Nathaniel Hawthorne's best known short stories including Young Goodman Brown, The Minister's Black Veil, and The Birthmark, should be considered some of the great works of American literature because their exploration of enduring American themes of moral struggle. The short stories demonstrate a masterful command of symbolism and allegory.
Nathaniel Hawthorne was born in Salem, Massachusetts in 1804. Descended from a staunch Puritan family, Hawthorne?s father was a presiding judge over the Salem Witch Trials. Hawthorne?s father died when he was young and he spent much time alone during his childhood. He had an introspective nature and was an avid reader. He began to write while he was in college and following graduation, returned to Salem where he entered a twelve-year literary apprenticeship. His first collection of short stories, Twice-Told tales, was published in 1837. Soon afterwards, he joined for a short period an experimental utopian community outside of Boston called Brook Farm in 1841. In 1842, Hawthorne married Sophia Peabody and they moved to Concord, Massachusetts. There Hawthorne wrote many pieces including his next collection of stores in 1846 called ?Mosses from an Old Manse.? From 1846 to 1849, Hawthorne worked in a Salem customhouse. Following his dismissal was a two-year period of intense productivity after which he wrote very little fiction, although he did keep notebooks. Hawthorne died in 1864 following several years of inability to complete any of this writings. Much of Hawthorne's work is set in colonial New England and many of his short stories have been read as moral allegories influenced by his Puritan ancestry. He believed that the misfortunes of his immediate family were the result of divine reckoning for the sins of his ancestors and his writings focused on the exploration of the consequences of sin, concealment, and guilt. Hawthorne looked deeply into life finding suffering and conflict, and scrutinized the psychological and moral facts of the human condition.
Hawthorne was recognized as one of the greatest American writers, a moralist and an allegorist, whose fiction examined assumed the universality of guilt and examined the complexities and ambiguities of man?s choices. ?But Hawthorne?will have plunged you into melancholy, he will have overshadowed you with black forebodings, he will almost have crushed you with imaginary sorrows, but he will have enabled you to feel yourself an inch taller during the process (Trollope).? Hawthorne challenged all assumptions of his time. His works were characterized by an emphasis on individual freedom from social conventions or political restraints. ?Pitched against a young nation's hunger for conformity, Hawthorne's writings established a tradition of American dissent (Marx).? He remains a popular writer today with relevancy in theme and attitude including his use of irony, ambiguity, and paradox, and psychological analysis.
?Hawthorne, a man whose...