“The Scarlet Letter” and “The Young Goodman” by Hawthorne Compare and Contrast Essay

September 29, 2020 by Essay Writer


Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote two stories by the title, “The Scarlet Letter” and “Young Goodman” in which he displays his authorial voice by mirroring the societies from their dark ends as shown by the puritan cultures. In “The Scarter Letter,” Hawthorne employs psychological fiction to display the innate evilness of human beings (Johnson 75).

On the other hand, “The Young Goodman” is a story that revolves around wickedness that exists in the society and the role of characters in discovering these truths.

Although the two stories vary in setting, the author uses similar thematic representations in portraying his concerns about the nature of the society during this moment (Johnson 75). In this paper, my analysis seeks to explore the similarities and differences between the two stories. Further, the analysis shall exhibit how the author succeeds in asserting his themes.


Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter” primarily consists of characteristic imagery, which tends to represent the underlying nature of the characters as well as events relevant to the thematic concerns of the text (Stubbs 1440). In this authorial piece, the concepts of light and darkness serve as a constant source that carries greater influences to the plot of the text in its entirety.

These literary devices employed by the author succeed in underpinning the general imperative of creating images and color inherent in the Scarlet letter (Johnson 75).

The idealistic choice of light in this piece of literature highlights the characteristic intentions and thought structure of the characters together with their intrinsic qualities as depicted by the author. The application of imagery and symbolism in this piece of work begins with symbolization of the Old general depicts the reawakening of the characters upon being motivated by the actions of the other person.

The narrator in the Custom House asserts through recall the significant image created in his mind by saying that those he worked with regarded him “in no other light” other than smart and sensible staff. On the other hand, darkness as a descriptive device qualifies in demonstrating the characters as evil (Stubbs 1440).

However, a change in the characteristic behavior of Hawthorne’s characters accompanies the change from darkness toward the light, which enhances the understanding of the nature and degree of transformation taking place from within the confines of the society. The red color as cited repeatedly in the text with its application in the letter depicts the society’s condemnation of the evilness of Hester (“The Scarlet Letter” 59).

In Goodman, the story takes us through a rather mysterious path full of wickedness in the puritanical society. In this story, the author clearly defines the thin line between goodness and evil, hence giving an impression of creativity (“Goodman” 36). In “The Scarter letter,” the author paints the presence of sin not in the literary forests, but rather in the symbolic image portrayed by Hester (Stubbs 1440).

The other similarity that embodies both stories lies in the plot setting where woods appear in both. It is through the journey within and through these woods that the value and behavior of the characters come to change. The innate isolation feature of the protagonists in both stories depicts the author’s ability to demonstrate how the two separate worlds discriminate its people by condemning them to the lasting pains (“The Scarlet Letter” 59).

Goodman spends his life secluded from the rest and similarly Hester carries a symbol for that represents her suffering and humiliation so proudly as though it was a medal. These ironical representations displayed by Hester in carrying herself around with the symbol as an act to demonstrate to the society clearly affords a vivid comparative analysis of various sides of the society such as evil and good.


In this analysis, the critical study indicates that although the two stories differ in numerous ways, they all work to demonstrate how both characters remain on an emotional trail toward discovering their identity in terms of strengths and weaknesses.

For instance, although Goodman finally discovered the inherent wickedness beholden by a man, he achieved in returning with him the knowledge and acceptance of the existence of sin (Stremberg 274). In all the works, the authors have managed to paint their characters in ways that portray their actions and the resultant effects that arise thereof.

Hawthorne’s depiction of women as the victims of masculinity in the society vividly gain evidence in the case of Hester as she swallows the charges for the sin she never committed. In leveraging the male characters from their real contribution of the evil in the society merits a connotation of darkness existing within the confines of the society at the expense of the less privileged in the society (Stremberg 274).

The author demolishes the worth of females in the heavily puritanical society through Hester as the female protagonists carrying the connotations of invaluable people with no place to occupy in the society.

Although the two pieces have followed completely different paths in their quest to achieve the authorial themes, they all compare well in terms of the ability of the authors to display the ultimate discovery of the nature and place of different people in the society, and their role in shaping the minds and perception.

Works Cited

Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Scarlet Letter. New York: Penguin, 1986. Print. —.Young Goodman Brown and Other Short Stories. New York: Courier Dover Publications, 1992. Print.

Johnson, Claudia. (1995). Understanding the Scarlet letter: a student casebook to issues, sources, and historical documents. New York: Greenwood Publishing Group, 1995. Print.

Stremberg, Maria. Hawthorne’s Black Man: Image of Social Evil”. The Explicator 67.4 (2009): 274-275.

Stubbs, John C. “Hawthorne’s ‘The Scarlet Letter’: The Theory of the Romance and the Use of the New England Situation.” PMLA 83.5 (1968): 1439–1447.

Read more
Leave a comment
Order Creative Sample Now
Choose type of discipline
Choose academic level
  • High school
  • College
  • University
  • Masters
  • PhD

Page count
1 pages
$ 10