May 8, 2011

Nathaniel Hawthorne

Nathaniel Hawthorne

19th century American novelist and short story writer
  • Full Name: Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • Birth: July 4, 1804
  • Death: May 19, 1864
  • Place of Birth: 27 Hardy Street in Salem, Massachusetts
  • Buried at: Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord, Massachusetts
  • Father: Nathaniel Hathorne
  • Mother: Elizabeth Clarke Manning
  • Number of sisters: 2 (Elizabeth and Maria Louisa)
  • Marriage: 1842
  • Spouse: Sophia Peabody
  • Number of Children: 3 (Una, Julian and Rose)
  • Education: Bowdoin College (graduated in 1825)
  • Known for: symbolic and allegorical exploration of a variety of complex moral and psychological issues, especially those related to transgression, sense of guilt, retribution and redemption usually set against the sombre backdrop of the Puritan New England
  • Criticised for: his detachment from major political issues of his days
  • Influenced: Henry David Thoreau, Herman Melville, Henry James, and William Dean Howells


“What other dungeon is so dark as one's own heart! What jailer so inexorable as one's self!”
“The House of the Seven Gables” (1851) Chapter XI : The Arched Window

Major Themes:

  • Social discrepancies
  • Human sorrow
  • Alienation
  • Pride
  • Evil
  • Sin/crime
  • Punishment/retribution
  • Problem of guilt
  • Regeneration/salvation/ redemption
  • Puritan New England
  • Italian background

Notable Works:

  • Fanshawe (1828)
  • The Scarlet Letter (1850)
  • The House of Seven Gables (1851)
  • The Blithedale Romance (1852)
  • The Marble Faun (1860)
  • The Dolliver Romance (1863) (fragmentary)
  • Septimius Felton [or, the Elixir of Life] (Published in the Atlantic Monthly, 1872)
  • Doctor Grimshawe's Secret (1882) (fragmentary)
Short Story Collections
  • Twice-Told Tales (1837)
  • Grandfather's Chair (1840)
  • Mosses from an Old Manse (1846)
  • The Snow-Image, and Other Twice-Told Tales (1852)
  • A Wonder-Book for Girls and Boys (1852)
  • Tanglewood Tales (1853)
  • The Dolliver Romance and Other Pieces (1876)
  • The Great Stone Face and Other Tales of the White Mountains (1889)
  • The Celestial Railroad and Other Short Stories
Selected Short Stories
  • "Roger Malvin's Burial" (1832)
  • "My Kinsman, Major Molineux" (1832)
  • "Young Goodman Brown" (1835)
  • "The Gray Champion" (1835)
  • "The White Old Maid" (1835)
  • "Wakefield" (1835)
  • "The Ambitious Guest" (1835)
  • "The Minister's Black Veil" (1836)
  • "The Man of Adamant" (1837)
  • "The Maypole of Merry Mount" (1837)
  • "The Great Carbuncle" (1837)
  • "Dr. Heidegger's Experiment" (1837)
  • "A Virtuoso's Collection" (May 1842)
  • "The Birth-Mark" (March 1843)
  • "Egotism; or, The Bosom-Serpent" (1843)
  • "The Artist of the Beautiful" (1844)
  • "Rappaccini's Daughter" (1844)
  • "P.'s Correspondence" (1845)

Did You Know?

  • His precursors were Puritans, they included businessmen, judges, and seamen.
  • His earliest ancestor William Hathorne, a magistrate in Salem was involved in religious harassment, likewise his eldest son John Hathorne, also a magistrate, inherited the same persecuting spirit and displayed it by playing a disputed role in the notorious Salem Witch Trials in 1962.
  • His father was a ship captain who died of yellow fever on board in 1808 when Hawthorne was only four years old.
  • In practical life Hawthorne was essentially reclusive.
  • Hawthorne’s shy and bookish childhood engendered his aspiration for becoming a writer.
  • Hawthorne was a fair scholar, during graduation he ranked eighteenth in a class of thirty-eight students.
  • Amongst Hawthorne’s fellow students at Bowdoin College was the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow , Franklin Pierce, the 14th president of the United states of America, and Horatio Bridge who served in the Navy with distinction.
  • After graduation, he changed his last name from “Hathorne” to “Hawthorne”, presumably to isolate himself from his ancestry (but no strong claim cannot be made to support it).
  • Hawthorne had always been a loyal member of the Democratic Party.
  • Hawthorne always had a fear that involvement in any job other than writing would hamper the normal flow of his authorship.
  • Hawthorne published his first novel Fanshawe anonymously at his own expense in 1828 but the attempt was largely unsuccessful and out of frustration he sought to retrieve and burn all copies of the book.
  • He wrote his famous novel The Scarlet Letter being tormented by his mother’s death.
  • His last fully finished work was Marble Faun.
  • Many of his fragmentary works were published posthumously.
  • The majority of Hawthorne's early stories were first published in various periodicals and subsequently collected in book form.
  • Hawthorne was an Anti-transcendentalist writer although his friends included a number of contemporary Transcendentalists like Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and Ellery Channing.
  • Hawthorne was the first writer to apply artistic judgment to Puritan society.
  • Hawthorne’s theme of sin, punishment, and redemption was essentially moulded by a sense of guilt, which he traced to his ancestor's actions.
  • He died at the age of 60 (allegedly in his sleep), in Plymouth, New Hampshire, after suffering a long-term illness from severe dementia.
  • After Hawthorne’s demise Emerson described his life as “painful solitude”.
  • Soon after Hawthorne’s death, Longfellow wrote the poem entitled Hawthorne to pay homage to his friend’s creative power.


“Nathaniel Hawthorne.” Wikipedia. 2011. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 4 May 2011
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“Nathaniel Hawthorne.” eNotes. 2011., Inc. 4 May 2011
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“Nathaniel Hawthorne Quick Facts.” Microsoft Encarta. DVD-ROM. Redmond: Microsoft, 2005.
Tanvir Shameem Tanvir Shameem is not the biggest fan of teaching, but he is doing his best to write on various topics of language and literature just to guide thousands of students and researchers across the globe. You can always find him experimenting with presentation, style and diction. He will contribute as long as time permits. You can find him on:


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