Nathaniel Hawthorne Long Fiction Analysis
Central to Nathaniel Hawthorne’s romances is his idea of a “neutral territory,” described in the Custom House sketch that precedes The Scarlet Letter as a place“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.” A romance, according to Hawthorne, is different from the novel, which maintains a “minute fidelityto the probable and ordinary course of man’s experience.” In the neutral territory of romance, however, the author may make use of the “marvellous” to heighten atmospheric effects, if he or she also presents “the truth of the human heart.” As long as the writer of romance creates characters whose virtues, vices, and sensibilities are distinctly human, he or she may place them in an environment that is out of the ordinary—or that is, in fact, allegorical. Thus, for example, while certain elements—the stigma of the scarlet letter, or Donatello’s faun ears—are fantastical in conception, they represent a moral stance that is true to nature. Dimmesdale’s guilt at concealing his adultery with Hester Prynne is, indeed, as destructive as the wound on his breast, and Donatello’s pagan nature is expressed in the shape of his ears.
A number of recurring thematic patterns and character types appear in Hawthorne’s novels and tales, as Randall Stewart suggests in the introduction to The American Notebooks (1932)....
(The entire section is 5541 words.)
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