What was Nathaniel Hawthorne’s style, and what influenced it?

As I read through several of Hawthorne’s works for class, I realized they seemed very dark. His works are very gloomy and depressing. Before I can discuss what influenced his style, we my first establish what his style is. “Hawthorne’s works belong to romanticism or, more specifically, dark romanticism,cautionary tales that suggest that guilt, sin, and evil are the most inherent natural qualities of humanity. Many of his tales and novels focus on a type of historical fiction, though Hawthorne’s depiction of the past is used only as a vehicle to express themes of ancestral sin, guilt and retribution. His themes often center on the inherent evil and sin of humanity, and his works often have moral messages and deep psychological complexity.” http://icefvpphs.sharpschool.net/UserFiles/Servers/Server_29660/File/Nathaniel%20Hawthorne%20_%20Dark.ppt

What was Hawthorne’s personality and home life like? “All biographers have granted that Hawthorne was a deeply introspective, even introverted man who, for a dozen years after his college graduation from Bowdoin, kept pretty much to himself in Salem while he learned to write fiction. Afterward, he married Sophia Peabody, seemed sociable, fathered three children, published with great success, and became an esteemed public figure. Even so, Hawthorne was a true loner, a dark personality.”

I felt a little jumpy while sitting in my dorm reading “Young Goodman Brown,” and even scared a little, as I read along in the dark on my iPad. His works seem almost sinister as horrible things usually happen to the main character. In the case of “Young Goodman Brown,” the main character looses his religious faith. He never regains it again. In the case of “The Minister’s Black Veil,” the main character looses all his friends and everyone he loves. Nathaniel Hawthorne’s tales are very depressing, hopeless, and filled with religious meanings.

Now that I have established his style and personality, I will explain some of the things that attributed to the formation of them. “Nathaniel Hawthorne was born in Salem, Massachusetts, on July 4, 1804, into the sixth generation of his Salem family. His ancestors included businessmen, judges, and seamen—all Puritans, a strict religious discipline. Two aspects of his background especially affected his imagination and writing career. The Hathornes (Nathaniel added the “w” to the name) had been involved in religious persecution (intense harassment) with their first American ancestor, William. Another ancestor, John Hathorne, was one of the three judges at the seventeenth-century Salem witchcraft trials, where dozens of people were accused of, and later executed for, being witches. Nathaniel’s father, a sea captain, died in 1808, leaving his wife and three children dependent on relatives. Nathaniel, the only son, spent his early years in Salem and in Maine. A leg injury forced Hawthorne to remain immobile for a considerable period, during which he developed an exceptional taste for reading and thinking.”
From the information above we can delineate that the loss of his father when he was only four years of age could have been a reason for his dark style. The lack of a father figure to a growing boy can often have adverse effects. Furthermore, he became enthralled with literature and writing when he was hurt and immobile for awhile as a kid. This is probably what led him to become a writer as a adult. Also, growing up in Salem, Massachusetts, probably had a very influential effect. Salem was, and is still, considered one of the most haunted and supernatural places on earth. He grew up in an extremely religious environment. Several of his ancestors were involved with the Salem witch trials. The evidence of this influence on hawthorne can be found in virtually all his writings. He loved writing on puritan society, sin, and religious issues of the time. This is made clearly evident in his most famous work “The Scarlet Letter.”

Video Summary of “The Scarlet Letter” :

“The Scarlet Letter”


Nathaniel Hawthorne’s early adulthood:
“With the aid of his wealthy uncles, Hawthorne attended Bowdoin College from 1821 to 1825. Among his classmates were poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and future U.S. president Franklin Pierce.Though small and isolated, the Bowdoin of the 1820s was an unusually good college, and Hawthorne undoubtedly profited from his formal education. He also made loyal friends. Returning from Bowdoin, Hawthorne spent the years 1825 to 1837 in his mother’s Salem household. Later he looked back upon these years as a period of dreamlike isolation and solitude, spent in a haunted room. During these “solitary years” he learned to write tales and sketches that are still unique. Recent biographers have shown that this period of Hawthorne’s life was less lonely than he remembered it to be. In truth, he did have social engagements, played cards, and went to the theatre. Nevertheless, he consistently remembered these twelve years as a strange, dark dream, though his view of the influence of these years varied.”
This explains a lot about Hawthorne. He was well educated. This enabled him to be a masterful writer. Also, he was often locked away in solitude with nothing but his own thoughts. This is where he learned to take his strange thoughts and placed them into writing. This gives an insight behind his bizarre and rather dark works.

A brief biography of Hawthorne:

An example of Hawthorne’s style:
“In the depths of every heart there is a tomb and a dungeon, though the lights, the music, and revelry above may cause us to forget their existence, and the buried ones, or prisoners whom they hide. But sometimes, and oftenest at midnight, these dark receptacles are flung wide open. In an hour like his….pray that your griefs may slumber.” -The Haunted Mind

“The Haunted Mind”


Hawthorne’s works are still relevant and seen in today’s society. For instance, in 2010, the movie “Easy A” came out and was a huge success. It is about a girl labeled as adulterer in high school and the pressures that go along with it. It is one of my favorite movies. It greatly resembles the “Scarlet Letter.” In both, a young woman is bashed and outcast for her adulteress ways.

“Easy A”


Taking all of the above into consideration, Hawthorne had many different influences upon his dark writing style. He was a relatively introverted and secluded man. He was a well educated man. Perhaps the most influential, he grew up in the strict puritan society of Salem, Massachusetts. All of these attributed to his unique and dark writing style.


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