Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
In The American Notebooks Nathaniel Hawthorne reviews such topics as isolation, sin, the degeneration of families, and the subjugation of one person to another, common themes in his work. Hawthorne was one of the originators of the American short-story form, and he was a leading novelist of nineteenth century American letters. He began the observations, story ideas, and character sketches that make up The American Notebooks in 1835, when he was an unknown college graduate living in isolation in Salem, Massachusetts. The last entry of the notebooks is that of June, 1853, by which time Hawthorne had traveled in the northeastern United States and had married and had children. By then Hawthorne had also published his most successful works. The American Notebooks shows Hawthorne’s development as a writer; as such, it is an invaluable contribution to an understanding of his literary development. Some of the collection’s entries contain ideas that are important in his most famous fictional works.
The American Notebooks follows chronological order, tracing Hawthorne’s development over a period of eighteen years. The individual entries, however, are quite random in their makeup and contain adages, animal folklore, and biblical references that captivated Hawthorne. Observations of people whom he saw in the streets of nineteenth century Salem, Boston, and North Adams, Massachusetts, are mixed with flights of fancy that...
(The entire section is 1618 words.)
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