American Gothic Literature 1800's

Nathaniel Hawthorne

What is "American Gothic Literature"?

Gothic refers to the use of primitive medieval, wild, or mysterious elements in literature. Gothic elements offended eighteenth-century classical writers but appealed to the Romantic writers who followed them. It is a sub-genre of Romanticism. Gothic novels featured many places like mysterious and gloomy castles, where horrifying, supernatural events tended to take place. Their influence on Edgar Allan Poe is evident in “The Fall of the House of Usher.”


Who is Nathaniel Hawthorne?

He had been an American writer. Hawthorne was born in Salem, Massachusetts to a family with a rather long New England history. He was born July 4, 1804. The original name of the family was Hathorne, he added a 'w' to distinguish himself from the history which included John Hathorne, a prominent judge in the Salem witch trials of 1692-3. The Hathorne legacy was one of strict Puritanism which Hawthorne grappled with in his stories and novels, The Scarlet Letter perhaps being the most well-known. While Hawthorne was certainly a part of the American Transcendentalists, living in close proximity to Ralph Waldo Emerson during a a few periods of his life, participating in the communal Brook Farm and being friendly with Oliver Wendell Homes Sr and Herman Melville; Hawthorne (and his wife Sophia) we're basically, you could say reclusive and rather solitary. His uncle, Robert Manning, helped to finance his college education at Bowdoin College, a choice which Hawthorne protested greatly and at seventeen is quoted as already knowing his vocation, “I do not want to be a doctor and live by men's diseases, nor a minister to live by their sins, nor a lawyer and live by their quarrels. So, I don't see that there is anything left for me but to be and author." In this sentiment there is already the direction which Hawthorne's writing would follow; one of encountering those aspects of humanity. After graduation, Hawthorne spent time at his mother's home in Salem. From his journals it is apparent that he spent much of his time reading and writing. His inquiries at the Salem Athenaeum, the local library, led him to his ancestral roots and he read much about his Puritan past supplementing his family's influence in the colonies with reading by such developmental American writers as William Bradford, John Winthrop and Cotton Mather. During this time he also wrote many short stories although when his first try at getting a collection published failed he gave them to the fire. His first novel, Fanshawe, was published in 1828 anonymously, but it did not receive much attention. Eventually, his schoolmate Horatio Bridge convinced him to publish under his own name and without Hawthorne's knowledge put up money to guarantee any losses with the publisher, Samuel G. Goodrich. 12 years after college, Twice-Told Tales was published in 1837.


The Time, Life and Works of Nathaniel Hawthorne