Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short story, Young Goodman Brown, is a classic allegorical Gothic Romance in which the author presents several themes such as loss of faith, loss of innocence, guilt, and good versus evil to invoke terror and fear in an atmosphere of gloom. Also known as Dark Romanticism, this sub-genre of Romanticism is psychological in nature.
Hawthorne works with a simple plot and relies on numerous literary devices and multiple themes to develop his ideas. The tale contains an abundance of symbolic characters that propel protagonist Goodman Brown on his journey to the dark side of life. The names of the main characters alone, “Goodman” and “Faith,” suggest that morality will be tested.
Goodman Brown is overcome with guilt as he leaves his wife alone at home and sets out into the forest on a journey that might be bad-intentioned. He begins his travels into the woods where he encounters an “elder person” and an “old woman” that represent the Devil and a witch respectively. He discovers that things are not as they seem. The familiar people in his life, including his father, his wife, and clergy members might be hypocrites who dabble in the occult. Goodman’s developing fear and paranoia cause him to question his faith, succumb to guilt, and lose his innocence. The joy he once experienced in life is lost. The remainder of his existence is miserable and he finally dies a sad, lonely man:
Often, waking suddenly at midnight, he shrank from the bosom of Faith; and at morning or eventide, when the family knelt down at prayer, he scowled and muttered to himself, and gazed sternly at his wife, and turned away. And when he had lived long, and was borne to his grave a hoary corpse, followed by Faith, an aged woman, and children and grandchildren, a goodly procession, besides neighbors not a few, they carved no hopeful verse upon his tombstone, for his dying hour was gloom.
The idea behind a good thesis for a literary analysis essay is to focus your ideas into one or two sentences that present the topic of your essay to tell readers what you intend to write about and give them an idea of your position on the topic. For example, “Christopher Columbus” is a topic. “Leif Erickson, not Christopher Columbus, discovered the New World” is a thesis. With regard to Young Goodman Brown, the options for developing a good thesis are numerous. The themes discussed above, the symbolic references (allegorical characters or names) Hawthorne uses and how their meanings advance the plot, or the hypocrisy of those who pretend to be pious are just a few ideas ripe for an essay.
An analytical essay should make it clear to the reader that the writer takes a position on some issue. The writer must develop an argument and then provide proof supporting that argument. For example, if one were to conclude that Young Goodman Brown changes during the story, the essay writer would need to select passages from the tale demonstrating the manner in which he changes. One could trace his personality from the beginning of the story, when he was content, until the end of the allegory, when he dies sad and miserable. The challenge is in finding the appropriate passages in the short story.
A simple outline to aid the writer in analyzing Young Goodman Brown might begin by writing down the topic of the essay, the thesis the writer intends to demonstrate, and three to five examples that will be expanded upon in the essay. In that way, everything in the essay will connect to the main idea the essayist intends to prove.