Nathaniel Hawthorne

"Young Goodman Brown" (1835)

"Ethan Brand" (1850)

Date: May 11, 2018, Time: 1:00 - 3:00

Location: Northbrook Library, Pollak Room A

See below for PDF versions of the stories

Hawthorne was an American fiction writer best known for his novel The Scarlet Letter. Born in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1804, he was one of those rare writers who drew critical acclaim during his lifetime. Today, readers still appreciate Hawthorne's work for its storytelling qualities and for the moral and theological questions it raises.
Throughout his lifetime, Hawthorne felt guilt over certain actions of his ancestors. Critics view his literary preoccupation with Puritanism as an outgrowth of these roots. The first Hawthorne to immigrate to Massachusetts from England was William, a magistrate who once ordered the public whipping of a Quaker woman. Shortly thereafter, William's son, John, served as a judge in the Salem witch trials of 1692. Hawthorne's own father was a ship's captain who died when Hawthorne was only four years old. As a result of his family history, Hawthorne filled much of his work, including "Young Goodman Brown," with themes exploring the evil actions of humans and the idea of original sin.
After marrying fellow transcendentalist Sophia Peabody in 1842, Hawthorne moved into the Old Manse, a home in Concord where Emerson had once lived. In 1846 he published Mosses from an Old Manse, a collection of essays and stories, many of which are about early America. Mosses from an Old Manse earned Hawthorne the attention of the literary establishment because America was trying to establish a cultural independence to complement its political independence, and Hawthorne’s collection of stories displayed both a stylistic freshness and an interest in American subject matter. Herman Melville, among others, hailed Hawthorne as the “American Shakespeare.”

"Young Goodman Brown" was first published in 1835 in Hawthorne's collection Mosses from an Old ManseThe story takes place in 17th century Puritan New England, a common setting for Hawthorne's works, and addresses the Calvinist/Puritan belief that all of humanity exists in a state of depravity, but that God has destined some to unconditional election through unmerited grace. Hawthorne frequently focuses on the tensions within Puritan culture, yet steeps his stories in the Puritan sense of sin. In a symbolic fashion, the story follows Young Goodman Brown's journey into self-scrutiny, which results in his loss of virtue and belief. 


“Ethan Brand” was first published in 1850 in The Snow Image, his last collection of stories, and has the subtitle, "A Chapter from an Abortive Romance." Hawthorne's original title was "The Unpardonable Sin." Hawthorne originally planned a lengthy work about Brand, but completed only this piece. Hawthorne's inspiration was a lime kiln he saw burning while climbing Mount Greylock.

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Philip Zawa,
Feb 18, 2018, 2:02 PM
Philip Zawa,
Feb 18, 2018, 2:02 PM