey he meets an old man in the forest who was clad in similar dresses but for a staff. The two men then encounter an old women who was unable to walk for which the old man lent her his staff. Visions happen to come to Goodman Brown as he proceeds with the journey and through the old man’s help he finally manages to reach his home. However, the visions he had during the journey have completely ruined his state of mind. With no longer any faith in her wife, Faith, or his religion of Christianity, he proceeds only to live a bitter life.
As the times have passed the story too has grown in stature. Its first part is considered to be a portrayal of the usual life where we see the protagonist leading a regular life with his life. At this particular moment he is in total harmony with the village and is leading his life with Faith. However, then comes the second segment which is almost dreamlike, the impact of which we see on the protagonist in their and final part of the story.
The story is often seen as a critic of the modern ways of society where human nature has revelaed itself as evil. The story can be seen as an allegory in this regard as a study of human misery and condition in those days when the too few powerful were uncaring about others creating a world that appeared desperate at all the times.
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