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Nathaniel Hawthorne

Nathaniel Hawthorne Nathaniel Hawthorne[2†]

Nathaniel Hawthorne (born Nathaniel Hathorne; July 4, 1804 – May 19, 1864) was an American novelist and short story writer[1†][2†]. He was born in Salem, Massachusetts, from a family long associated with that town[1†][2†]. His works often focus on history, morality, and religion[1†][2†]. One of the greatest fiction writers in American literature, he is best known for The Scarlet Letter (1850) and The House of the Seven Gables (1851)[1†]. His writing style is characterized by a deep psychological complexity, moral metaphors, and an anti-Puritan inspiration[1†][2†]. His themes often center on the inherent evil and sin of humanity[1†][2†].

Hawthorne’s ancestors had lived in Salem since the 17th century[1†]. His earliest American ancestor, William Hathorne (Nathaniel added the ‘w’ to the name when he began to write), was a magistrate who had sentenced a Quaker woman to public whipping[1†]. He had acted as a staunch defender of Puritan orthodoxy, with its zealous advocacy of a “pure,” unaffected form of religious worship, its rigid adherence to a simple, almost severe, mode of life, and its conviction of the “natural depravity” of “fallen” man[1†].

Early Years and Education

Nathaniel Hawthorne was born on July 4, 1804, in Salem, Massachusetts[1†][3†]. He was born into the sixth generation of his Salem family, which included businessmen, judges, and seamen—all Puritans, a strict religious discipline[1†][3†]. His ancestors had lived in Salem since the 17th century[1†]. His earliest American ancestor, William Hathorne (Nathaniel added the ‘w’ to the name when he began to write), was a magistrate who had sentenced a Quaker woman to public whipping[1†]. He had acted as a staunch defender of Puritan orthodoxy[1†].

When Nathaniel’s father—a ship’s captain—died during one of his voyages, he left his young widow without means to care for her two girls and young Nathaniel, aged four[1†]. She moved in with her affluent brothers, the Mannings[1†]. Hawthorne grew up in their house in Salem and, for extensive periods during his teens, in Raymond, Maine, on the shores of Sebago Lake[1†]. A leg injury forced Hawthorne to remain immobile for a considerable period, during which he developed an exceptional taste for reading and thinking[1†][3†].

With the aid of his wealthy uncles, Hawthorne attended Bowdoin College from 1821 to 1825[1†][3†]. Among his classmates were poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and future U.S. president Franklin Pierce[1†][3†]. At Bowdoin, Hawthorne read widely and received solid instruction in English composition and the classics, particularly in Latin[1†][3†]. His refusal to participate in public speaking prevented his achievement of an outstanding academic record, but he was in good standing[1†][3†]. On one occasion he was fined 50 cents for gambling at cards, but his behavior was not otherwise singled out for official disapproval[1†][3†]. Though small and isolated, the Bowdoin of the 1820s was an unusually good college, and Hawthorne undoubtedly profited from his formal education[1†][3†].

Career Development and Achievements

After graduating from Bowdoin College in 1825, Hawthorne returned to Salem, where he began to write in earnest[2†]. His first novel, Fanshawe, was published anonymously in 1828[2†][4†]. However, the book received negative reviews, and Hawthorne later tried to suppress it, feeling that it was not equal to the standard of his later work[2†].

In the years that followed, Hawthorne wrote and published several short stories in periodicals, which he collected in 1837 as Twice-Told Tales[2†]. His writing during this period exhibits his characteristic style, marked by deep psychological complexity, moral metaphors, and an anti-Puritan inspiration[2†][5†].

In 1842, Hawthorne married Sophia Peabody and moved to The Old Manse in Concord, Massachusetts[2†]. During this period, he wrote and published his most famous work, The Scarlet Letter (1850), a novel about the consequences of adultery in a Puritan community[2†][1†][2†]. This was followed by another well-known novel, The House of the Seven Gables (1851), a Gothic tale about a cursed family[2†][1†][2†].

Hawthorne’s career also included a stint in government service. He worked as a government clerk and, during the election of 1852, wrote a campaign biography for his college friend, Franklin Pierce[2†][6†]. When Pierce won the presidency, Hawthorne was appointed consul in Liverpool, England, a position he held for several years[2†][6†].

Hawthorne’s works are considered part of the Romantic movement and, more specifically, dark romanticism[2†]. His themes often center on the inherent evil and sin of humanity, and his works often have moral messages and deep psychological complexity[2†][5†]. His published works include novels, short stories, and a biography of his college friend Franklin Pierce[2†].

First Publication of His Main Works

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s literary career began with the publication of his first work, “Fanshawe”, in 1828[2†]. However, he later tried to suppress it, feeling that it was not equal to the standard of his later work[2†].

Hawthorne published several short stories in periodicals, which he collected in 1837 as "Twice-Told Tales"[2†]. This collection includes some of his most notable early works. The following year, he became engaged to Sophia Peabody[2†].

His most outstanding works include “The Scarlet Letter” and “The House of the Seven Gables”, both of which are considered masterpieces of American literature[2†][1†][7†]. “The Scarlet Letter” was published in 1850, followed by “The House of the Seven Gables” in 1851[2†][1†][2†].

Here are some of his major works along with the information on the first year of publication:

Each of these works showcases Hawthorne’s mastery of the allegorical and symbolic tale[2†]. His themes often center on the inherent evil and sin of humanity, and his works often have moral messages and deep psychological complexity[2†].

Analysis and Evaluation

Nathaniel Hawthorne is recognized as a master of the allegorical and symbolic tale[1†]. His works often center on the inherent evil and sin of humanity, and his narratives typically have moral messages and deep psychological complexity[1†][8†].

Hawthorne’s works transmute the belief in humanity as “fallen” beings, overlaying that ancient message with the emerging value system of his own time[1†][9†]. This obsession with the concept of “sin” and its centrality for his Puritan forebears is a recurring theme throughout his oeuvre[1†][9†].

Hawthorne’s influence extends beyond literature. His exploration of moral and philosophical issues has prompted scholarly inquiry and investigation, underscoring his impact on American thought and culture[1†][8†].

His legacy as one of the greatest fiction writers in American literature is undisputed[1†]. His novels, “The Scarlet Letter” and “The House of the Seven Gables”, are considered masterpieces and are still widely read and studied today[1†][10†].

Personal Life

Nathaniel Hawthorne was born into the sixth generation of his Salem family, with ancestors that included businessmen, judges, and seamen—all Puritans[3†]. His father, a sea captain, died in 1808, leaving his wife and three children dependent on relatives[3†]. Nathaniel, the only son, spent his early years in Salem and in Maine[3†]. A leg injury forced Hawthorne to remain immobile for a considerable period, during which he developed an exceptional taste for reading and thinking[3†]. His childhood was calm, a little isolated but far from unhappy, especially since as a handsome and attractive only son he was idolized by his mother and his two sisters[3†].

Hawthorne married his wife, Sophia, in 1842, and moved to Concord, Massachusetts, a hotbed of literary activity and home to Emerson, Margaret Fuller, and Henry David Thoreau[3†][6†]. Living in the Old Manse, the house of Emerson’s grandfather, Hawthorne entered a very productive phase and he wrote sketches and tales[3†][6†].

Conclusion and Legacy

Nathaniel Hawthorne is regarded as one of the greatest fiction writers in American literature[11†]. He was a skillful craftsman with an architectonic sense of form, as displayed in the tightly woven structure of his works[11†]. His masterful use of prose style clearly revealed his characters’ psychological and moral depths[11†].

Hawthorne’s works often dealt with the inherent evil and sin of humanity[11†][12†]. His works, such as “The Scarlet Letter” and “The House of the Seven Gables”, are still widely read and studied today[11†][1†][12†]. They continue to influence writers and resonate with contemporary readers, offering a rich source of literary and philosophical reflection.

Key Information

References and Citations:

  1. Britannica - Nathaniel Hawthorne: American writer [website] - link
  2. Wikipedia (English) - Nathaniel Hawthorne [website] - link
  3. Encyclopedia of World Biography - Nathaniel Hawthorne Biography [website] - link
  4. Famous Authors - Nathaniel Hawthorne [website] - link
  5. LitPriest - Nathaniel Hawthorne's Literary Style & Short Biography [website] - link
  6. ThoughtCo - Biography of Nathaniel Hawthorne [website] - link
  7. Book Series In Order - Nathaniel Hawthorne [website] - link
  8. The Pennsylvania State Univerity Press - Nathaniel Hawthorne Review [website] - link
  9. eNotes - The Scarlet Letter Analysis [website] - link
  10. eNotes - Nathaniel Hawthorne Analysis [website] - link
  11. Britannica - Why is Nathaniel Hawthorne important? [website] - link
  12. Britannica - Nathaniel Hawthorne summary [website] - link
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