Nathaniel Hawthorne Short Fiction Analysis
Nathaniel Hawthorne’s reading in American colonial history confirmed his basically ambivalent attitude toward the American past, particularly the form that Puritanism took in the New England colonies. Especially interested in the intensity of the Puritan-Cavalier rivalry, the Puritan inclination to credit manifestations of the supernatural such as witchcraft, and the psychology of the struggle for liberation from English rule, Hawthorne explored these themes in some of his earliest stories. As they did for his Puritan ancestors, sin and guilt preoccupied Hawthorne, who, in his move from Salem to Concord, encountered what he considered the facile dismissal of the problem of evil by the Concord intellectuals. He developed a deeply ambivalent moral attitude that colored the situations and characters of his fiction.
In the early masterpiece “My Kinsman, Major Molineux,”
Often, Hawthorne’s characters cannot throw off the burden of a vague and irrational but weighty burden of guilt. Frequently, his young protagonists exhibit a cold, unresponsive attitude toward a loving fiancé or wife and can find no spiritual sustenance to redeem the situation. Brown, Parson Hooper of “The Minister’s Black Veil,” and Reuben Bourne of “Roger Malvin’s Burial” are examples of such guilt-ridden and essentially faithless men.
Another prevalent type of protagonist rejects love to become a detached observer, such as the husband of...
(The entire section is 4057 words.)
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