Nathaniel Hawthorne The Literary Conscience






Nathaniel Hawthorne:
Literature of Consience












By

Christopher C. Copass














English II, 2nd Period

Mr. Scales

April 29, 1999


Nathaniel Hawthorne’s works established him as one of the most unique authors of the 19th century. With works such as The Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne not only entertained his audience, he made them look at their own life and compare it to 17th century Puritan New England. He also brought readers to the realization of how harsh and difficult the period of American History was. Hawthorne’s unique style of writing and his ability to probe deep into the human conscience made him one of Early America’s most greatly admired authors.
The Hawthornes had already left their legacy with the town of Salem leaving Nathaniel Hawthorne a long rich history of ancestry in the town. In 1630, William Hawthorne made the Journey to the New World with John Winthrop, the first governor of Massachusetts. Two of Hawthorne’s relatives who were directly involved with the Salem witch trials, also left their mark on the town. Hawthorne carried a direct relation to Judge Hathorne himself, being the primary cause of Hawthorne later adding a “w” to his name. Another of his relatives, Phillip English, was accused of witchcraft. These events definitely affected Hawthorne, even after the name change. Even as a grown man he used to say he could “still hear the ghosts in the old houses of Salem…” (Manley 23).
His father was occupied with a Salem shipping company. His occupation frequently took him away on voyages delivering spices and silks. One day, he returned to Salem to find his wife had given birth to a new son. He had been born on the 4th of July in 1804 and was given the name Nathaniel. His father loved Nathaniel, affectionately called “Nath,” dearly, but could not spend much time with him because of his job. One fateful day, he was assigned to captain a ship on a voyage to Suriname, in South America. A few weeks later, Hawthorne received the devastating news that the rampaging Yellow Fever had put an end to his father’s life. Although Hawthorne was greatly saddened by his father’s death, it did not have the distinguishing affect on his life that it did on his mother’s. She became withdrawn almost to the extent of reclusive. The rest of her life was lived in a state of melancholy. Hawthorne loathed to be in close proximity to his mother. He spent a large portion of childhood at the wharves in Salem, watching the schooners come in bringing silks and spices. Hawthorne’s life reflected his great love of the ocean, which probably originated at the now famous wharves.
At the age of nine, one of the most significant events in Hawthorne’s life occurred. The typical New England boy, Hawthorne was very physically active and athletic. One fateful day, while Hawthorne was playing ball, he injured his foot. Not only was his foot damaged, but it grew together improperly and created a problem which would ail him for the rest of his life.
After his accident, Hawthorne was confined to his bed because he had lost mobility. During this time, Hawthorne read many books that would became his favorites, and also have an impact on his writing. These books included Pilgrim’s Progress, by Bunyan, and Faerie Queen, by Spenser. He also enjoyed reading Shakespeare. When the condition of his leg improved, he put on small plays for his sister, who also admired Shakespeare.
At this point in his life, Hawthorne became mildly reclusive because he had been accustomed to sitting inside reading all day due to the fact that he could not walk properly. He mostly confined himself to his room where he began writing. Hawthorne “founded” a hand-printed magazine, The Spectator, which include some of Hawthorne’s early literature. He filled his magazine with some of his personal humor. His most amiable times were spent in his “Printing Office” working on his magazine. This appears to be the first time Hawthorne became seriously interested in writing.
As Hawthorne’s became older, he began to make plans to attend college. The College his Uncle chose was Bowdoin College. The first class at Bowdoin College consisted of seven members. His Uncle, who paid his expenses, chose this simplistic and ancient college. Its classes were modeled after Harvard’s with a strong