Teacher’s Guide: Young Goodman Brown Analysis, Summary, Lesson Plans, and More

Teaching Guide for “Young Goodman Brown” by Nathaniel Hawthorne


This Teacher’s Guide contains a summary of “Young Goodman Brown,” an analysis of “Young Goodman Brown, and “Young Goodman Brown” lesson plans.


A Timely Visit

Young Teacher Brown came forth at sunset out of his classroom at Runforyourlife High School; but put his head back, after crossing the threshold, to lament that his four hours of looking for “Young Goodman Brown” lesson plans had produced nothing. Just at that time Tyrant, as the principal was aptly named, thrust his own ugly head into the room, letting the wind-passed stench of his body ruffle the brown toupee on his head while he notified Young Teacher Brown he’d be observed tomorrow.

Young Teacher Brown turned around and passed a grafitti-covered desk/chair combo, and, looking forward again, beheld the figure of a man, in grave and decent attire, seated at his cluttered desk. He arose at Teacher Brown’s approach and gave him “Young Goodman Brown” lesson plans with a summary of “Young Goodman Brown,” and an analysis of “Young Goodman Brown” for the standard fee.

Young Teacher Brown now shares them with you.

ELA Common Core Standards Covered

The following assignments cover the following ELA common core standards for reading and writing.  This is for your administrator, not your kids.  Kids need student-friendly worded objectives.

  1. RL.9-10.1 Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text.
  2. RL.9-10.2 Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze in detail its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text.
  3. RL.9-10.3 Analyze how complex characters (e.g., those with multiple or conflicting motivations) develop over the course of a text, interact with other characters, and advance the plot or develop the theme.
  4. RL.9-10.5 Analyze how an author’s choices concerning how to structure a text, order events within it (e.g., parallel plots), and manipulate time (e.g., pacing, flashbacks) create such effects as mystery, tension, or surprise.
  5. W.9-10.2 Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas, concepts, and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.

“Young Goodman Brown” Summary

Young Goodman Brown plans a late night excursion into the forest, much to the protestations of his wife, Faith. He is filled with regret and doubts, which, however, do not stop his journey into the forest, which by the way, was the devil’s domain in Puritan literature (of course, everything was the devil’s domain in Puritan literature).

Young Goodman Brown meets a man sitting on a tree stump, who we can presume is the devil (note to reader: if the devil joins you on your journey, you’re probably headed in the wrong direction). YGB is shocked to discover his father and his grandfather have journeyed once upon a time into the forest. He is even more shocked to discover some of Salem’s more prominent citizens–Goody Cloyse, Deacon Gookin, and the town minister– have communed with the devil. In fact, everyone has communed with the devil, even Faith.

He begs Faith to resist and poof, YGB wakes up, uncertain whether the entire incident were a dream.

Unable to withstand his loss of innocence, YGB dies a bitter old man.

“Young Goodman Brown” Lesson Plans

An analysis of “Young Goodman Brown produces the following lesson plan:

“Young Goodman Brown” is an allegory.

  1. Explain that an allegory is a story in which everything is a symbol. An allegory has two meanings: a literal one and a symbolic one. The symbolic meaning contains moral, social, religious, or political significance, and characters are often personifications of abstract ideas, such as charity, greed, or envy. Allegorical symbols in “Young Goodman Brown” are straightforward–Faith, Young Goodman, The Forest, The Old Man in the Forest, The Dark Path, for example.
  2. Create a chart: (1) in the left hand column, list symbols in “Young Goodman Brown; (2) in the right hand column, write what these symbols mean. The symbolic explanations should be more than just one or two words. Students should explain symbolic interpretations in complete sentences.
    • For example, Faith represents YGB’s faith, which he chooses to abandon to go on his journey. It also represents the general abandonment of faith in which all humans participate, even the more righteous among us. The fact that Faith herself participates in the devil’s ceremony indicates that the predominant faith in Salem Village has been corrupted by the devil, further evidenced by the Salem Witch Trials of 1692 and the connection between Hawthorne’s ancestor’s participation in the trials (OK, they don’t need quite that much of an explanation, but you get the point).

More “Young Goodman Brown” Lesson Ideas

  1. A study of American Romanticism helps neophyte literary scholars understand the story better. As students read, instruct them to identify (1) examples of the supernatural; (2) the idealization of women; (3) an impulse toward reform (perhaps the church in Salem needs reformed; after all the Deacon and the minister have a pact with the devil); (4) a celebration of individualism (keep in mind that Young Goodman’s Brown reliance on the goodness of others and not self reliance causes his downfall).
  2. Instruct students to imitate Hawthorne’s story by writing their own folk tale: the story could have the same theme but with different symbols and setting or it could be a parody of Hawthorne’s.

Short Story Guides

Teaching the Reading Literature Common Core Standards are easy with short stories.

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