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Hawthorne and Symbolism

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Hawthorne and Symbolism

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  • Feb. 17, 2013
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Hawthorne and Symbolism
Symbolism in literature can convey a much deeper meaning than what we interpret at the first reading of a story. This is one reason it is always a good idea to go back and read a passage or story more than once for analysis purposes. Our opinions can vary greatly from one reading to another, even after reading a piece several times. We may end up with five different versions of what the story conveys to us. Nathaniel Hawthorne was a master at using symbolism in his writings. Moral responsibility and symbolism go hand in hand in most of his works. Allegory, in which characters or events represent ideas, is also commonplace in the writings of Hawthorne. Many of the stories of Nathaniel Hawthorne use allegory and symbolism as the suggestion that sin and evil are among the most inherent qualities of humans.

Nathaniel Hawthorne was born in Salem, Massachusetts on July 4, 1804. His paternal grandfather, John Hathorne, was the only judge from the Salem witch trials that never repented from his wrongful accusations of innocent victims. In order to distance himself from his relations, Nathaniel decided he would add a “w” to his last name. This was the best method he could find to disassociate himself from the dreadful reputation of his relatives for such harsh sentencing of those presumed to be wicked. Hawthorne’s father died in 1808 while on a trip during his job as a boat captain. This left Elizabeth Hawthorne with the task of raising her young son and daughters with the assistance of her parents for the next ten years. It is understood by critics that his strict Puritan background and upbringing greatly affected the thematic elements that Hawthorne used when writing his stories. C-Span’s brief online biography of this great author explain his writings in this way, “Hawthorne's dark, brooding, richly symbolic works, reflecting his Puritan heritage and contrasting sharply with the optimism of his Transcendentalist neighbors, achieve a depth...