A New England Love Story Critical Context - Essay

LouAnn Gaeddert

Critical Context

A New England Love Story was a Literary Guild Selection for Young Adults. It can be an important book for these readers because The Scarlet Letter and The House of the Seven Gables (1851) are often read at the high-school level, and many of Hawthorne’s short stories, such as “Young Goodman Brown,” “The Minister’s Black Veil,” and “Rappaccini’s Daughter,” are widely anthologized. Gaeddert’s book reveals the human life behind these monumental works in American literature. Also, by intertwining these two lives, readers are made aware of how American literature and thinking were influenced during this period in New England. Hawthorne’s work overshadows the achievements of his wife’s family, but Gaeddert’s book does provide an appreciation of the role that the Peabodys played in the cultural history of the time. Their importance to education in America is undeniable.

Gaeddert takes information from some standard secondary sources to give readers a brief overview of the life and times of Sophia Peabody and Nathaniel Hawthorne. Beyond that, however, she gleans details from such primary sources as their letters and journals to capture the romance of their lives. The principal motivation of the book seems to be to show the power of love and, in this case, its effect on American literary history. Through the glimpse that Gaeddert gives of Hawthorne and New England history, young readers could be motivated to learn even more about the writer and the period.