What are some similarities and difference between Nathaniel Hawthorne's book The Scarlet Letter and his short story Young Goodman Brown?

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favoritethings eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Both The Scarlet Letter and "Young Goodman Brown" are stories about sinners. In The Scarlet Letter, Hester Prynne and the Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale sinned by sleeping together when no one knew if Hester's husband was still alive. Hester committed adultery, and because she became pregnant and could not hide her sin, she was punished. Dimmesdale, however, attempted to hide his sinfulness and, consequently, his guilty conscience caused him such pain that he died while still a young man, seven years later. In "Young Goodman Brown," a young man goes into the woods for some dark purpose, intending to recommit himself to his faith the next day. Although he does eventually turn away from the Devil, the fact that he turned his back on God by going into the woods in the first place renders him unable to find his faith again, and he lives a miserable life once he returns home.  

Both stories explore the effects of sin on the sinner. Hester owns up to her sin, and she is able to bear it. Dimmesdale does not confess his sin for a very long time, and his guilt eats away at him. Goodman Brown does not even think what he is doing is sinful since he plans to return to faith in the morning, but because of his decision to walk away from faith (symbolically represented by his wife, Faith), he too has committed a sin and really fails to accept responsibility for it. Thus, we see that the person who takes responsibility is able to recover her life to some degree: people in the town even begin to say that Hester's scarlet letter means "Able" instead of "Adulterer". On the other hand, the people who do not take responsibility for their sins never recover, and those sins eat away at them until they die.

cldbentley eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The primary similarity between Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter and "Young Goodman Brown" is that both stories deal with the basic conflict of good versus evil.  In each story, an innocent person is faced with the temptation to sin; in The Scarlet Letter, Hester Prynne and Reverend Dimmesdale give in to temptation and are faced with the consequences of their actions, which are different for each of them.  In "Young Goodman Brown", Brown is tempted, but does not succumb.  Both stories include main characters who witness the presence of evil in those who are commonly accepted as good and moral people, but are actually the opposite.