Compare and Contrast Themes of Young Goodman Brown and the Lottery Term Paper

Excerpt from Term Paper :

Goodman Brown/Lottery

Literature is frequently employed as a device for social and political commentary. This is certainly true in Nathaniel Hawthorne's "Young Goodman Brown," and Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery." Both these stories darkly satirize the rigid social conventions that define small town American life. Even though they wrote about a century apart, Hawthorne and Jackson drew similar conclusions about American religious life and culture. Throughout his career, Nathaniel Hawthorne remained concerned about the hypocritical nature of puritanism. Stories like "Young Goodman Brown" darkly satirize religious fundamentalism and mob mentality. "Young Goodman Brown" is about a man who believes he might have dreamed of a strange pagan ritual set deep in the woods. Even his wife, ironically named Faith, attends the ritual. Faith's presumed faith in Christianity is proven false by her attending a Satanic rite in the woods. Watching the ritual shocks Goodman Brown literally to death. In "The Lottery," a similar situation of hypocrisy and mob mentality is revealed. Tessie Hutchinson sees that there are flaws in the system by which the loser of the lottery is chosen. When she tries to draw attention to the situation, no one will listen. Shirley Jackson also wrote "The Lottery" nearly a century after Hawthorne, which shows readers how little has changed in America. Jackson, like Hawthorne, uses a sort of morbid humor to satirize religion and small town American life. Both Shirley Jackson's "The Lottery" and Nathaniel Hawthorne's "Young Goodman Brown" elucidate the theme of mob mentality in America by exposing the sinister side of religion.

In both "The Lottery" and "Young Goodman Brown," religion is exposed for being no different from the pagan traditions it tries to distance itself from. For example, in Jackson's "The Lottery," the people of the town venerate a three-legged stool and a little black box, both of which have potentially pagan connotations. A three-legged stool essentially represents a cauldron with three feet. Jackson even uses the term "ritual" to directly describe the strange and deadly tradition of the annual town lottery. In "Young Goodman Brown," even more overt pagan symbolism is used to convey Hawthorne's central theme of the hypocrisy of monotheistic religions like Christianity. The fire set deep in the woods signifies a pagan ritual. There is also imagery of people flying on sticks, like the proverbial witches of lore. Serpent imagery also connotes all that is un-Christian and Santanic. The ritual in "Young Goodman Brown" is a religious gathering like one at church; only Hawthorne turns it upside down and places it at night in the forest.

Both short stories show that individuals who step away from the masses meet an untimely and unfortunate end. The protagonists in both "Young Goodman Brown" and "The Lottery" are unsuccessful in creating change because of the pervasiveness of irrational beliefs. For example, in "The Lottery," Tessie Hutchinson is called out for being late when showing up to the lottery ritual. Already, she is chastised and…

Sources Used in Document:

Works Cited

Hawthorne, Nathaniel. "Young Goodman Brown." Retrieved online:

Jackson, Shirley. "The Lottery." Retrieved online:

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