Nathaniel Hawthorne1804-1864 Born in Salem, Massachusetts on July 4, 1804 Five generations removed from his Puritan American ancestors
College years… • Hawthorne attended Bowdoin College (1821-1825) in Salem • There he befriended poet Longfellow • He engrossed himself in historical study and learning the writer’s craft • Of himself he said he was “always reading”.
Hawthorne’s Life • Hawthorne became secretly engaged to Sophia Peabody in 1838. • He tried a short stint of living in a commune, but decided he didn’t like it and couldn’t bring his bride there • So, he married Sophia in 1842 and they settled in Concord
Hawthorne’s Literary Career • He published his first novel, Fanshawe, in 1828 • It was recalled and almost completely destroyed • He published a collection of short stories in Twice-Told Tales in 1837 • Then Hawthorne had a three year political appointment in the Salem Custom House just prior to his publication of The Scarlet Letter, published in 1850 • Much to Hawthorne’s surprise The Scarlet Letter was a success and brought him fame.
The Scarlet Letter • The Scarlet Letter is considered the first symbolic novel of American Literature • The Puritan past of Hawthorne’s family led him to a long investigation of the problems of moral and social responsibility • Hawthorne was also fascinated with the Calvinistic idea of the damnation of man, the consciousness of sin and its impact on the human soul. This ties to the Puritan conscience.
The Scarlet Letter cont. • “The Scarlet Letter A which Hester Prynne wears is not only a public sign of her adultery and a token of her humility as a confessed sinner; it is also her badge of pride in her naturalness and in defiance of her neighbor’s bigotry.” - The Reader’s Companion to World Literature, Second Edition, 1984
What kind of writer was Hawthorne? • An American Romantic writer. He called his novels romances. • Say what?! • Well, to understand we need to look at a few terms.
Symbolism: • Broadly meaning the use of one object to represent another. • In the mid-1800s Romanticism (romantic symbolism) became a literary movement in America • “In this movement the details of the natural world and the actions of people were used to suggest ideas.” -A Handbook to Literature, Eighth Edition, 2000 • This movement was developed by the thoughts of Transcendentalists
Transcendentalists: • Live close to nature • The dignity of manual labor • Emphasized spiritual living • Relationship to God through the individual rather than a ritualistic church • Democracy and Individualism • Hawthorne was an American Romantic without being a Transcendentalist • Meaning…
Continued… • Romanticism tends to regard nature as a revelation of Truth, The Absolute, The Ideal, by transcending the actual. • They also believed the individual is the center of all life • The individual is the center of art • Literature as the expression of unique feelings, particular attitudes and faithfully portraying experiences as they were even if incomplete.
Romanticism and The Scarlet Letter • Hawthorne said of The Scarlet Letter, “the Actual and the Imaginary may meet.” • The unique thing about Hawthorne- psychological and historical realism is interwoven with his symbolic vision!
Hawthorne’s ending • Hawthorne died May 18, 1864 at Plymouth, New Hampshire on a walking tour • Left behind his wife and 3 children