Young Goodman Brown and Other Hawthorne Short Stories

Young Goodman Brown and Other Hawthorne Short Stories Summary

My Kinsman, Major Molineux

Robin, a youth of barely eighteen, arrives in colonial Boston by ferry one evening. In search of his relative, Major Molineux, Robin ventures through town inquiring about his kinsman’s whereabouts, but is met by hostility and derision from all the townspeople, who imply that he is unwelcome and should return home, their responses laced in threats.

Offended by what he deems an incompetent and impolite reception, Robin continues on, meeting, throughout the night, a number of curious characters that demonstrate a multiplicity of faces, attitudes, and voices. He is told by a devil-faced man to wait beside a church for his kinsman to pass. While waiting, Robin is joined by a kind stranger who keeps him company and listens to his story.

The sound of a mob emerges; Robin sees a stream of people led by the devil-faced man, and his uncle in the middle. Tarred and feathered, the Major is humiliated by the crowd, but even more dejected upon seeing Robin. Robin, swept up by the tumult of the crowd, joins the crowd in laughing at the disgraceful display.

As the crowd moves on, a disillusioned Robin entreats his companion to help him leave the city. The companion, however, suggests that Robin stay in Boston and seek fortune without the help of Major Molineux.

Roger Malvin's Burial

Roger Malvin and a younger soldier, Reuben Bourne, after surviving a war between New England colonists and Native Americans, rest beside a large rock. Due to his old age and physical wounds, Roger believes he has little chance to live, and urges his younger companion to go ahead without him. While at first Reuben objects and insists on staying beside his father figure, Roger’s wish for Reuben to marry his daughter, Dorcas, prompts Reuben to begin considering the prospect of a future. Only half convinced of his decision, Reuben leaves Roger after promising to return and bury him.

Reuben is rescued and, upon being nursed to health, is received as a hero. Afraid to let Dorcas know that he left her father in the wilderness, Reuben allows his new wife to assume that Reuben properly buried Roger. The memory of his unfulfilled promise haunts Reuben, and, the burden of the lie and the superstitious fear accompanying it change Reuben’s character until he becomes a ruined man.

Reuben decides to relocate with his family, Dorcas and their son Cyrus. In the forest, Reuben strays from a predetermined path, returning, though not clearly conscious of it, to the place where Roger Malvin died. Reuben and Cyrus go into the woods hunting for game. Reuben senses a rustling in the trees, and shoots. Dorcas hears the shot, and assumes her son has killed a deer. Both are appalled to find that Reuben has shot Cyrus at the very place where Roger was left to die alone.

Dr. Heidegger's Experiment

Dr. Heidegger, an elderly physician, invites four friends -- Mr. Medbourne, Colonel Killigrew, Mr. Gascoigne, and Widow Wycherly -- to his house to try a new potion from the Fountain of Youth. He does drink any himself. Instead, Dr. Heidegger watches as his friends descend into delirious happiness at their newfound youth. His guests also quickly revive the follies of their youth, as old schemes and competitions are acted out once more.

However, the effects of the potion do not last long. Soon, the four guests are restored to their elderly selves. Dr. Heidegger - wiser than his friends - has watched their foolish behavior and has no desire to pursue the Fountain of Youth. Despite his advice, his guests decide to embark on a journey to Florida in search of the Fountain of Youth.

The Birthmark

A passionate scientist, Aylmer is devoted to his laboratory experiments and to his beautiful wife, Georgiana. Nonetheless, he is bothered by her one physical flaw: a hand-shaped, crimson birthmark on her left cheek. Aylmer resolves to find a potion that will remove the birthmark forever.

With his lab assistant, Aminadab, Aylmer throws himself into hours of research to concoct the right potion for Georgiana. She patiently awaits the completion of his work, eager to please her husband. Finally, Aylmer presents the potion to Georgiana, and she readily drinks it. Unfortunately, just as the birthmark is erased from her face, Georgiana also dies.

Rappaccini's Daughter

In Padua, Italy, a young scholar named Giovanni has arrived to pursue his studies. He rents an apartment above a lavish garden developed by a bizarre scientist, Dr. Rappaccini. The doctor's daughter Beatrice is beautiful, but not permitted to interact with others; instead, she is confined to the gardens.

Gradually, Giovanni notices that the plants in the garden are of poisonous varieties. In addition, the daughter Beatrice appears to be poisonous to living creatures, such as plants and insects. Giovanni and Beatrice eventually fall in love, but her poisonous nature is contagious. Giovanni comes to have a similar effect on living creatures.

He receives an antidote that Beatrice can take so that they can be united in their love. However, the antidote kills her. She dies at the feet of Giovanni and her father, Dr. Rappaccini - whom she disdains for turning her into a monster.

Young Goodman Brown

Young Goodman Brown, newly married to Faith Brown, embarks on a lonely sojourn into the forest from his home of Salem, Massachusetts. Early into his journey, he encounters a strange figure who carries a staff resembling a large black snake. This figure is presumed to be the devil. As they go deeper into the forest, Goodman Brown notices fellow townspeople who are respected for their piety walking in the same direction as his own immoral path.

Finally, Goodman Brown arrives at his destination: a witchcraft ceremony, attended by many people whom he recognizes - both the pious and the criminal. Among them is Faith, his own wife. As Goodman Brown and Faith are guided to the altar to be inducted into this band of witches, he urges her to resist temptation. Just then, the scene disappears; Goodman Brown is unsure whether the experience 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 himself; his religious faith has certainly been shaken, and he dies a lonely, bitter, and gloomy man.

The Minister's Black Veil

One day, in the New England town of Milford, the church members are shocked by the appearance of their reverend, Mr. Hooper, wearing a black veil that covers his entire face. As the sexton and other townspeople speculate over the reason behind the black veil, Reverend Hooper continues his business serenely.

From then on, he conducts all ceremonies -- whether weddings or funerals -- wearing the veil. It is never removed. The townspeople and congregation members begin to gossip about what shameful secret Hooper could be hiding under the veil. The only person who remains supportive and loving of Hooper is his beloved, Elizabeth. However, she also entreats him to remove the veil. He refuses, and she leaves him.

For the rest of his life, Hooper retains his veil. He is shunned by the townsfolk, an outcast among his own congregation. Hooper himself avoids looking at his reflection in mirrors; he is afraid of himself. Upon his deathbed, the reverend tending to his last rites attempts to remove Hooper's veil. In a final burst of energy, Hooper thwarts his attempt. He dies, witnessed by the reverend and Elizabeth, who acts as his nurse even in his final hours. Parson Hooper is buried in the veil, his eyes covered forever.


Hawthorne describes a man, Wakefield, who lives in London with his wife. One day, he simply decides to leave his wife and, to her, he mysteriously disappears. She eventually assumes the life of a widow. In the meantime, Wakefield remains in London, living in secret nearby. He watches his wife from afar, but makes no effort to reconnect with her or with any of his other friends and acquaintances. Ten years later, he passes his wife on the street but she does not recognize him through his disguise and aging.

Twenty years after he "vanished", Wakefield abruptly decides to return to his home. The narration stops after the front door to Wakefield's old house opens. The outcome of his reunion with his wife is unclear.

Ethan Brand

On Mount Graylock in Massachusetts, a lime-burner named Bartram tends to his kiln with his son, Joe. He has replaced the previous lime-burner, Ethan Brand, who left 18 years ago in search of the so-called Unpardonable Sin. After hearing disturbing laughter, Bartram and Joe learn that Brand has returned.

Bartram instructs Joe to tell the nearby village people. They come and gather to learn about Brand's travels. He explains that the Unpardonable Sin was found within himself; he experimented on people, including the daughter of Humphrey, a man from Graylock's village. Brand is interrupted by the arrival of a traveler who is a German Jew, carrying a diorama for entertainment on his back.

Eventually, the people disperse; Brand assures Bartram that he can look over the kiln for the night. He commits suicide by hurling himself into the fire. Bartram and Joe discover Brand's remains the next day - his heart has turned to lime inside his skeleton.

The Maypole of Merry Mount

The people of Merry Mount are -- unlike their Puritan neighbors -- devoted to the pursuit of pleasure. At the opening of this short story, they have gathered to celebrate the marriage of Edith and Edgar. A priest presides over the ceremony, and the young couple are surrounded by revelers dressed up in costume.

However, the celebration is interrupted by the arrival of John Endicott, a Puritan leader, and his fellow Puritans. He destroys their maypole and orders the people of Merry Mount to be punished, including Edgar and Edith. United in their love, Edith and Edgar are not frightened by the prospect of punishment.

Endicott respects the purity of their love and decides to bring them to his Puritan community instead of punishing them so that their connection can serve as a model for others.