Using details from Hawthorne's "Young Goodman Brown," demonstrate the universal truth of honor.

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booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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In Nathaniel Hawthorne's short story, "Young Goodman Brown," there are a number of themes to consider.

One central theme is "honor." Young Goodman Brown's sense of honor is what influences his behavior—"honor" is something he has already chosen by which to live his life...it is the central part of his belief system.

Dictionary.com defines honor as:

honesty, fairness, or integrity in one's beliefs and actions

The integrity of Goodman Brown's beliefs and actions is at the heart of the story. As he walks through the woods with the Devil, he witnesses respected members of his community who have formed an alliance with the "dark one." This includes his ancestors, Goody Cloyse, Deacon Gookin, and finally Faith, Brown's wife. Even as he is confronted by examples of all those he admires being drawn away from the path of goodness, he refuses to be moved himself. It is, however, sad to see how removed he is from then on, from the company of friends and even his wife because of his beliefs; he is very much alone in the world because he stands firmly by what he believes.

The story demonstrates that honor is a personal choice every person must make. It speaks to the temptations that are present at every turn, and the decision a person must make to stick to his or her beliefs regardless of what those around him chose to do. If everyone cheats on a test, or on taxes, some will say it's all right. Others believe that cheating is not wrong, but getting caught is.

Goodman Brown exemplifies the sense that honor is an absolute: there are no degrees of honor. One has it and sticks to it, or does not. For Goodman Brown, his dedication to his principals does not waver, but it makes his life a difficult one when there seems to be no one else around him dedicated in a similar way.

The universality of the concept of honor is that it knows no boundaries, but applies to people of every race, religion and ethnic background. A sense of not just knowing what the honorable thing to do is, but putting it into practice regardless of the personal consequences, makes "Young Goodman Brown" a timeless, relevant piece of literature even today.

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