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Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864). 1804- Born in Salem MA. Early Influences. 6 th generation of Puritan settlers to New England; strict religious upbringing Great grandfather John Hawthorne… one of 3 judges who presided over the Salem Witch Trials of the late 17 th century

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Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864)

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Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864)

1804- Born in Salem MA

Early Influences

  • 6th generation of Puritan settlers to New England; strict religious upbringing

  • Great grandfather John Hawthorne… one of 3 judges who presided over the Salem Witch Trials of the late 17th century

  • His father, a sea captain, was lost at sea when Hawthorne was 8…raised by a “single mother”

Attends Bowdoin College (Maine)…meets lifelong friends…

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Franklin Pierce

Early Writings

  • Lives w/ mother from 1825-1840 (good mama’s boy)

  • Remembers later “period of dreamlike isolation and solitude spent in a haunted room”

  • Develops style—and discipline—to be a writer

    -fan of both early gothic writing [Frankenstein] and the sketches of Washington Irving

  • Writes many of his best known short stories at this time

  • Finally [FINALLY!] marries Sophia Peabody in 1842 and moves to Concord MA

Concord…A Lovely Town, but not for a Dark Soul like Nathaniel Hawthorne

Great writers and thinkers of the time lived in and around Concord…

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Henry David Thoreau

His new neighbors and acquaintances found him too moody, pessimistic and bizarre; he never fit in with the “enlightened thinkers” of American Romanticism, so he left Concord and set sights on leaving his own mark.

1850-1853: The Glory Years

  • 1850- The House of the Seven Gables

  • 1850- The Scarlet Letter

  • 1851- The Blithedale Romance

  • 1852- A Wonder Book

  • 1853- Begins deep friendship with a young Herman Melville [Moby Dick] who later dedicates novel to Hawthorne

  • 1853- Franklin Pierce becomes 14th President; becomes consul to England & Italy for 4 years

Died May 19, 1864

Two years before his death, he begins to age suddenly: hair turns pure white; handwriting changes; suffers frequent nosebleeds.

Begins to obsessively write “64” on scraps of paper, much to the horror of friends and family.

Dies on a hiking trip in New Hampshire with Franklin Pierce. Buried on Author’s Ridge in the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord, Massachusetts.

Major Themes in Hawthorne’s Fiction

  • Puritan New England…esp. Salem & Boston

  • Human Pride

  • Guilt, Sin, Temptation…Inherited Sin

  • “Evil Lurking in the Forest”…Belief in the Devil

  • Alienated Characters: man vs. nature; man vs. himself; man vs. society

  • Gothic Ideal of science corrupting Nature & Mankind

Hawthorne’s Romantic Style

  • Writes in elaborate, elegant, sophisticated style…common of the time

  • Extensiveuse of symbolism and allegory

  • Nature portrayed as foreboding, mystical , dark…mirrors the human soul

  • Biblical allusions and concepts

  • Bizarre characters, plots…exotic settings in the past (Renaissance Italy, America’s Puritan past)

  • Mistaken identity and Ambiguity: reader is left to question events (Did that really happen?)

Hawthorne’s Literary Contributions

  • First master practitioner of the short story

  • Wrote classic Romance novels (Scarlet Letter)

  • Often used female protagonists; developed sympathetic portrayal of women in literature

  • First American author to examine motivations and psychology of his characters; move towards realism

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