You are on page 1of 1

SURVEY OF AMERICAN LITERATURE

Handout Four R. Bontil

Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864)


Twice-Told Tales (1837, e.g. The Ministers Black Veil; My Kingsman Major Molineux; Young Goodman Brown); Mosses from an Old Manse (1846, e.g. The Birth-Mark; Rappacinis Daughter); The Scarlet Letter (1848), The House of the Seven Gables (1851); The Snow-Image (1851); The Tanglewood Tales; The Marble Faun (1857-59).

Key words/ideas and useful quotes:


a romancer> (probing into inner mysteries of characters) and realist (effort of assessing the American character and experience); H. Melville praised N.Hs power of blackness (Hawthorne and His Mosses, 1850); a self-aware writer> conceals even while revealing himself through his narrators and his characters (e.g. The Custom- House, Introductory to The Scarlet Letter); shaping influence: Scottish Philosophers (faculty psychology>belief in a unitary mind with separate but interacting powers: perception, reason, memory, association of ideas, and imagination); his fiction pushes beyond surface reality, conveying knowledge that resists complete understanding; master of ironic multiplicity> exploits the readers imagination and requests his participation (The Scarlet Letter A >> a range of signifieds: adultery; angel; able; Arthur; America; A,B,C of writing/reading; othered; its colour > a range of signifieds: life-giving; sexual passion; hell-fire); replaced the castles of the Gothic romance with the American wilderness> the wilderness of the mind ( The Celestial Road; The Ministers Black Veil; The House of the Seven Gables); dark-side of 19th c. scientific and technological change going wrong; mens sexual anxieties (Rappacinis Daughter; The Birth Mark; The Scarlet Letter; romantic belief in subjective perception > how imagination participates in creating the world we inhabit; thematics of his works: interpenetration of past and present; antagonism between the individual and society; dangers of isolation; the fortunate fall>from innocence into wisdom; lost innocence as the price of mature awareness; recurrent images: light and dark; masks and veils; shadows and mirrors; labyrinthine paths; moonlight of imagination; cave of heart; intertextualist and parodist (e.g. The Celestian Road parodies Bunyans Pilgrims Progress; The Scarlet Letter> allegories within the narrative + Hawthornes critique of them) and self-parodist (Introductions to Rappacinis Daughter; The Custom-House; his letters show N.H. a riddler and skeptical joker); his laughter is permeated by skepticism> assessment of Americas Puritan Past (The Scarlet Letter). The Scarlet Letter > rhetoric of concealment, mystery and secrecy = intentional concealment of essential information as a form of play (Matei Calinescu, Secrecy in Fiction, 1994); an attempt to illustrate the various roles played by secrecy in human relations more than the story of an adulterous affair in an early American Puritan colony: (1) the moral and psychological consequences of the need to hide (socially destructive) information; (2) the way by which secrets are concealed and penetrated; (3) the selfreflexiveness of secrecy (as allegory or ambiguity) in the writing of fiction (e.g. Chillingworth needs the darkness of secrecy for his own dark purposes: public knowledge of what he knows about Hester and Dimmesdale would defeat these purposes and would, as it does in the end, bring about his death). Remorse (1) vs. repentance (2) > (1) >a continual re-enacting of the sin in fantasy and hence a continuous renewal of the need for self-punishment (e.g. Arthur); (2)> condemns and abandons the sin (e.g. Hester). an epiphany of the letter > in a symbolic sense, a dialectic between the letter and the spirit (M. Clinescu). rich peritextual apparatus: introductory text, The Custom-House> metatext; counter-disclaimer; title; subtitles (e.g. The Prison-Door; The Market-Place; The Recognition; The Interview; Pearl; The Leech; The Leech and His Patient; The Interior of a Heart; The Ministers Vigil; Another View of Hester; A Forest Walk; The Minister in a Maze; The New England Holiday; The Procession); Conclusion. a study of characters imprisoned by their own, others, and societys allegorical definitions of their roles: Hester is allegorized by resistance to the Puritans, Chillingworth is reduced to an allegorical demon by his own moral choice. Pearl is allegorized by Hester; while Dimmesdale is part of a web of allegories but his deepest battle is (very like Hesters): somehow to fight free of the allegorical vision which makes him a saint as it makes her a sinner' (John Becker, Hawthornes Historical Allegory, 1971: 117). Hawthornes definition of the romance: a neutral territory, somewhere between the real world and fairy-land, where the Actual and the Imaginary may meet, and each imbue itself with the nature of the other; enlivened by the heart, fiction could then flow out on the brightening page (The Custom-House, The Scarlet Letter).