Nathaniel Hawthorne

Was born→ in Salem, Massachusetts, on July 4th 1804.
His ancestor→ had settled there during the 17th century and had been involved in the witch trials’ of the city.
His father→ He lost him at the age of four
His early years→ He spent part of his early years in his house because of his sickness.
His formation→ He attended Bowdoin College in Maine
His first novel→ Fanshawe (1828.)
His collection of short stories→ Twice Told Tales (1837), Mosses from an Old Manse(1846), these are formed by allegorical stories focused on the theme of moral conflicts imposed by the Puritan code.
His job→ in order to got more money, he found a job in the Boston Custom House,
His wife→ His new job enabled him to marry Sophia Peabody in 1842, They moved to Concord which was considered as a intellectual centre.
Financial problems→ they forced Hawthorne to return to Salem and resume his old job.
His masterpiece→ The Scarlet Letter(1850)
Other novel→ The House of the Seven Gables(1851), The Blithedale Romance(1852).
His friend’s campaign biography→ He wrote a campaign biography for His friend, Franklin Pierce, who won the presidential election in 1853.
U.S consul→Hawthorne was appointed U.S consul in Liverpool.
Other novel writted in Europe→ During his journey through Italy and France He wrote The Marble Faun(1860).
His death→ He spent his last days in Concord, he worked at three new novels but left them unfinished,
He died on May 11th 1864.

The Scarlet Letter

Setting→ The novel is set in Boston, in Puritan New England
When→ During the 17th century.


It’s a long preamble on the Salem Custom House where the author finds a piece of gold-embroidered scarlet cloth in the shape of the letter A. With it there is a manuscript telling the story of Hester Prynne.
He decides to take this narrative as the starting point for the romance.
Hester is sent to Massachusetts by her husband(an english scolar who plans to join her later).
Once in Boston, she has a love affair with the young Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale
and bears him a daughter, Pearl.
Adultery was heavily punished by Puritan Law, so Hester was keep in prison where she gives birth to her baby.
She is then publicly shamed and condemned to wear a Scarlet Letter A (adulteress) as a sign of her guilt.
She refuses to reveal the name of her child’s father. Meanwhile her husband arrives in Boston and decides to take his revenge. He forces Hester to keep his real identity secret and,
pretending to be a doctor named Roger Chillingworth, begins to torment the suspected Dimmesdale.
Hester leads a solitary life in a cottage with Pearl and becomes a neddlewoman. She wins the respect of the community, some even say that the A on her dress stands for “Able”.
Dimmesdale is torn by guilt and becomes ill. At the end of the story he confess and, after showing a scarlet letter A imprinted on his naked chest he dies in Hester’s arms.
Chillingworth died a year later, leaving his fortune to Pearl. She goes outside of his country with her mother and She married an European aristocrat. Hester returns to the town and spends the rest of her life doing charitable work. When she dies the letter A is used as a heraldic device on her tombstone.

Novel or romance→ Hawthorne regarded himself as a writer of romances because he preferred what he called “a neutral territory, somewhere between the real world and fairy-land where the Actual and the Imaginary meet”.
Romance is a genre where the writer can work his material according to his own imagination rather than the needs of fact. He can introduce symbolic and improbable elements.

The use of symbols→ Hawthorne’s symbols are traditional and derive from: Bible, Shakespeare, Spenser and Milton. Light and Darkness, the dark forest where witches practise their rites and illicit lovers meet is opposed to the stern Puritan town, the mirror, the sea, the snake, fire. The central symbol is the letter A worn on Hester’s bosom. The letter A acquires new allegorical meanings when Hawthorne has it largely visible in the night sky, or on Dimmesdale’s flesh.

The characters→ There are only four main characters, the other people are perceived as a crowd.
Hestern Prynne: is impulsive and passionate, she lives in public shame, but by this isolation she gain strength and purity.
Roger Chillingworth: is the villain of the story, he joins intellect and will to achieve his revenge. His only aim is to guide and observe Dimmesdale’s and Hester’s agony. He commits one of the worst of sins, the violation of the human heart.
Dimmesdale: is all the intellect without any will. He is passive, sensitive and refined, he lives under the pain of the shame deriving from his having sinned in the face of God.
Little Pearl: is a strange elf-like creature with an incredible energy, She represents freedom, she is the image of innocence and acts as a saviour to her mother.

Themes→ Hawthorne explores the influence of the Puritan view of 17th-century New England on American life. His main concern is not simply with sin, but with its relation to guilt; he finely observes and vividly portrays the torments of a guilty conscience. He focuses on the moral and psychological effects of sin: isolation, morbidity, frustation.
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