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301 Reading Questions on Hawthorne's "Young Goodman Brown"

Be able to define the following vocabulary terms and apply them to the literature we read in class:

Vocabulary allegory, Calvinism, Gothic, leit-motif, Puritanism

Character Identifications: Young Goodman Brown, Faith Brown, Goody Cloyse, Deacon Gookin, the Devil

Lecture Questions:
(1) What are the differences and what are the similarities between Transcendentalism and Romanticism?
(2) What does the title "goodman" and "goodwife/goody" mean in Puritan society?

Introduction: How was Hawthorne's grandfather connected with the Salem witch trials? How might that familial guilt have influenced Hawthorne's depiction of the Puritans?

Reading Questions:

  • Where is young Goodman Brown headed after sunset?
  • What signs do we see in the text that this destination is a frightening one on this particular night of the year?
  • With what character is the leit-motif of the pink ribbon associated? Why is that an appropriate object for this character?
  • How is Brown's wife an allegorical figure given her name?
  • How is Brown's own name and title potentially allegorical? Where does Brown fit on the spectrum of black and white?
  • Who does Brown meet first in the dark woods? Why do you suppose that figure appear the way the does in terms of clothing and mannerisms?
  • What is this figure's connection with Brown's family, if we can believe the figure's claims?
  • Who is Goody Cloyse? Why was she special to Brown in the development of his beliefs?
  • What falls from the sky that convinces Brown his wife is attending the witches' sabbat?
  • Who attends the Satanic coven in the woods, i.e., what sort of people?
  • What happens when Brown calls out to Faith to look to heaven rather than partake of the unholy ceremony?
  • How does this event--real or imagined--affect Brown's interactions with his community?
  • What is carved on Brown's tombstone when he dies? (trick question!)

Be able to identify the source of the following quotations and explain their significance:

A."Dearest heart," whispered she, softly and rather sadly, when her lips were close to his ear, "pr'y thee, put off your journey until sunrise, and sleep in your own bed to-night. A lone woman is troubled with such dreams and such thoughts, that she's afeard of herself, sometimes. Pray, tarry with me this night, dear husband, of all nights in the year!"

B. "Poor little Faith!" thought he, for his heart smote him. "What a wretch am I, to leave her on such an errand! . . . Well; she's a blessed angel on earth; and after this one night, I'll cling to her skirts and follow her to Heaven."

C. . . . The second traveller was about fifty years old, apparently in the same rank of life as Goodman Brown, and bearing a considerable resemblance to him. . . . They might have been taken for father and son. He had an indescribable air of one who knew the world, and would not have felt abashed at the governor's dinner-table, or in King William's court. But the only thing about him, that could be fixed upon as remarkable, was his staff, which bore the likeness of a great black snake, so curiously wrought, that it might almost be seen to twist and wriggle itself like a living serpent. This, of course, must have been an ocular deception, assisted by the uncertain light.

D. "I have been as well acquainted with your family as with ever a one among the Puritans; and that's no trifle to say. I helped your grandfather, the constable, when he lashed the Quaker woman so smartly through the streets of Salem. And it was I that brought your father a pitch-pine knot, kindled at my own hearth, to set fire to an Indian village, in King Philip's War. They were my good friends, both; and many a pleasant walk have we had along this path, and returned merrily after midnight. I would fain be friends with you, for their sake."

E. "That old woman taught me my catechism!" said the young man; and there was a world of meaning in this simple comment.

F. The cry of grief, rage, and terror, was yet piercing the night, when the unhappy husband held his breath for a response. 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.

G. "Lo! there ye stand, my children," said the figure, in a deep and solemn tone, almost sad, with its despairing awfulness, as if his once angelic nature could yet mourn for our miserable race. "Depending upon one another's hearts, ye had still hoped that virtue were not all a dream! Now are ye undeceived! Evil is the nature of mankind. Evil must be your only happiness. Welcome, again, my children, to the communion of your race!"

H. And when he had lived long, and was borne to his grave, a hoary corpse, followed by Faith, an aged woman, and children and grand-children, a goodly procession, besides neighbors, not a few, they carved no hopeful verse upon his tombstone; for his dying hour was gloom.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT:

  • How does the nighttime wilderness serve as a foil for the daytime village in this story?
  • Why is nothing carved on Brown's tombstone?
  • Why would Satan look so much like Brown himself? Why is that creepier than a demon with horns and pitchfork and cloven hooves?
  • Brown declares that he has "lost his faith." Faith in what, exactly? God? Or something else?
  • When describing the events in the woods, count how many times Hawthorne uses ambiguous language in diction like seems, must, appears, perhaps, and maybe. Why does Hawthorne want to leave all this so ambiguous? Why not tell us clearly whether something is happening or not happening?


 

 

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