Robin is a young man, 18 years of age, who travels from the country to an unnamed city in search of his father's cousin. Robin is raised in a farming family and unaccustomed to city folk; he certainly does not anticipate seeing his esteemed kinsman, Major Molineux, tarred and feathered.
From the onset of the short story, Robin is described as a rather naive, earnest individual. He is genuinely bewildered by the townspeople's cold reception toward him once they learn that he is related to Molineux. Though greatly shocked to see Molineux at the end of the story, Robin in fact laughs loudest at his relative's undignified plight. He seems to be overtaken by the raucousness of the cruel crowd.
Ferryman -- "My Kinsman, Major Molineux"
The ferryman transports Robin from his original destination to this unnamed town. Although it is late (9:00pm), the ferryman is willing to take Robin because he receives extra pay.
Old Man -- "My Kinsman, Major Molineux"
The Old Man is the first townsperson whom Robin approaches in order to inquire about Major Molineux. In a preview of what is to come, the Old Man reacts very negatively to Robin's question, demanding he let go of his coat and threatens to put him in the stockades.
Innkeeper -- "My Kinsman, Major Molineux"
Robin enters the Innkeeper's establishment because he is hungry, although he cannot afford any food there. The Innkeeper is initially quite welcoming and friendly. Again, however, once Robin asks about Major Molineux, the Innkeeper's demeanor wholly changes. Later, as the procession goes through the city streets, Robin can hear the Innkeeper's distinctive laughter in the crowd, as they behold the tarred and feathered Molineux.
Housekeeper -- "My Kinsman, Major Molineux"
Robin encounters a woman in a scarlet petticoat who converses with him, in a friendlier manner than anyone else, and attempts to persuade him to enter her home/establishment. She claims to be Molineux's housekeeper, but it is hinted that the woman is perhaps a brothel owner or holds a similar profession.
Watchman -- "My Kinsman, Major Molineux"
The town's Watchman warns Robin that he must go home, or he will be punished by being set in stocks.
Stranger -- "My Kinsman, Major Molineux"
The Stranger is first observed at the inn, as he has a very prominent hooked nose and fiery eyes. Robin encounters the Stranger a second time on the street, when he has painted his face in black and red, colors reminiscent of evil/the devil. In the procession, the Stranger is the only person mounted on a horse.
Gentleman -- "My Kinsman, Major Molineux"
The Gentleman is the sole person in the town who informs Robin that in order to see Major Molineux, he must wait on the street. The two converse pleasantly, and the Gentleman remains with Robin as the procession passes. After the commotion, Robin asks the Gentleman how to return to the ferry. However, the Gentleman advises Robin to remain in town because he can be successful without the help of Major Molineux.
Major Molineux -- "My Kinsman, Major Molineux"
Major Molineux is young Robin's relative, and as an officer of the British colonial government, he has promised Robin a job opportunity. However, he is unable to be found when Robin arrives at his town to seek employment.
Later, Robin discovers that the town is leading a procession in which Major Molineux is tarred and feathered. Ostensibly, Major Molineux is tarred and feathered because of his affiliation with the British government, given that the story takes place before the American Revolution.
Roger Malvin -- "Roger Malvin's Burial"
Roger Malvin is a colonial soldier who fought and was mortally wounded in battle against Native Americans. Though he is certainly near death, Malvin selflessly instructs his companion Reuben Bourne to leave him in the woods, but facing homeward so that he can die in peace. Malvin's last prayer is, touchingly, for the happiness of Reuben and his daughter, Dorcas Malvin. The circumstances of Malvin's death and lack of burial plague Reuben Bourne for the rest of his life.
Reuben Bourne -- "Roger Malvin's Burial"
Reuben Bourne is a soldier who fought alongside Roger Malvin. Reuben is very hesitant to leave Malvin's side, as the latter dies. However, at Malvin's insistence, Reuben departs in search of a rescue party. He manages to be rescued and, through a lie of omission, assures his betrothed, Malvin's daughter Dorcas, that he was by her father's side at his death. Reuben also outright lies to Dorcas, telling her that he buried Malvin properly. Reuben's lie weighs heavily on him and he runs his life into ruin. Haunted by guilt, he ultimately kills his son Cyrus on the very spot Malvin died.
Dorcas Malvin -- "Roger Malvin's Burial"
Dorcas Malvin, daughter of Roger Malvin, nurses Reuben Bourne back to health after he is rescued. Dorcas assumes that Reuben stayed by her father's side until his death, and he does not contradict this falsehood. However, her future husband does lie to her in saying that he provided Malvin with a proper burial. Dorcas and Reuben have one son together, Cyrus Bourne, but he is killed by his father in a hunting accident.
Cyrus Bourne -- "Roger Malvin's Burial"
Cyrus Bourne is the son of Dorcas Malvin and Reuben Bourne, and the grandson of Roger Malvin. He is described as "giving promise of a glorious manhood" (Hawthorne 68). The apple of his mother's eye, Cyrus is adept at hunting and other frontier life activities. Unfortunately, Cyrus is accidentally shot and killed by his own father. He dies at the exact same spot as his grandfather did, eighteen years earlier, at the young age of 15.
Dr. Heidegger -- "Dr. Heidegger's Experiment"
Dr. Heidegger is an extremely aged and eccentric scientist. He is known among his friends for concocting many scientific experiments. Having discovered the waters of the infamous Fountain of Youth, Dr. Heidegger invites four of his friends to his laboratory to drink it. He observes them as they grow younger, but he does not partake in the experiment. Instead, Dr. Heidegger watches as his friends become giddy, even foolish, in their excitement regarding their newfound youth. However, their thrill is fleeting, and they return to their elderly states quickly. Dr. Heidegger learns from this that he would rather remain dignified in his old age then behave as foolishly as his friends did during those few moments of reclaimed youth.
Widow Wycherly -- "Dr. Heidegger's Experiment"
Widow Wycherly is an elderly woman who used to be quite beautiful in her prime. As such, she had many lovers, including Mr. Melbourne, Colonel Killigrew, and Mr. Gascoigne. During her lifetime, she has behaved in such a way that has made the town's aristocracy look down upon her.
During Dr. Heidegger's experiment, Widow Wycherly is thrilled to become her young self again, if only for a few brief moments. For example, "she stood before the mirror curtsying and simpering to her own image, and greeting it as the friend whom she loved better than all the world beside" (Hawthorne 164). Her return to old age is met with dismay.
Mr. Medbourne -- "Dr. Heidegger's Experiment"
Mr. Medbourne is the former lover of Widow Wycherly and a friend of Dr. Heidegger. During his lifetime, he was once a very successful merchant. However, he speculated away his fortunes and, in his old age, is simply a beggar. Like his companions, except for Dr. Heidegger, Mr. Medbourne is thrilled to drink from the Fountain of Youth, but as he does, both his health and crazy schemes are revived. His flawed nature is revealed in the experiment.
Colonel Killigrew -- "Dr. Heidegger's Experiment"
Colonel Killigrew lives in the same town as Dr. Heidegger and their mutual friends. Like the other men except for the doctor, he once courted Widow Wycherly. Colonel Killigrew spent his youth indulging in licentious behavior. Thus, in his old age, he suffers from a number of ailments exacerbated by his excessive drinking and "pursuit of sinful pleasures" (Hawthorne 158). Like the other subjects of Dr. Heidegger's experiment, Colonel Killigrew is eager to seek more water from the Fountain of Youth.
Mr. Gascoigne -- "Dr. Heidegger's Experiment"
Yet another of Widow Wycherly's former admirers, Mr. Gascoigne was once an infamous politician with a very poor reputation. However, in old age, Mr. Gascoigne has disappeared into obscurity. Thus, he is eager to regain his youth so that he may be regarded with some importance once again.
Aylmer -- "The Birthmark"
Aylmer is a scientist who is very passionate about his work, though the majority of his experiments fail. He is married to a young woman, Georgiana, who bears a large birthmark on her cheek. Aylmer detests the birthmark and seeks to remove it by creating a liquid concoction. He is slender, pale and intellectual and driven by the (unobtainable) pursuit of perfection.
Georgiana -- "The Birthmark"
Georgiana is a beautiful young woman who marries a scientist, Aylmer. Her beauty is such that previous suitors have not been deterred by a large birthmark, in the shape of a small hand, on her left cheek. A faithful wife, Georgiana agrees to submit to Aylmer's experiment to remove the birthmark to which he objects so strongly. As he spends countless hours toiling in his laboratory, Georgiana reads scientific texts in his library and understands comes to adore her husband's passion while understanding that this experiment will likely fail, as his record of success is slight.
Aminadab -- "The Birthmark"
Aminadab is Aylmer's lab assistant in "The Birthmark." He does not understand Aylmer's desire to remove Georgiana's birthmark because she is already so beautiful that such a flaw is minor. Aminadab is an earthly, hulking man who represents the physical power of man and humanity's root in nature.
Giovanni Guasconti -- "Rappaccini's Daughter"
Giovanni Guasconti is a student at the University of Padua in Italy. He is quite an attractive young man, and he falls in love with Dr. Rappaccini's beautiful daughter, Beatrice, whom he can observe in the poisonous gardens from his room window. As a result of his closeness with and love for Beatrice, he too becomes poisonous.
Dr. Giacomo Rappaccini -- "Rappaccini's Daughter"
Dr. Giacomo Rappaccini is an eccentric scientist, regarded with suspicion by his professional colleagues, such as Professor Pietro Baglioni. He cultivates an extraordinarily beautiful garden, and he also has a beautiful daughter, Beatrice Rappaccini. Rappaccini's garden is filled with poisonous plants, and he keeps Beatrice confined to these bizarre gardens as well. Thus, Beatrice herself becomes poisonous herself. Rappaccini is a cold man who sacrifices humanity for intellectual gain.
Beatrice Rappaccini -- "Rappaccini's Daughter"
Beatrice Rappaccini is the very beautiful daughter of Dr. Rappaccini. She is forced by her father to stay among his poisonous gardens. Nonetheless, she attracts the attention and then love of Giovanni. However, Beatrice's very nature is poisonous; any living creature or plant that approaches her withers and dies immediately. Nonetheless, Beatrice and Giovanni fall in love. Her poisonous nature begins to affect Giovanni, and he behaves coldly toward her. When her father explains that he has made her deadly to protect her, she insists she would rather be loved than feared. She chooses to swallow the antidote and die rather than to live as a monster.
Professor Pietro Baglioni -- "Rappaccini's Daughter"
Professor Pietro Baglioni is a medical professor at Giovanni's university, and he serves as Giovanni's mentor. He warns Giovanni against Dr. Rappaccini and he does not recommend that Giovanni spend time with the family, no matter how beautiful Beatrice is. Baglioni was Giovanni's father's friend as well. His motives are unclear; it is suggested that jealousy or rivalry with Rappaccini cause him to expose Beatrice.
Dame Lisabetta -- "Rappaccini's Daughter"
Dame Lisabetta is an old woman who knows Giovanni in Padua. She takes care of his living quarters and gives him information about the Rappaccinis initially.
Goodman Brown -- "Young Goodman Brown"
Goodman Brown, the title character of this famous short story, is newly married to his wife named Faith. He must journey into the forest with a mysterious character, presumed to be the devil, for an unspecified purpose. Throughout his sojourn into the forest, Goodman Brown is often hesitant about the nature of the trip and even of his companion. However, he sees other respected townspeople entering the forest, presumably toward the same destination.
This destination turns out to be a meeting of witches or otherwise unholy people. Goodman Brown is horrified to recognize many of his neighbors. His wife is also there, and just as he warns her to resist temptation, Brown discovers that he is alone in the forest. He does not know whether he imagined or truly experienced the meeting of witches.
Goodman Brown returns to Salem a wholly changed man who no longer trusts anybody. He leads a miserable life and dies in gloom.
Faith Brown -- "Young Goodman Brown"
Faith Brown is Goodman Brown's young wife of just three months. She wears pink ribbons, a symbol of her innocence. Faith also represents Goodman Brown's religious faith, which is damaged when he sees her at the (real or imagined) witch's meeting deep in the forest.
Elder traveller -- "Young Goodman Brown"
The elder traveller is a mysterious man whom Young Goodman Brown encounters in the forest. He is presumed to be the devil, particularly given that his staff is in the shape of a large black snake, often interpreted to be a symbol of the devil. This figure leads Goodman Brown deeper into the forest, where he eventually finds the witches' meeting.
Goody Cloyse -- "Young Goodman Brown"
Goodie Cloyse taught catechism to Goodman Brown when he was a child. He considers her a "very pious and exemplary dame" (114). Thus, Goodman Brown is surprised to see her traversing the forest at such a late hour of night, and even more so at the meeting of witches.
Deacon Gookin -- "Young Goodman Brown"
Deacon Gookin is another attendee of the witches' meeting, and he is seen by Goodman Brown waking with Goody Cloyse. At the witches' meeting, together with the minister, Gookin forces Goodman Brown to the altar.
Martha Carrier -- "Young Goodman Brown"
Martha Carrier is described as a woman "who had received the Devil's promise to be queen of hell" (121). Thus, she has fallen to temptation and become a witch. Together with Goody Cloyse, Carrier stands before Goodman Brown after he is dragged to the altar by the minister and Deacon Gookin.
Minister -- "Young Goodman Brown"
Salem's minister is also seen at the witches' meeting in the middle of the forest. He and Deacon Gookin drag Young Goodman Brown to the altar to initiate him in the proceedings of evil.
Reverend Hooper -- "The Minister's Black Veil"
Reverend Hooper leads the Milford church. He is approximately thirty years old at the start of the story. Although unmarried, Mr. Hooper has a beloved, Elizabeth.
One day, Mr. Hooper shocks his congregation by wearing a black veil to his usual sermon. From then on, Reverend Hooper refuses to remove the black veil, even when performing joyous ceremonies such as weddings. As the townsfolk and his congregation speculate as to the shameful secret they believe he is hiding, Mr. Hooper remains staunch in his resolution to wear the veil. This costs him his relationship with Elizabeth.
People grow uncomfortable in Mr. Hooper's presence because of the horror his veil evokes. Hooper himself "never willingly passed before a mirror, nor stooped to drink at a still fountain, lest, in its peaceful bosom, he should be affrighted by himself" (154). Nonetheless, even upon his deathbed, Hooper does not allow anyone to remove his black veil, and he is buried in it.
Elizabeth -- "The Minister's Black Veil"
Elizabeth is Reverend Hooper's strong-willed beloved. Unlike the other townspeople, she is unperturbed by Mr. Hooper's appearance in the black veil. However, she does wish for him to remove the veil in order to dispel rumors that he is hiding a shameful secret. Elizabeth wishes to be able to look upon the face of her beloved. However, Mr. Hooper refuses her gentle entreaty. As a result, Elizabeth and Reverend Hooper part ways. Upon his deathbed, Elizabeth returns as his nurse because her "calm affection had endured thus long in secrecy, in solitude, amid the chill of age, and would not perish, even at the dying hour" (155).
Goodman Gray -- "The Minister's Black Veil"
Goodman Gray is a townsperson who resides in Milford. Upon seeing Reverend Hooper's veil for the first time, Gray declares, "'Our parson has gone mad!'" (145).
The sexton -- "The Minister's Black Veil"
At the opening of the story, the sexton rings the bell to call the congregation to the sermon. He also affirms that the figure in the black veil is Reverend Hooper.
Old Squire Saunders -- "The Minister's Black Veil"
After seeing Reverend Hooper in his black veil, Old Squire Saunders chooses not to invite the reverend to his home to bless the food for Sunday dinner, although this is their customary habit.
Reverend Mr. Clark -- "The Minister's Black Veil"
Reverend Mr. Clark hails from Westbury, a nearby town. He tends to Father Hooper on his deathbed. In Hooper's final moments, Reverend Clark attempts to remove the black veil. However, Mr. Hooper summons the strength to hold the veil to his face and does not allow Clark to lift it.
Mr. Wakefield -- "Wakefield"
Mr. Wakefield is a middle-aged man who lives in London with his wife, Mrs. Wakefield. One day in October, Mr. Wakefield decides to leave his wife. Without her knowledge, he moves into a neighboring house by her, from which he observes her life for over twenty years. During this time, Mr. Wakefield conceals himself from his wife and their friends in London. One day, after many years, Mr. Wakefield simply decides to return to his wife. His actions can be construed as both curious and cruel.
Mrs. Wakefield -- "Wakefield"
Mrs. Wakefield lives in London with her husband, Mr. Wakefield. One day, very abruptly and without warning, Mr. Wakefield deserts her. Under the guise of taking a trip to the country, Mr. Wakefield simply never returns. Mrs. Wakefield spends over twenty years wondering about the whereabouts of her husband; she behaves as though she is in mourning. One day, just as unexpectedly, Mr. Wakefield returns home to her. The outcome of their reunion is unclear.
Ethan Brand -- "Ethan Brand"
The titular character of this story was once the original lime-burner of Mount Graylock. However, he leaves Mount Graylock in search of the so-called Unpardonable Sin. He travels for eighteen years, before returning home to announce to Bartram, his son Joe, and other townspeople that he has indeed found the sin in his own heart. Brand's quest for the unpardonable sin destroys his relationships with other people, including a young woman known as the daughter of Humphrey.
After both entertaining and horrifying the village people with his tales, Brand spends the night alone at the kiln. He commits suicide by hurling himself into the fire, and the next day, his body is found by Bartram and his son.
Brand's mental stability is questionable throughout the story. It is unclear what the "unpardonable sin" is, although Brand indicates that he has conducted experiments on people, including Humphrey's daughter, and has thus destroyed their lives and his own, through alienation.
Bartram -- "Ethan Brand"
Bartram is a lime-burner on Mount Graylock in Massachusetts. As a lime-burner, he watches over a fire that burns marble in order to turn it into lime, a white-colored solid. He is an "obtuse, middle-aged clown." He is Joe's father.
Joe -- "Ethan Brand"
Joe is the young son of Bartram, the lime-burner of Mount Graylock. He is described as being more sensitive than his father. Indeed, he shows sympathy for Ethan Brand's tragic figure. His innocence is also the antithesis of Brand's dark quest for the Unpardonable Sin.
Stage-agent -- "Ethan Brand"
The stage agent is one of the people gathered from the nearby village to see Ethan Brand upon the latter's return to Mount Graylock. He enjoys smoking cigars and has "great fame as a dry joker" (323).
Giles -- "Ethan Brand"
Giles, a resident of the village near Bartram and Brand's kiln, was formerly an attorney. In his old age, however, he has succumbed to alcoholism and become a soap maker instead. Despite losing his left hand, he maintained the "courage and spirit of a man" and never asked for charity.
Village doctor -- "Ethan Brand"
Like Giles and the stage-agent, the village doctor is among the first men to see Ethan Brand after his return to Mount Graylock. He is described as being an alcoholic doctor whose skill outweighs the brutishness brought on by drink.
Humphrey -- "Ethan Brand"
Humphrey is an elderly man who lives near the kiln tended by Bartram. He asks Ethan Brand about his daughter, which upsets Brand because he used Humphrey's daughter in his psychological experiment to find the Unpardonable Sin.
Humphrey's daughter -- "Ethan Brand"
Esther is Humphrey's daughter who ran away to join the circus to become famous. Brand "had made [her] the subject of a psychological experiment, and wasted, absorbed, nd perhaps annihilated her soul, in the process" (325).
German Jew -- "Ethan Brand"
The German Jew, as he is called in the story, is a traveler who distracts the townspeople from Ethan Brand. He carries a diorama in which he displays pictures of Europe. They are of poor quality, but nonetheless entertaining to the village people. When Ethan Brand looks at his art, he sees only a blank canvas. The German Jew has an old dog with whom Brand becomes fascinated by.
Edgar -- "The Maypole of Merry Mount"
Edgar is a young man who is to be married to Edith, both of whom come from Merry Mount. Their celebration, however, is interrupted by the arrival of John Endicott and his Puritan congregation. Endicott seeks to punish all of Edgar's fellow townspeople. However, he spares Edgar and Edith, but Endicott does require that Edgar cut his hair, which is longer than approved of by Puritans. Above all, he is devoted to his bride.
Edith -- "The Maypole of Merry Mount"
Edith is a young woman to be married to Edgar in the town of Merry Mount. She is somewhat serious, having thoughts of death during her happiest day. Edith and Edgar are devoted to one another, standing firm when the ceremony is interrupted. Endicott spares Edith and Edgar because of their show of love and only forces them to put on more clothes.
John Endicott -- The Maypole of Merry Mount
John Endicott is based upon a real-life figure, John Endecott, who served as the local governor to the Massachusetts Bay Colony from 1629-1630. He was a very strict Puritan, as evidenced in this short story. Endicott descends upon the town of Merry Mount in the midst of a wedding celebration between Edith and Edgar. Deeming the People of Merry Mount to be inappropriate and vulgar, Endicott orders everyone to be whipped. However, he takes pity upon the newlyweds; he forces them instead to don clothes and to cut Edgar's hair.
Peter Palfrey -- "The Maypole of Merry Mount"
Peter Palfrey is essentially Endicott's right-hand man in their group of Puritans. He is called an "Ancient" due to his age and position, and he is eager to mete out punishment upon the people of Merry Mount. Palfrey also suggests that Edgar's "long glossy curls" be cut.
Blackstone -- "The Maypole of Merry Mount"
The "flower-decked priest" who performs the wedding ceremony between Edith and Edgar.
People of Merry Mount -- "The Maypole of Merry Mount"
The People of Merry Mount are diverse in dress and style, and they are unafraid to show their happiness and to celebrate. They gather for the wedding of Edgar and Edith. Among the People of Merry mount are an English priest, the so-called "Savage Man," and an Indian hunter.
Young Goodman Brown and Other Hawthorne Short Stories Questions and Answers
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Goodman Brown is unsure whether the experience of the occult forest ceremony was real or simply a dream. Regardless, he returns to Salem a changed man, doubtful of everyone else's piety. In short, he has lost his faith in mankind, perhaps even in...
Study Guide for Young Goodman Brown and Other Hawthorne Short Stories
Young Goodman Brown and Other Hawthorne Short Stories study guide contains a biography of Nathaniel Hawthorne, literature essays, a complete e-text, quiz questions, major themes, characters, and a full summary and analysis of Hawthorne's short stories.