Young Goodman Brown
Think-Aloud Predictions for Young
“Young Goodman Brown came forth, at
sunset, into the street of Salem Village,
but put his head back, after crossing the
threshold, to exchange a parting kiss with
his young wife.”
A poem, play, picture, etc, in which the apparent
meaning of the characters and events is used to
symbolize a deeper moral or spiritual meaning
A story that has a deeper or more general meaning in addition to its surface
meaning. Allegories are composed of several symbols or metaphors. For
example, in The Pilgrim's Progress, by John Bunyan, the character named
Christian struggles to escape from a bog or swamp. The story of his difficulty is
a symbol of the difficulty of leading a good life in the “bog” of this world. The
“bog” is a metaphor or symbol of life's hardships and distractions. Similarly,
when Christian loses a heavy pack that he has been carrying on his back, this
symbolizes his freedom from the weight of sin that he has been carrying.
Symbol: Word/object that stands for another
word/object. Obvious examples are flags,
which symbolize a nation; the cross is a
symbol for Christianity; Uncle Sam a symbol
for the United States. In literature, a symbol is
expected to have significance.
Psychologist Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961)
theorized that all humans share certain inborn
impulses and concepts residing in the mind at
the unconscious level. For example, all humans
react to sunlight in the same way, perceiving it
as a symbol of joy, happiness, glory, optimism,
truth, a new beginning, or God. Likewise,
humans associate dark forests (like the one in
"Young Goodman Brown") with danger,
obscurity, confusion, and the unknown or with
evil, sin, and death. Jung termed external stimuli
(such as dark forests) primordial symbols—
primordial meaning existing from the beginning
How the Puritans’ strict moral code and
overemphasis on the sinfulness of
humankind foster undue suspicion and
The realization that evil can infect people
who seem upright.
One man’s virtue is another man’s sin, and
Puritanism and the Witch Trials
Puritanism began in England in the late Sixteenth Century when Protestant
reformers attempted to purge the Church of England (or Anglican Church) of the
elaborate ceremonies, rituals, and hierarchical structure it retained from the Roman
Catholic Church. For the Puritans, the pure word of the Bible, presented in part
through inspired preaching, took precedence over rituals while direct revelation from
the Holy Spirit superseded reason. After Queen Elizabeth I died in 1603, the Puritans
petitioned the new monarch, King James I, to adopt their reforms. In January 1604 at
a special conference at Hampton Court Palace near London, the king rejected most
of the proposed Puritan reforms but he did grant a Puritan request for a new
translation of the Bible, which resulted in publication of the King James Version in
Many disenchanted puritans left the country. Many Puritans emigrated to
America and established their brand of religion in Massachusetts and other colonies.
Puritan ministers were generally well educated, and Puritan congregations
promoted ideals that helped lay the foundation for American democracy.
However, because of their strict moral code, the Puritans were ever on the
lookout for satanic influence and, unfortunately, sometimes saw evil where none
existed. In Salem, Massachusetts in 1692, more than 150 people were accused of
witchcraft and jailed. Twenty of them were executed. Nineteen were hanged and one
was pressed to death. In a pressing, the executioners secured the condemned
person, facing upward, on a bed of nails. Then they loaded weights onto his or her
body. American dramatist Arthur Miller wrote a play, The Crucible, about these trials.
Belief in evil forces such as witches, warlocks, and diabolical spirits was widespread
in America and Europe during and before the 17th Century.
Although "Young Goodman Brown" is a fictional tale, it is based on the
atmosphere prevailing in Salem, Mass., during the time of the witch trials. .
Allusions, Historical References, and Vocabulary
anathema (paragraph 32): thing or person deemed to be damned or cursed.
cinque-foil (paragraph 32): Cinquefoil, a flowering plant of the rose family that has white, red,
or yellow petals.
Egyptian Magi (paragraph 36): See staff.
e'en go thy ways (paragraph 25): Just (righteous) be thy ways.
Goodman: Husband or master of a household.
Goody: (1) Housewife, especially an elderly one, of a lower class; (2) any lower-class woman;
(3) housewife or mistress of a household.
King William (paragraph 13): William III, king of England from 1689 to 1702.
King Philip (paragraph 18): Nickname of the Wampanoag Indian chief Metacom (or
Metacomet). Maltreatment of Indians by whites provoked him into waging what came to be
known as King Philip's War against New Englanders in 1675-1676. His defiance instilled fear
in the white inhabitants of New England.
lecture-day (paragraph 21): Weekday on which a sermon was given.
proselyte (paragraph 60): person who converted from one belief or religion to another.
staff (paragraph 36): The narrator says, "So saying, he threw it [the staff] down at her feet,
where, perhaps, it assumed life, being one of the rods which its owner had formerly lent to the
Egyptian magi." This passage alludes to verses 8-12 in Chapter 7 of the Bible's Book of
Exodus. According to these verses, God directs Moses to tell Aaron, his brother, to cast down
his staff before the throne of the pharaoh of Egypt. When he does so, it transforms itself into a
serpent. The pharaoh's magicians (magi) then cast down their staffs, which in like manner
turned into serpents. However, Aaron's staff consumes the staffs of the magicians.
wolf's-bane (paragraph 32): Wolfsbane, a poisonous plant.
wot'st: (paragraph 15): Know.
zenith: The point of the celestial sphere (what appears to be the surface of the sky or
heavens) that is directly above an observer's head.
Figures of Speech
Repetition of a consonant sound
It was now deep dusk in the forest, and deepest in that part of it where
these two were journeying.
Repetition of a word, phrase, or clause in successive groups of
A stern, a sad, a darkly meditative, a distrustful, if not a desperate man,
did he become, from the night of that fearful dream.
Comparison a thing to an unlike thing without using like, as, or than
"Then Goody Cloyse knows her old friend?" observed the traveller,
confronting her, and leaning on his writhing stick.
Using a Word to Imitate a Sound
the creaking of the trees, the howling of wild beasts
Comparison a thing to an unlike thing without using like, as, or than
sometimes the wind tolled like a distant church-bell
Comparison of the sound of the wind to the sound of a church bell
1.Discuss situations and circumstances that cause people in
today’s society to enter a “dark forest,” as Goodman Brown
2.Does Goodman Brown really attend a witches' sabbath or
does he dream about it?
5.Why does Goodman Brown become "a stern, a sad, a
darkly meditative, a distrustful, if not a desperate man" after
his experience in the forest?
5.Why are people today fascinated with stories about
witchcraft, sorcery, and magic?
6.After Goodman Brown returns from the forest, he
becomes a cynical man. Does he see evil where there is
goodness? Identify “witch hunts” that are occurring today in
your community or your country? For example, are people
on one side of an issue attempting to discredit people on the
other side of the issue by using unfair tactics that impugn
the latter's reputation?