Discussion Topics

(Masterpieces of American Literature)

Nathaniel Hawthorne lived among, and had friendly relations with, the Concord transcendentalists for several years. What is the basis of his resistance to their general philosophical outlook?

Examine the interwoven themes of hidden sin and hidden guilt in Hawthorne’s fiction.

By what means does Hawthorne create “the sensation of being transported backward in time” in his fiction?

What are the structural principles governing The Scarlet Letter?

How does Hawthorne characterize Hester Prynne in The Scarlet Letter? In particular, how does he manage to establish her dignity in her degraded social circumstances?

There is little or no evidence that Hawthorne felt personally guilt-ridden. How can his obsession with guilt in his fiction be explained?

Given Hawthorne’s own psychological penetration, how can you account for the sinister aura surrounding his psychologically penetrating characters?