Nathaniel Hawthorne was born in salem, Massachusetts, on july 4, 1804, into the sixth generation of his salem family. His strictly Puritan ancestors included businessmen, judges and seamen. Two aspects of his family background especially affected his imagination and writing career. The Hathornes (Nathaniel added the “w” to the name” had been involved in religious persecution (intense harassment) with their first American ancestor, William. Another ancestor, John Hathorne, was one of the three judges at the seventeenth-century Salem witchcraft trials, where dozens of people were accused of, and later executed for, being “witches.”
Nathaniel’s father, a sea captain, passed away in 1808, leaving his wife and three children dependent on relatives. Nathaniel spent his early years in Salem and Maine. A leg injury forced Hawthorne to remain immobile for an extensive period of time, during which he developed an exceptional taste for reading and writing.
With the financial aid of his wealthy uncles, Hawthorne attended Bowdoin College from 1821 to 1825. While attending Bowdoin, Hawthorne read widely and received a solid education in English composition. Among his classmates were poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and future U.S. president Franklin Pierce. Although Bowdoin is small and isolated, it was an unusually good college, and Hawthorne undoubtedly profited from his formal education.
After attending Bowdoin College, Hawthorne spent the years 1825 to 1837 in his mother’s household in Salem. Later he looked back upton these years as a period of “dreamlike isolation and solitude, spent in a haunted room.” During these “solitary years” he learned to write tales and sketches that are still unique. Most of Hawthorne’s early stories were published anonymously in magazines and giftbooks. In 1837 the publication of Twice-Told Tales somewhat lifted a spell of darkness. Hawthorne’s short stories came slowly but steadily into critical...