from: "Fields of Vision” by D.Delaney
Family background Nathaniel
Hawthorne was born in 1804
Massachusetts, into to a
prominent Puritan family. His ancestors were among the earliest settles in the
colony, and one of his family members was a magistrate at the Salem witchcraft trials.
Early writing After graduating from
college in 1825, Hawthorne
returned home and devoted himself entirely to writing, leading an almost
reclusive life. During this period the contributed articles and short stories
to periodicals and wrote his first novel, Fanshawe,
published anonymously at his own expense in 1828.
The Brook Farm Community Reaction to
his novel was disappointing. However he persevered with his writing and
produced several successful short stories. As his earnings from writing were
insufficient, he took a job in the Boston
customs house, but he left in 1841 to join other leading intellectuals in a
co-operative community farming project, the Brook Farm Community, outside Boston. Those who worked
on the farm wished to withdraw from an increasingly commercial society and find
time for intellectual and spiritual self-improvement. Hawthorne left Brook Farm after just one year
but the experience was to influence some of his works and inspire a novel, The Blithedale Romance (1852).
A successful author The years
between 1846 and 1852 established Hawthorne’s
reputation as a successful author. He produced a collection of stories called Mosses from an Old Manse (1846), his most acclaimed novel, The Scarlet Letter (1850), and a second
novel, The House of the Seven Gables
The Scarlet Letter The Scarlet Letter is regarded as America’s first
psychological novel. Set in the seventeenth century, the novel displays a
strikingly modern psychological insight into the forces that drive human
behavior. Hawthorn’s interest lies primarily in the exploration of the human
soul and in the processes that take place in a character’s mind. The
development of the plot is secondary; what happens in society at large and the
events surrounding his main characters are of little consequence. The novel’s
main passions – sin and guilt, punishment and redemption, fear and shame, pride
and selfishness, hatred and destructive revenge – are described in allegorical
style and through rich suggestive symbolism.
England In 1852 Hawthorne
wrote a biography of his old college friend Franklin Pierce, who was running
for the Presidency. After his election, Pierce rewarded Hawthorne
with the post of consul in Liverpool,
years which Hawthorne spent there (1853-1857)
inspired a collection of notes and impressions on England, Our Old Home.
Last years In 1860 Hawthorne
returned to the United
States, where he worked on several novels
that he could not complete. He died in 1864 after a long illness.