Nathaniel hawthorne a balanced approach to transcendentalism
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Nathaniel Hawthorne A Balanced Approach to Transcendentalism. Introduction to The Scarlet Letter AP English Literature and Composition. The Life of Hawthorne. Hawthorne was born on July 4th, 1804 in Salem, Mass. Father: Nathaniel Hathorne Sr. was a sea captain.

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Nathaniel Hawthorne A Balanced Approach to Transcendentalism

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Nathaniel HawthorneA Balanced Approach to Transcendentalism

Introduction to TheScarlet Letter

AP English Literature and Composition

The Life of Hawthorne

  • Hawthorne was born on July 4th, 1804 in Salem, Mass.

  • Father: Nathaniel Hathorne Sr. was a sea captain.

  • Mother: Elizabeth Clarke Manning was a descendent of blacksmiths

The Life of Hawthorne

  • Hawthorne attended Bowdoin College

  • After his graduation he turned to writing.

  • He wrote several successful short stories which were collected in Twice-Told Tales (1837).

The Life of Hawthorne

  • Hawthorne returned to Salem where he met Sophia Peabody.

  • After a five year engagement, they were married in 1842.

The Life of Hawthorne

  • Unable to support his new family by writing, in 1846 Hawthorne accepted a political appointment to the Salem Custom House as Surveyor of the Port .

The Life of Hawthorne

  • This bureaucratic position stunted Hawthorne’s creativity.

  • A change in administration, however, led to his termination in 1849.

  • Hawthorne’s mother died at the same time.

The Life of Hawthorne

  • Suffering these losses, Hawthorne left Salem, which he called "that abominable city," saying that he now had no reason to remain.

  • He would never again return.

The Life of Hawthorne

  • Some critics have suggested that the loss of both his position and mother provided the creative impetus to write The Scarlet Letter (1850).

The Life of Hawthorne

  • Hawthorne’s connection to Salem haunted him.

  • His great-grandfather John Hathorne was the chief-interrogator of the “Salem Witches.”

The Life of Hawthorne

  • The story that Hawthorne added the "w" to his name to distance himself from his Hathorne ancestors has no clear evidence to support it.

The Life of Hawthorne

  • In 1830, however, he published "The Hollow of the Three Hills," under the name of Nathaniel Hathorne.

  • After this date his name appears as Nathaniel Hawthorne.

The Life of Hawthorne

Other Published works:

  • Twice-Told Tales, The House of the Seven Gables, The Mable Faun, Our Old Home, and children’s books A Wonder Book, and Tanglewood Tales.

The Life of Hawthorne

  • Nathaniel Hawthorne died on May 18, 1864 in Plymouth, New Hampshire.

  • He is credited with writing the first truly American novel: The Scarlet Letter.

Influences upon Hawthorne’s Work


  • Sophia desired to paint, write, and pursue a profession

  • She was limited by social constraints and motherhood

Influences upon Hawthorne’s Work

  • Female characters are often portrayed as sympathetic

  • Idea of “Female Purity”

    • Influence of Puritan heritage

Influences upon Hawthorne’s Work

Puritan New England

  • Many works are set in New England

  • Puritan belief in an “active evil” (Devil)

  • Salem communities are often viewed as hypocritical – Salem Witch Trials

Literary Thematic Concepts

  • Alienation – a character is isolated due to self-cause or societal-cause

  • Guilt vs. Innocence – a character’s sense of guilt caused by Puritanical values/heritage

Literary Thematic Concepts

  • Individual vs. Society

  • Self-reliance vs. Accommodation

  • Hypocrisy vs. Integrity

  • Fate vs. Free Will

  • Unconventional Gender Roles

  • Impossibility of Human Perfection


  • Hawthorne makes use of the following patterns of images:

  • Light vs. Dark

  • Natural vs. Unnatural

  • Sunshine vs. Firelight or Moonlight and Reflections

Romantic/Gothic Motifs

  • Fantasies

  • Dreams

  • Reveries

  • Open-ended endings and unanswered questions – the open-ended possibilities of the idealistic Romantic


  • Started in Western Europe and migrated into America lasting from 1800-1855. (The end of the Puritans and the beginning of the Industrial Revolution).

  • Reaction against “Classicism” and “The Age of Reason”.

  • Inspired by the nation’s westward expansion, youthful optimism, and desire for literary independence.

Classic Traits of Romanticism

  • 1. Imagination reveals the depth of the human spirit.

  • 2. Enthusiastic about national life and the common man.

  • 3. Celebrates the beauty and mystery of nature.

  • 4. Celebrates and focuses on improving the individual.

  • 5. Fascination with supernatural, the afterlife, and the gothic.

  • 6. Sense of idealism and optimism or exaggeration.

European Romance vs. The American Novel

  • Hawthorne struggled against the European model of the Romance.

  • Through The Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne developed the first truly American Novel.

  • The advent of the Industrial Revolution brought on a darker vision of American life.

  • These romantics examined the complex and mysterious forces that motivate human behavior.

  • Dark Romantics: In your notes write how each of these writers exemplified “dark romantic” trends in their literary work.

    • Nathanial Hawthorne - Scarlet Letter

    • Herman Melville - Moby-Dick & “Bartleby the Scrivener”

    • Edgar Allan Poe - Various poems and short stories

  • Split Romantic views led to the development of Transcendentalism

Hawthorne’s Views of Transcendentalism

  • Hawthorne did not conform to the Romantic focus on the emotions and abandonment of reason.

  • Hawthorne strove to create a balance between “head and heart.”

Hawthorne’s Views of Transcendentalism

  • Hawthorne believed that human fulfillment was achieved through a balance between mind, reason, heart, spirit, will, and imagination.

  • Hawthorne’s balanced approach placed him in opposition to other Transcendentalists – Emerson, Thoreau, and Longfellow.

Clash with Transcendentalism

  • Hawthorne saw potential problems with Emerson’s idea of self-reliance.

  • Self-reliance can lead to excessive pride.

  • Hawthorne believed in determinism, or natural order.

Clash with Transcendentalism

  • Transcendentalists were overwhelmingly abolitionists – Hawthorne wasn’t entirely sure of his position.

  • He questioned the motives and principles of the Northern authorities.

Clash with Transcendentalism

Hawthorne’s Response:

  • "What a terrible thing it is to try to let off a little bit of truth into this miserable humbug of a world!"

The American Novel

  • Where the Romance incorporated the Gothic elements of crime, religion, ghosts, etc. as the focus of the story, Hawthorne used these elements as a means to support his story.

  • Hawthorne’s Novel was not a means of escape, but rather a means to examine society and life.

  • His novel invited criticism of the worlds he reflected – Puritanism.

Hawthorne’s Novel

  • Hawthorne’s novel found relevance as more than mere entertainment, but as something more prophetic and integral to the American Identity.

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