Nathaniel Hawthorne: Biography
Nathaniel Hawthorne was a 19th century American novelist and short story writer. He is seen as a key figure in the development of American literature.
•born in Salem, Massachusetts. His father was a sea captain and descendent of John Hathorne, one of the judges who oversaw the Salem Witch Trials (author added “w” to his surname in his early twenties. His father died when he was 4 years old.
•studied at Bowdoin College in Maine. During his studies he became acquainted with future politicians and literati (H.W.Longfellow, Frankiln Pierce), and was influenced by the contemporary call for national American literature which would be independent of European themes and traditions. On graduation, he lived in seclusion at Salem, where he began to write.
•1836 left Salem and went to Boston where he took job as a Surveyor in the Custom House. He engaged to Sophia Peabody, they married in 1842
•1846 appointed surveyor at the Salem Custom House, but later lost this job because of change of administration after presidential election. He did some traveling in France and Italy.
•Hawthorne died in sleep, had three children: Una, Julian and Rose.
THE SALE GAZETTE his first stories
TWICE TOLD TALES
MOSSES FROM AN OLD MANSE
THE BIRTHMARK stimulating story of right and wrong in human conduct
THE MINISTER´S BLACK VEIL deals with hidden sin
THE SCARLET LETTER prose romance considered his masterpiece, it tells the story of Hester Prynne, who gives birth after committing adultery, refuses to name the father, and struggles to create a new life of repentance and dignity. Hawthorne explores the issues of grace, legalism and guilt.
THE HOUSE OF THE SEVEN GABLES
THE BLITHEDALE ROMANCE concerned with sin and the burden of the individual conscience
THE MARBLE FAUN
3 forces that influenced him the most: 1) Puritanism and its effects on people and society, 2) transcendentalism 3) perfectionisms
Ideas that keep reoccurring in his fiction: 1) idea of unpardonable sin, 2) human unworthiness, 3) universal brotherhood of men, 4) submission to supreme authority, 5) punishment of guilty
Nathaniel Hawthorne was imbued with an intensively meditative mind and a profound interest in the ambiguity of man’s being. He set his novels and stories in the Puritan past of New England. The Scarlet Letter is a profound psychological and moral study into the effect of sin on the human spirit.
He was preoccupied with the problem of sin, evil, guilt and punishment for transgressing the moral laws. He was especially interested in what was going on in the hearts and minds of men and women when they knew they had committed a sin. He examined the psychological and moral consequences of man’s transgression of the Puritan moral code.
Hawthorne enjoyed a brief friendship with American novelist Herman Melville, when the two authors met at a picnic hosted by a mutual friend. Melville dedicated his best work Moby Dick to Hawthorne “in appreciation for his genius”