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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

Nathaniel HawthorneA Balanced Approach to Transcendentalism

Introduction to TheScarlet Letter

AP English Literature and Composition

the life of hawthorne
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 hawthorne1
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 hawthorne2
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 hawthorne3
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 hawthorne4
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 hawthorne5
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.
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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 hawthorne7
The Life of Hawthorne
  • Hawthorne’s connection to Salem haunted him.
  • His great-grandfather John Hathorne was the chief-interrogator of the “Salem Witches.”
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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
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 work1
Influences upon Hawthorne’s Work
  • Female characters are often portrayed as sympathetic
  • Idea of “Female Purity”
    • Influence of Puritan heritage
influences upon hawthorne s work2
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
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 concepts1
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
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
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
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’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 transcendentalism1
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
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 transcendentalism1
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 transcendentalism2
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
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
  • Hawthorne’s novel found relevance as more than mere entertainment, but as something more prophetic and integral to the American Identity.