What are recurrent themes in Hawthorne's stories?

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ms-mcgregor eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One of Hawthorne's major motifs or ideas is the appearance vs. reality. In "My Kinsman, Major Molineux", Robin, is considered a ‘‘shrewd youth,’’ but in the city he misinterprets everything he sees. At the end of the story, he finally discovers the truth about Monineux and this surprise sends him home. In "Young Goodman Brown", Hawthorne purposely blurs the lines between reality and appearance by leaving Brown's experience open to interpretation. The audience never really knows what happened in the forest, or if Brown simply had a bad dream. In "The Minister's Black Veil", in spite of the separation the veil causes, at the end of his life all Reverend Hooper can say is "I look around and on every visage see a black veil." In other words, everyone he believes everyone hides from reality. The same can be said in Rappaccini's daughter. When Giovanni looks down on the beautiful Beatrice: he is immediately suspicious and somewhat repulsed. He finds her at once “beautiful” and “inexpressibly terrible,” which might say more about his own view of the woman than the woman herself. Again the idea of appearance vs. reality is brought into question as it is in many other of Hawthorne's short stories and novels.

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My Kinsman, Major Molineux

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