Writer’s Choice

You have a choice of short stories for this paper, as well as a choice of approaches.
Young Goodman Brown
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. And Faith, as the wife was aptly named, thrust her own pretty head into the street,
letting the wind play with the pink ribbons of her cap, while she called to Goodman
“Dearest heart,” whispered she, softly and rather sadly, when her lips were close to his
ear, “pr’y thee, put off your journey until sunrise, and sleep in your own bed to-night. A
lone woman is troubled with such dreams and such thoughts, that she’s afeard of herself,
sometimes. Pray, tarry with me this night, dear husband, of all nights in the year!”
“My love and my Faith,” replied young Goodman Brown, “of all nights in the year, this
one night must I tarry away from thee. My journey, as thou callest it, forth and back
again, must needs be done ‘twixt now and sunrise. What, my sweet, pretty wife, dost thou
doubt me already, and we but three months married!”
“Then God bless you!” said Faith, with the pink ribbons, “and may you find all well,
when you come back.”
“Amen!” cried Goodman Brown. “Say thy prayers, dear Faith, and go to bed at dusk, and
no harm will come to thee.”
So they parted; and the young man pursued his way, until, being about to turn the corner
by the meeting-house, he looked back and saw the head of Faith still peeping after him,
with a melancholy air, in spite of her pink ribbons.
“Poor little Faith!” thought he, for his heart smote him. “What a wretch am I, to leave her
on such an errand! She talks of dreams, too. Methought, as she spoke, there was trouble
in her face, as if a dream had warned her what work is to be done to- night. But, no, no!
‘twould kill her to think it. Well; she’s a blessed angel on earth; and after this one night,
I’ll cling to her skirts and follow her to Heaven.”
With this excellent resolve for the future, Goodman Brown felt himself justified in
making more haste on his present evil purpose. He had taken a dreary road, darkened by
all the gloomiest trees of the forest, which barely stood aside to let the narrow path creep
through, and closed immediately behind. It was all as lonely as could be; and there is this
peculiarity in such a solitude, that the traveller knows not who may be concealed by the
innumerable trunks and the thick boughs overhead; so that, with lonely footsteps, he may
yet be passing through an unseen multitude.
“There may be a devilish Indian behind every tree,” said Goodman Brown to himself; and
he glanced fearfully behind him, as he added, “What if the devil himself should be at my
very elbow!”
His head being turned back, he passed a crook of the road, and looking forward again,
beheld the figure of a man, in grave and decent attire, seated at the foot of an old tree. He
arose, at Goodman Brown’s approach, and walked onward, side by side with him.
“You are late, Goodman Brown,” said he. “The clock of the Old South was striking, as I
came through Boston; and that is full fifteen minutes agone.”
“Faith kept me back awhile,” replied the young man, with a tremor in his voice, caused
by the sudden appearance of his companion, though not wholly unexpected.
It was now deep dusk in the forest, and deepest in that part of it where these two were
journeying. As nearly as could be discerned, the second traveller was about fifty years
old, apparently in the same rank of life as Goodman Brown, and bearing a considerable
resemblance to him, though perhaps more in expression than features. Still, they might
have been taken for father and son. And yet, though the elder person was as simply clad
as the younger, and as simple in manner too, he had an indescribable air of one who knew
the world, and would not have felt abashed at the governor’s dinner-table, or in King
William’s court, were it possible that his affairs should call him thither. But the only thing
about him, that could be fixed upon as remarkable, was his staff, which bore the likeness
of a great black snake, so curiously wrought, that it might almost be seen to twist and
wriggle itself like a living serpent. This, of course, must have been an ocular deception,
assisted by the uncertain light.
“Come, Goodman Brown!” cried his fellow-traveller, “this is a dull pace for the
beginning of a journey. Take my staff, if you are so soon weary.”
“Friend,” said the other, exchanging his slow pace for a full stop, “having kept covenant
by meeting thee here, it is my purpose now to return whence I came. I have scruples,
touching the matter thou wot’st of.”
“Sayest thou so?” replied he of the serpent, smiling apart. “Let us walk on, nevertheless,
reasoning as we go, and if I convince thee not, thou shalt turn back. We are but a little
way in the forest, yet.”
“Too far, too far!” exclaimed the goodman, unconsciously resuming his walk. “My father
never went into the woods on such an errand, nor his father before him. We have been a
race of honest men and good Christians, since the days of the martyrs. And shall I be the
first of the name of Brown, that ever took this path and kept–”
“Such company, thou wouldst say,” observed the elder person, interrupting his pause.
“Well said, Goodman Brown! I have been as well acquainted with your family as with
ever a one among the Puritans; and that’s no trifle to say. I helped your grandfather, the
constable, when he lashed the Quaker woman so smartly through the streets of Salem.
And it was I that brought your father a pitch-pine knot, kindled at my own hearth, to set
fire to an Indian village, in King Philip’s War. They were my good friends, both; and
many a pleasant walk have we had along this path, and returned merrily after midnight. I
would fain be friends with you, for their sake.”
“If it be as thou sayest,” replied Goodman Brown, “I marvel they never spoke of these
matters. Or, verily, I marvel not, seeing that the least rumor of the sort would have driven
them from New England. We are a people of prayer, and good works to boot, and abide
no such wickedness.”
“Wickedness or not,” said the traveller with the twisted staff, “I have a very general
acquaintance here in New England. The deacons of many a church have drunk the
communion wine with me; the selectmen, of divers towns, make me their chairman; and a
majority of the Great and General Court are firm supporters of my interest. The governor
and I, too–but these are state-secrets.”
“Can this be so!” cried Goodman Brown, with a stare of amazement at his undisturbed
companion. “Howbeit, I have nothing to do with the governor and council; they have
their own ways, and are no rule for a simple husbandman like me. But, were I to go on
with thee, how should I meet the eye of that good old man, our minister, at Salem
village? Oh, his voice would make me tremble, both Sabbath-day and lecture-day!”
Thus far, the elder traveller had listened with due gravity, but now burst into a fit of
irrepressible mirth, shaking himself so violently that his snake- like staff actually seemed
to wriggle in sympathy.
“Ha! ha! ha!” shouted he, again and again; then composing himself, “Well, go on,
Goodman Brown, go on; but, pr’y thee, don’t kill me with laughing!”
“Well, then, to end the matter at once,” said Goodman Brown, considerably nettled,
“there is my wife, Faith. It would break her dear little heart; and I’d rather break my
“Nay, if that be the case,” answered the other, “e’en go thy ways, Goodman Brown. I
would not, for twenty old women like the one hobbling before us, that Faith should come
to any harm.”
As he spoke, he pointed his staff at a female figure on the path, in whom Goodman
Brown recognized a very pious and exemplary dame, who had taught him his catechism
in youth, and was still his moral and spiritual adviser, jointly with the minister and
Deacon Gookin.
“A marvel, truly, that Goody Cloyse should be so far in the wilderness, at night-fall!” said
he. “But, with your leave, friend, I shall take a cut through the woods, until we have left
this Christian woman behind. Being a stranger to you, she might ask whom I was
consorting with, and whither I was going.”
“Be it so,” said his fellow-traveller. “Betake you to the woods, and let me keep the path.”
Accordingly, the young man turned aside, but took care to watch his companion, who
advanced softly along the road, until he had come within a staff’s length of the old dame.
She, meanwhile, was making the best of her way, with singular speed for so aged a
woman, and mumbling some indistinct words, a prayer, doubtless, as she went. The
This paper challenges you to read the story and come up with an approach for analysis.
Use a critical literary theory to interpret the story
Refer to the list from “Bartleby” project
Select a theme in the story and
discuss what that story says about that theme using three key symbols from the story – OR
discuss what that story says about that theme using three different literary elements (symbols, figurative language, plot devices, etc.
Use how the story and the definition of a particular genre and how the story conforms to or deviates from (or both) the genre it belongs to in order to reveal what the story means or says about a particular theme (click on the term to understand the important components of the genre):
Pick a pair of characters – one that changes (round) and one that doesn’t (flat) – in order to better understand something about a theme or idea in the story?
Answer this question in the essay:
What does Young Goodman Brown find in the forest and why does it drive him to a life of despair afterward? What is the moral of the story?
Last, come up with a question of your own – often something in the story will catch your attention, like the way light and dark is used, how names are revealed or what they might mean?

Your 1,000-word paper should be written in a formal, academic tone, and primarily in third person throughout, although some limited use of the first person (“I/me”) is permitted at the very end of the paper.
If you struggle with sentence structure and/or proofreading, please be certain to get some help at the Tutoring Center. Use your resources!
You will want to begin by reading both the story more than once (and preferably several times). The first time you read the story, try to get the sense of the plot, and perhaps note your questions in the margin. Then read it over several more times, focusing on gaining a greater understanding. Annotate the story so that you will remember which moments struck you as interesting or important. If you don’t want to mark your textbook, photocopy the story and mark those pages.
he introduction: Open your paper with a brief overview (or summarization) of the story. This may change depending on what your take on the story is. Use that to set up your argument. This should be a clear, concise paragraph. Your thesis should come at the end of this intro paragraph.
Remember: a literary response paper is essentially an argument: you are arguing what you believe this story to say about racism.
Use quoted and paraphrased evidence from the story;
Make sure readers can follow your thinking. Each paragraph should have one main idea, and transitions between paragraphs should be smooth, plus a topic sentence;
Avoid plot summary; assume your reader has read the story and is familiar with it, but it is good to have a 1-2 sentence summary in your intro;
Put citations in MLA style.

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