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Hawthorne, Nathaniel. (1804 - 1864).

L i f e

- born in Salem (Massachusetts) in a Puritan family

- ambivalent about his Puritan heritage: admired the strong will x but: disapproved of the dogmatic behaviour

- secretive about his private life x but: spoke more about himself and with greater honesty than any other American of his generation: prefaces to all his books, journals recording his daily activities, and his stories and romances filled with anguished confessions

> the subject of admiration by Edgar Allen Poe, Henry James, Thomas Hardy, and D. H. Lawrence; the dedicatee of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick

W o r k

G e n r e :

- Romance as defined in his Preface to The House of Seven Gables (1851)

- the essential difference between the romance x the novel lies in the imaginative freedom granted to the writer of a romance enabling him to pursue psychological and mythical truth more single-mindedly

- Novel aims ‘at a very minute fidelity, not merely to the possible, but to the probable and ordinary course of man’s experience’

- Romance presents ‘the truth of the human heart...under circumstances...of the writer’s own...creation’, incl. ‘the Marvellous’

- refuses moralising: ‘to impale the story with its by sticking a pin through a butterfly’ means ‘thus at once depriving it of life’

S o u r c e  o f  I m a g i n a t i o n :

(a) Puritanism and history:

- the concept of human nature as sinful and corrupted

- interested in the psychological rather than the theological aspects of sin

(b) Romanticism and Transcendentalism:

- the concept of man’s nature as good x but: corrupted by the society

- interested in Gothic romances as a youth

C o n c e r n :

- the psychological effect of the conviction of sin on one's life

- the Calvinist sin of pride as the Unpardonable Sin: the rejection of love, isolation from community, and Faustian desire for a higher knowledge

- preoccupied with women of strong passions and the inner world of isolated individual trying to regain a place in society

- laid more emphasis on sin and retribution than on reformation through the divine grace x but: did not consider all sinners hopelessly damned

- created a theology personal to himself: believed in the original sin, predestination, providence, his own unworthiness, and the impeding punishment

R o m a n c e s :

Fanshawe (1828):

- a story of abduction: the ward of a rural American college president kidnapped and saved by the eponymous student x but: refuses to marry her, and prefers reading himself to an early grave

The Scarlet Letter (1850)
The House of Seven Gables (1851)
The Blithedale Romance (1852):

 - a satire on the pretensions and delusions of social reformers

The Marble Faun (1859):

- a conflict between the American x Old World values in the Italian setting

S h o r t  S t o r i e s :

Twice Told Tales (1839)
Mosses from an Old Manse (1846)
The Snow-Image and Other Twice Told Tales (1852)


(Picture: Wikipedia Commons).

  • Author

    Born Hathorne. Changed his name to Hawthorne. (1804 - 1864). American.
  • Work

    Novelist. Short story writer. Author of The Scarlet Letter (1850).
  • Genre



Baym, Nina, ed. The Norton Anthology of American Literature. New York: W. W. Norton, 1995.

Bercovitch, Sacvan, ed. The Cambridge History of American  Literature. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995.

Cunliffe, Marcus. The Literature of the United States. London: Penguin, 1991.

Lauter, Paul, ed. The Heath Anthology of American Literature. Lexington: D. C. Heath, 1994.

McQuade, Donald, gen.ed. The Harper American Literature. New York: Harper & Collins, 1996.

Ruland, Richard, Malcolm Bradbury. Od  puritanismu k postmodernismu. Praha: Mladá fronta, 1997.

Vančura, Zdeněk, ed. Slovník spisovatelů: Spojené státy americké. Praha: Odeon, 1979.

His Short Stories

“My Kinsman, Major Molineux” (1832)

“Roger Malvin’s Burial” (1832)

“The Grey Champion” (1835)

“Young Goodman Brown (1835)

“Egotism; Or, the Bosom Serpent” (1843)

“Ethan Brand” (1850)


"There is evil in every human heart, which may remain latent, perhaps, through the whole of life; but circumstances may rouse it to activity".

Nathaniel Hawthorne. The basic idea and starting point for his writing.


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