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What are some similarities (and differences) between Young Goodman Brown and The...

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norimoto | eNotes Newbie

Posted February 16, 2009 at 5:28 AM via web

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What are some similarities (and differences) between Young Goodman Brown and The Birthmark?

What are you some other intertwined themes between the two short stories?

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cmcqueeney | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Associate Educator

Posted February 18, 2009 at 10:07 AM (Answer #1)

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The main similarity between the two stories is the idealistic protagonists in each.  In The Birthmark, Aylmer arrogantly believes that he has the skill to perfect in his wife what nature had left imperfect.  His idealistic dreams lead to a tragic end, however, when the potion he gives his wife removes her one earthly imperfection, making it impossible for her to remain on earth any longer.

In Young Goodman Brown, the protagonist has an idealistic view of his religious faith and those who have instructed him in that faith.  He arrogantly meets with the devil in the woods at night, thinking that he is strong enough to toy with evil and walk away unharmed.  When he sees distinguished members of his church congregation heading toward the evil assembly, his faith is shattered.  Like Aylmer, his idealistic pride led to a tragic end.

The most significant difference between the two stories is one emphasizes science and the other religion (or faith).  The Birthmark deals with science as it was understood during Hawthorne's time period.  Young Goodman Brown is set during the Puritan time period and focuses on their strict religious faith.


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car1ymi11er | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted October 10, 2012 at 3:54 PM (Answer #2)

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In the two short stories there is one theme that is clear cut in both of them. This theme is "Good vs. Evil." Both protagonists are faced with a conflict of deciding to stay virtuous or deciding to turn to evil. 

  • In "Young Goodman Brown" this theme is extraordinarily obvious. Should he stick to his Christian morals and believe that the townspeople truly are who they say they are (GOOD) or should he too follow the Devil since that is what other community members are doing (EVIL)
  • In "The Birthmark" Alymer is faced with the decision on whether or not to listen to all the people who think that his wife Georgina's birthmark is cute (GOOD) or whether he should follow through with his plan of removing it since it's very presence irks him so much.

Also, consider the use of women in each story as a similarity. The men in the short stories (Young Goodman Brown and Alymer) both are the protagonists. However, their stories would be nothing without the women.

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