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How do Nathaniel Hawthorne's stories compare to his life?

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mindyashley | eNotes Newbie

Posted September 28, 2010 at 8:18 AM via web

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How do Nathaniel Hawthorne's stories compare to his life?

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missy575 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted September 28, 2010 at 8:33 AM (Answer #1)

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Hawthorne tended to write historically and about topics as a result of his work experiences. Like most writers he performed many side jobs to make ends meet and his writings left a greater mark after his passing than during his lifetime.

Hawthorne's most famous works (The Scarlet Letter, Young Goodman Brown, and "The Minister's Black Veil") centered on the life of the Puritan. This might seem odd since he lived during the great era of the transcendentalists in the mid-1800s. However, he was a descendent of a John Hathorne who participated as a judge in the Salem Witch Trials. Given the era and the knowledge during the First Great Awakening, he may have felt completely guilty of his ancentral sin. Thus, he worked to point out the great tragedy of that original Puritan era.

In fact, if you read Arthur Miller's The Crucible, you will find that original Hathorne as the judge of the story. Miller went to great trouble to use original source documents to prove the merit of the characters he produced in his play depicting the Salem Witch Trials.

Hawthorne's stories connect to his ancestry most vividly. In terms of his own life on a day-to-day basis, he used the world around him in workplace positions to help generate writing ideas. This included this focus on Puritans as he cited in the preface to The Scarlet Letter.

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