Nathaniel Hawthorne 1804-1864 The Salem Witch Trials began in 1692. • It is believed that having learned about this, the Nathaniel added the “w” to his surname in his early twenties, shortly after graduating from college.
• Hawthorne’s father, Nathaniel Hathorne, Sr., was a sea captain who died in 1808 of yellow fever, when Hawthorne was only four years old, in Raymond, Maine.
• Hawthorne attended Bowdoin College at the expense of an uncle from 1821 to 1824, befriending classmates Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and future president Franklin Pierce. • Hawthorne was hired in 1839 as a weigher and gauger at the Boston Custom House. • He had become engaged in the previous year to the transcendentalist Sophia Peabody. • He joined the transcendentalist utopian community at Brook Farm in 1841.
Brook Farm In 1846, Hawthorne was appointed surveyor (determining the quantity and value of imported goods) at the Salem Custom House.
A Democrat, Hawthorne lost this job due to the change of administration in Washington after the presidential election of 1848 of Whig Zachary Taylor.
Hawthorne’s career as a novelist gained notice with The Scarlet Letter in 1850, in which the preface refers to his three-year tenure in the Custom House at Salem. The Salem Custom House The Boston Custom House • Hawthorne wrote during the Romantic Period This literary period emphasized profound emotion as an authentic source of aesthetic experience, placing new emphasis on such experiences as apprehension, horror and terror, and awe—especially that which is experienced in confronting the beauty of nature
He and his new bride, transcendentalist Sophia Peabody, moved in as newlyweds and lived there for three years The Old Manse was built in 1770, in Concord, MA, by Rev. William Emerson, father of noted minister Rev. William Emerson and grandfather of famous transcendentalist writer and lecturer Ralph Waldo Emerson. Common themes and characteristics in Hawthorne’s works . . .
Alienation - a character is in a state of isolation because of self- cause, or societal cause, or a combination of both.
Initiation - involves the attempts of an alienated character to get rid of his isolated condition.
Guilt - a character’s sense of guilt is forced by the Puritanical heritage or by society
Pride - Hawthorne treats pride as evil; physical pride, spiritual pride (“Young Goodman Brown”), and intellectual pride (“Rappaccini’s Daughter”). Puritan New England - used as a background and setting in many tales
Italian background (local color) - appears especially in The Marble Faun and “Rappaccini’s Daughter”
Allegory - Hawthorne’s writing is allegorical, didactic, and moralistic
Types of Conflict that appear in Hawthorne works - • Individual vs. society • Self-fulfillment vs. accommodation or frustration • Hypocrisy vs. integrity • Love vs. hate, exploitation vs. private suffering • Fate vs. free will The Scarlet Letter • Published in 1850 • Is a Gothic American romance novel and ALLEGORY • Set in Puritan New England (specifically Boston) in the seventeenth century • Is the story of Hester Prynne, who gives birth after committing adultery to Pearl and refuses to name the father, Rev. Dimmesdale, and struggles to create a new life of repentance and dignity • Explores the issues of grace, legalism (an emphasis on conduct/discipline), and guilt A few critical words about Hawthorne . . .
“There can be little doubt of Hawthorne’s disdain for the stern morality and rigidity of the Puritans, and he imagined his predecessors’ disdainful view of him: unsuccessful in their eyes, worthless and disgraceful. ‘A writer of story books!’”
“But even as he disagrees with his ancestors’ viewpoint, he also feels an instinctual/innate connection to them and, more importantly, a ‘sense of place’ in Salem.”
“Their blood remains in his veins, but their intolerance and lack of humanity becomes the subject of his disapproval in The Scarlet Letter.” Allusions in The Scarlet Letter . . .
Anne Hutchinson, mentioned in Chapter 1, The Prison Door, was a religious dissenter (1591– 1643)
Ann Hibbins, who historically was executed for witchcraft in Boston in 1656, is depicted in The Scarlet Letter as a witch who tries to tempt Prynne to the practice of witchcraft Richard Bellingham, who historically was the governor of Massachusetts and deputy governor at the time of Hibbins’s execution
Martin Luther (1483–1545) and the Protestant Reformation in Germany
Sir Thomas Overbury and Dr. Forman were the subjects of an adultery scandal in 1615 in England. Dr. Forman was charged with trying to poison his adulterous wife and her lover. Overbury was a friend of the lover and was perhaps poisoned
John Winthrop (1588–1649), first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony King’s Chapel Burying Ground in Boston (mentioned in the final paragraph)
Elizabeth Pain gravestone in Boston is traditionally considered an inspiration for the protagonist’s grave
The story of King David and Bathsheba is depicted in the tapestry in Mr. Dimmesdale’s room (Chapter 9). (II Samuel 11-12) Pearl . . .
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.”
Matthew 13:45-46 The scaffold symbolizes the cruel public exposure of private sins and the means of redemption through public confession. Nature in The Scarlet Letter . . .
• Is a kind of “character” in the world of The Scarlet Letter
• Is often personified as listening, commenting on, and interacting with the characters in the novel
• Separates the Puritan society of Boston from outside influences
• The town is bordered on one side by a huge expanse of woods, home to Native Americans (the Wampanoag tribes) • The Atlantic Ocean creates a water feature boundary as well
• Provides contrast to the austere ethos of Puritan society
• From the beginning of this story, the narrator states that nature is “kind and generous,” contrasting heavily with the cold and strict ethos of Puritan society Principal Themes . . .
Revenge Revenge is an unnatural act that twists a person’s soul into something evil. Not only does it alter a person’s basic personality, but it never satisfies
Women and femininity Hester Prynne is willing to take on her own shame while protecting the male
Compassion and Forgiveness In Christianity, grace and forgiveness are frequently contrasted with the law. A legalistic faith (such as the Puritan one) suggests that conformity to a strict set of rules
Sin Sin is clearly a matter of great importance in the mid-17th century Puritan community of The Scarlet Letter
Hypocrisy Hypocrisy is seen not only as a sin in The Scarlet Letter, but as a sin that leads to great personal injury (Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale, a religious figure, comes to embody hypocrisy and suffers emotionally and physically) Justice and Judgment The Massachusetts Bay Colony have a “finely tuned” sense of justice based on a partnership of religion and law
Isolation Hester Prynne lives in isolation
The Supernatural The devil’s presence, meteors in the shape of an “A,” witches, etc.
Fate and Free Will Each person’s life follows a specific and set path. (Puritans believed in Divine Providence and the Doctrine of the Elect)
Guilt and Blame Guilt and blame weave in and out of the hearts of the characters that inhabit the society of The Scarlet Letter Major symbols in The Scarlet Letter . . .
•The letter “A” Gold thread around the letter “A”
•The letter “A” on Dimmesdale’s chest •Scaffold •Prison •The color red/scarlet •Day/night •Woods •Rosebush •Character names: Dimmesdale, Chillingworth, Pearl •Meteor •Sunshine/light/truth •Shadow •Black man in the forest Puritanism . . .
• United devotion to Christianity is essential
• Government will address both civil and religious matters (theocracy)
• The good of the public is greater than the good of the individual
• Service to the Lord improves lives
• If you break the bond with community or God, you will suffer God’s wrath Here are some ESSENTIAL QUESTIONS for you to think about as you begin your reading assignment . . . • How does the time in which one lives impact one’s beliefs and actions? • In what ways does society use stigmas in order to deem what is socially acceptable? • Is sin a conflict with oneself, society, or God? Should there be punishment, and if so, by whom? • Can there be mitigating circumstances that exonerate a “sinner”? • Are women held to a different moral standard from men? • Does love “conquer all [obstacles]”? If yes, how so? If not, in what kinds of situations does it not? • How can obsession be an impediment to achieving happiness? • How does remaining true to oneself become essential in order to maintain one’s identity? • What happens when people’s desires conflict with society’s expectations?