Nathaniel Hawthorne and the Puritan Past

Topics: Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter, Short story Pages: 6 (2321 words) Published: September 13, 2006
Nathaniel Hawthorne and the Puritan Past

"I have sometimes produced a singular and not unpleasing effect, so far as my own mind was concerned, by imagining a train of incidents in which the spirit and mechanism of the fairyland should be combined with the characters and manners of familiar life." - Nathaniel Hawthorne

Nathaniel Hawthorne is an American novelist and short story writer, the most famous novel that he did is, The Scarlet Letter. He called himself a writer of romances, allegorical tales of times long past with supernatural overtones. However, many of his stories came right out of the pages of his own family history in Salem. He was still struggling to relieve himself of the heavy psychic burden of his family's past.

Puritanism had shaped his first full-length romance written in 1850, The Scarlet Letter, with its emphasis on secret sin, pride, vengefulness and shame. The House of the Seven Gables, in 1851, continued to deal with this burden in its opening lines that described a witch's curse on a Puritan magistrate who choked to death on his own blood.

Hawthorne was born in Salem, Massachusetts on July 4, 1804, where his house is now a house museum. He is a son of a captain. Hawthorne turned to writing after his graduation from Bowdoin College. He wrote several successful short stories which were collected in Twice-Told Tales in 1837.

However, insufficient earnings as a writer forced him to take a job in Salem Custom House. In 1842, after he was able to earn money he marries Sophia Peabody and move to Concord.
Hawthorne returned to Salem in 1845. Five years after his most famous novel, The Scarlet Letter was published. His next novel was The House of the Seven Gables in 1851. He also wrote classic works for children entitled A Wonder Book in 1852 and Tanglewood Tales in 1853, which was a re-writing some of the most famous of thye ancient Greek myths in a volume for children. He wrote another novel in 1860 entitled The Marble Faun and an account of a journey to England Our Old Home in 1860.

Much of Hawthorne's work is set in colonial New England and many of his short stories have been read as moral allegories influenced by his Puritan background. His story entitled, "Ethan Brand" in 1859 tells the story of a lime burner who sets off to find the Unpardonable Sin, and in doing so, commits it. One of his most famous tales is, The Birth Mark in 1843. It concerns a young doctor who removes a birthmark from his wife's face, an operation which kills her.

Recent criticism has focused on Hawthorne's narrative voice, treating it as a self-conscious rhetorical construction, not to be conflated with Hawthorne's own voice. Such an approach complicates the long-dominant tradition of regarding Hawthorne as a gloomy, guilt-ridden moralist.

Hawthorne became popular especially in the field of literature. He brought o many works in different parts of the world. He became one of the most modern writers because he is relevant in his theme and attitude. According to H.H. Waggoner, his attitude used irony, ambiguity, and paradox. He also rounds off the Puritan cycle in American writing because of his belief in the existence of an active evil or "the devil" and in a sense of determinism or "the concept of predestination." His life also became a source of learning because he uses psychological analysis, which is one of the interests today.

His themes in his different fictions have made him successful and became famous in the whole world. He uses alienation where the character is in state of isolation because of self-cause, or a combination of both; the initiation which involves the attempts of an alienated character to get rid of his isolated condition; the problem of guilt where the character's sense of guilt forced by the puritanical heritage or by society, it is also a guilt versus the innocence; the pride, which Hawthorne treat it as the evil. In his works he has...
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