Master's Theses



Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Nathaniel Hawthorne was a nineteenth century author, who, upon entering the writing profession, was confronted with the intolerance of certain Puritan mores. Hawthorne inherited from his father a disposition toward solitude. This personality trait fully developed while Hawthorne, as a young man, was under the constant influence of his mother and sisters. Possibly this close family relationship was a factor which motivated Hawthorne somewhat to isolate himself for twelve years to study the art of writing. Part of Hawthorne's preparation during these twelve years was his attempt to clarify his ethical importance as a writer. Hawthorne rejected his strict Puritan training which, he felt, dealt only with the evil in men's hearts; however, he likewise was unable to accept the transcendental concept that mankind was naturally good. Hawthorne's early life apparently influenced his literary production and the result is seen in the definite recurrence of certain themes throughout his writings. Hawthorne was obsessed with the problem of isolation and one finds frequent treatment of the theme of isolation of an individual from the brotherhood of mankind - a condition which Hawthorne regards as destructive of the "magnetic chain of humanity." As a writer Hawthorne had to develop an adequate symbol of both the damnation of alienation and the salvation of communion. He chose to use the marriage relationship symbolically to represent ideal communion and reconciliation. Probably Hawthorne's attitude toward the redemptive role of his marriage to Sophia prompted him to use this symbol. Since Hawthorne was most preoccupied with tales who describe the failure of man to achieve this communion, however, one can safely assume that Hawthorne unconsciously revealed through his fiction, his concern about the efficacy of his own marriage to Sophia. An analysis of Hawthorne's works shows a persistent use of impassive male characters. These characters can be separated into two categories: those who are unable to respond to love and those who willfully reject the proffer of love. All the characters in both groups have one thing in common: their impassivity derives from a fatal pre-occupation with self. Hawthorne, as an author, sees man often unable to affect reconciliation to society. Possibly his own seclusion was partly responsible forth is concept. There is some doubt that Hawthorne's marriage to Sophia actually gave him the total release from his temperamental love of solitude and isolation he so desired. This theory is substantiated by the fact that in his writings, Hawthorne seems to be dominated by the ideas of alienation and reconciliation; and more often, an ideal communion was not reached even when the impassive male entered into marriage relationship. These distinguishing qualities which are prevalent in Hawthorne's works seem to uphold the proposition of this writing that Hawthorne used the impassive and spiritually sterile male to represent the failure of man to achieve communion and reconciliation with humanity.


Clifford Edwards

Date of Award

Summer 1966

Document Type

Thesis - campus only access


© 1966 Robert E. Sugg


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