Analysis of Three of Hawthorne's Works: Solitude and Isolation

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Analysis of Three of Hawthorne's Works: Solitude and Isolation

Julia Pesaresi Burns 3rd Period Pre-Ap English 20 February 96

Solitude and isolation are immense, powerful, and overcoming feelings. They possess the ability to destroy a person's life by overwhelming it with gloom and darkness. Isolate is defined: to place or keep by itself, separate from others (Webster 381). Solitude is "the state of being alone" (Webster 655). Nathaniel Hawthorne uses these themes of solitude and isolation for the characters in several of his works. "Hawthorne is interested only in those beings, of exceptional temperament or destiny, who are alone in the world..." (Discovering Authors). Hester Prynne, Arthur Dimmesdale, Goodman Brown, and Beatrice Rappaccini are all persons "whom some crime or misunderstood virtue, or misfortune, has set them by themselves or in a worse companionship of solitude (Discovering Authors). Hawthorne devoted many stories to isolated characters - one's who stand alone with no one to look to for love or support. "For Hawthorne, this condition of moral and social isolation is the worst evil that can befall aman" (Adams 73). Each of the characters above are separated from the world because of some sin or evil. Their separation is a painful, devastating feelings. The themes of solitude and isolation are depicted in Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, "Young Goodman Brown, "and "Rappaccini's Daughter."

At the age of four, Nathaniel Hawthorne's father died, devastating his mother and destroying his family forever. He later recalls how his mother and sisters would "take their meals in their rooms, and my mother has eaten alone ever since my father's death" (Martin 10). Naturally, Hawthorne's mother's isolated life contributed to his personal solitude and to his stories of solitude. Although he never reached the point she did, his life too became one of separation and loneliness. When he was nine, a severe foot injury reduced his physical activity for almost two years and excluded him from many activities with other children. Soon after the recovery, his family moved to an isolated area in Raymond, Maine. It is here that he picked up his first "accursed habits of solitude" (Martin 3). On his relationship with his mother, Hawthorne said:

I loved my mother, but there has been , ever since my boyhood, a sort of coldness of intercourse between us, such is apt to come between persons of strong feelings, if they are not managed rightly (Martin 11).

Hawthorne never had a strong, healthy family life. However, his lonely childhood was only the beginning to the many solitude years he would experience.
1825-1837 have traditionally been termed the years of solitude in Hawthorne's life. During this time, he is described as having "a sombre, half- disappointed spirit" (Newman 127). However, "These years were solitary to an unusual degree, but not in the sense of a hermit's deliberate withdrawal from the world" (Stewart 27). Hawthorne used this time to write several of his stories. "His chief object was to master the writer's difficult art - something which cannot be done in the hubbub of social activity" (Stewart 27). "His household being made up of strong- attached yet reticent people each of whom maintained a well- developed sense of solitude, thus gave Nathaniel the privacy that he required" (Martin 11). Therefore, he kept to himself spending "many lonely and despondent hours in the chamber where fame was won" (Stewart 37). By 1838, Hawthorne had created forty-four tales and one novel. In 1837, he became engaged to Sophia Peabody. At this point, his life of loneliness left him; he felt invigorated and alive for the first time. In one of his many letters to her, he wrote "And sometimes (for I had no wife then to keep my heart warm) it seemed as if I were already in the grave, with only life enough to be chilled and benumbed (Martin 15). Hawthorne realized how isolated his...
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