Is this is good introduction to a research paper on "Young Goodman Brown" by Nathaniel Hawthorne?American author Nathaniel Hawthorne is known for incorporating historical information about the...

Is this is good introduction to a research paper on "Young Goodman Brown" by Nathaniel Hawthorne?

American author Nathaniel Hawthorne is known for incorporating historical information about the Puritans into his works.  Hawthorne admired the accomplishments and prominence of his Puritan ancestors, but felt guilt for their parts in the Salem witch trials and the persecution of Quakers (Shoemaker).  His great-great-great grandfather William Hathorne was a severe persecutor of Quakers who once whipped one named Ann Coleman through the streets of Salem, and his great-great grandfather John Hathorne was the chief interrogator of the accused in the Salem witch trials (Paternal).  Hawthorne's short story "Young Goodman Brown" was influenced by the hypocritical Puritanism of his ancestors.  In the story, Young Goodman Brown goes on a journey through the forest outside of Salem Village and encounters both the saints and sinners of the village participating in a witch meeting.  Brown’s experience is shaped by the environment in which he lived.  In “Young Goodman Brown,” Hawthorne shows how the Puritan environment of doubt and distrustfulness can lead to hypocrisy and its resulting isolation and gloom.


I don't really like it for some reason, but I cannot pinpoint what is wrong with it.  Any suggestions?

Expert Answers
James Kelley eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think that your introductory paragraph does pretty much what an introduction should do, including focusing quickly on your subject and moving smoothly toward the thesis statement.

At the same time, though, this introductory paragraph may be trying to do too much at once. I'm a big fan of saving items -- such as the selective and purposeful summary of the story -- for the second paragraph in an essay.

I like to write and rewrite sections of my papers at different times. You don't have to have the introductory paragraph perfected before moving on to paragraph two. In fact, moving on is often a very good thing to do. You can always use a wordprocessor to move sections of your essay around and to revise your introduction once you have a better sense of what your essay is actually doing. I know that I may start an essay off one way only to find later that a different (and more interesting) sort of essay has emerged.

I would also recommend that you consider opening with a more specific statement about Hawthorne's background, such as "The nineteenth-century American writer...."

Finally, I would recommend that you definitely cite your sources but consider ways in which to incorporate the sources more smoothly into your own writing. I often like to use formal introductory phrases, such as "According to..." For me, the parenthetical citation is not enough, as it doesn't tell me exactly where the borrowing of material starts. Consider saving your sources for later in the essay, if possible. Feel free to challenge or otherwise move beyond your sources. You should treat them with respect, but you have the final say in your essay.

I hope that these comments are helpful.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The good thing is that your writing is quite nice and you will surely be able to make this into a well-written paper.  But I do have some issues with this as an introduction.

My main issue is that you have quite a few different arguments in this intro.  You say, in turn, that

  • Hawthorne used historical stuff about Puritans
  • That he was ambivalent about his Puritan ancestors
  • That YGB's experience is shaped by his environment
  • That Hawthorne shows that the Puritan environment leads to...

So you have 4 different points here.  To me, an intro is supposed to focus on the main thrust of your essay.  I would rather see an intro paragraph that is centered on one idea.

My other suggestion is that you not start presenting your evidence (the stuff about his ancestors) until later paragraphs.

But mainly, I'd say you should figure out what the essay is mainly about and have that be the focus of your intro.

Good luck!

Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The previous posts have identified some of the challenging points in the introduction.  Some of the evidence cited would be much better in a body paragraph, as opposed to an introduction.  In trying to do so much, the introduction featured takes away much of the steam from the body paragraphs, preventing a sense of momentum emerging within the rest of the paper.  This might also be part of the reason why the introduction is not flowing or demonstrating a strong sense of fluidity.  I think giving the general background to how religion was perceived at the time in which Hawthorne is writing and how there had been a historical influence of religion on writers might be effective.  Perhaps making the introduction about the idea of giving the backdrop to religious ferver and the shadow cast on writers in 19th century America would be an effective launching point, where much of your evidence could fit later on in the paper.

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Young Goodman Brown

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