What Influenced Nathaniel Hawthorne To Write The Scarlet Letter

1683 words - 7 pages

What influences an author to write a novel? Many authors use their personal experiences to influence plots and events in their novel. They sometimes also use their ancestry background through themes or relationships in their different works. The events in an author’s life affect the style and content of their literary works which is exemplified by Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter.
One of the most influential parts of history that helped Hawthorne write is The Salem Witch Trials. The Salem Witch Trials started in 1692 in Salem, Massachusetts. During this time many women and men were accused of being witches by signing their life off to the devil. Most if not all of the accusers and accused during the Salem Witch Trials were from the northern frontier. This was the location of fighting “in both King Philip’s War 1675-1678 (called the First Indian War) and King William’s War of 1689-1699 (called the Second Indian War”. Within five months 144 people were persecuted as witches. “Violent fighting on the Maine frontier was a major causative factor in producing the witchcraft crisis” (Lewis). During The Salem Witch Trials an accused witch would be humiliated by either making the accused witch confess of being a witch or they would be publicly hung. In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter Hester is publicly humiliated for committing adultery. Even though Nathaniel Hawthorne did not grow up when the Salem Witch Trials happened he was influenced by it because he grew up in Salem, Massachusetts.
There is big debate whether Nathaniel Hawthorne’s ancestors played a role in his novel, The Scarlet Letter. “Nathaniel Hawthorne was descended from the Hathornes and the Mannings.” (“The Family of Nathaniel Hawthorne: Introduction”) One of the most influential people in Hawthorne’s life was Elizabeth Clarke Manning, Hawthorne’s mother, who was born in 1780. Her ancestors arrived in the New World in 1679. (“Family of Nathaniel Hawthorne: Introduction”) Manning took care of Hawthorne by herself once he was four because her husband died of yellow fever. (Nathaniel Hawthorne- Biography) This gave Hawthorne a more sympathetic outlook towards the women in his novels. For example, Hester in The Scarlet Letter was not hung for committing adultery, she was let go and was able to live her life like everyone else. Another one of Hawthorne’s ancestors was Major William Hathorne who helped with the persecution of Quakers. His son, John Hathorne was a stern interrogator of accused witches during the Salem Witch Trials. (“The Family of Nathaniel Hawthorne: Introduction”) The events and people in an author’s life can directly influence the characters in a novel. Nathaniel Hawthorne’s ancestors directly impacted him while writing The Scarlet Letter.
Throughout Hawthorne’s younger life he made many changes that he saw fit himself. Hawthorne was born July 4, 1804 in Salem, Massachusetts. When Hawthorne was older he changed his last name from Hathorne to Hawthorne...

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