Nathaniel Hawthorne

An American Author


Nathaniel Hawthorne was born on July 4th, 1804 in Salem, Massachusetts. Although his original last name was Hathorne, he changed it to Hawthorne as to not be thought of as related to John Hathorne, (one of the leading judges in the Salem witch trials). Hawthorne grasped the idea of Puritanism in many of his stories and novels, including the Scarlet Letter and Twice- Told Tales. When he was just four, Hawthorne's father died of yellow fever. Nathaniel Hawthorne attended Bowdoin College, and in 1824 he married his wife Sophia. As he became older, his health became to lessen and he refused to see a doctor. He died on May 19th, 1864.

Common Themes in Hawthorne's Novels

  • Puritanism: Puritan New England is used as the background and setting of many of his stories, including the Scarlet Letter and Twice- Told Tales.
  • Pride: Hawthorne treats pride as evil. He illustrates the following aspects of pride in many of his literary works: physical pride (Robin from My Kinsman, Major Molineux), spiritual pride (Goodman Brown, Ethan Brand), and intellectual pride (Rappaccini, from Rappaccini's Daughter

Major Works

  • The Scarlet Letter (1850)- Takes place in a Puritan Settlement in Boston. It is the story of a young woman named Hester Prynne who must wear a Scarlet Letter A and be punished by the townspeople for Adultery. Hester refuses to tell the townspeople who her lover and the father of her child is, but the husband figures it out and seeks revenge. Her husband pretends he is the town doctor and goes on to stalk Hester's lover, who is the town minister. Eventually, the minister confesses to the townspeople just before dying, and shortly after, Hester's husband also dies, leaving His money to Hester's daughter. In the end Hester continues to live in the town, eventually being buried with her lover, with a tombstone marked with nothing but the letter A.
  • The House of the Seven Gables (1851)- During Puritan times, a man named Colonel Pyncheon wants to build a home for his decedents on Matthew Maule's land. Maule refuses to sell Colonel Pyncheon his land. Colonel Pyncheon decides to falsely accuse him of witchcraft, so that he may obtain his land. When Maule is hanged, he gets his last words to Colonel Pyncheon by saying "God will give him blood to drink." During his housewarming party, Colonel Pyncheon is found dead with blood on his neck and everyone remembers the curse. One hundred and twenty three years later, the Pyncheon family continues to receive bad luck. After a serious of tragic events, it is learned that the character Mr. Holgrave is a decedent of Maule, and he declares his love for Phoebe, a decedent of Pyncheon. Their love breaks the horrible curse.