American novelist and short story writer Nathaniel Hawthorne was born on July 4,1804, in Salem, Massachusetts. He experimented with a variety of genres and themes while penning love novels and short stories. He is a Dark Romanticist, as opposed to his transcendalist contemporaries Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David. Although he produced many excellent works over his writing career, his two best-known books, The Scarlet Letter and The House of Seven Gables, are the ones for which he is most remembered.
Nathaniel Hawthorne as a dark romanticist
Hawthorne was a virtuoso at telling symbolic and allegorical stories. Since the majority of his short stories contain moral teachings, his works have a moral impact on readers.He believes in human frailty and fallibility, which is why the majority of his work, as previously noted, is classified as dark romanticism.
Dark romanticists are pessimists who emphasise the weaknesses in human nature that lead people to sin and self-destruction, in contrast to romanticists who believe in the inherent goodness in human nature. In the works of dark romanticists emphasis is placed on human nature’s propensity for error, which leads to their eventual demise. They also illuminated the psychological consequences of sin and remorse. They believe that even the most well-intentioned actions can result in unanticipated consequences and that the path to hell is paved with good intentions.
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Dark romanticism was a concept that was explored by a number of authors, including Edgar Allan Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Emily Dickinson, and others.
Before releasing his first collection of tales in 1837, Hawthorne wrote a number of short stories and published them under pseudonyms in The New-England Magazine and The United States Democratic Review. He has used the colonial New England settings in his short stories.
In his early writing career, Hawthorne held a significant position in the transcendalists club ” Brook Farm”. This illustrious group of Massachusetts poets and thinkers had a significant impact on him. But as he got older, he drifted farther and farther away from the values and ideas of this group, and in his book “The Bilthedale Romance” he even mocked his time spent in this club. It is still unknown what led him to go from his idealistic youth to his pessimistic old age. However, some contend that his later experiences in the actual world may have altered how he viewed it and the people in it. He started to believe that rather than being naturally good, humans have a propensity for committing crimes and making grave errors, oftentimes with the best of intentions.
Symbolism in Nathaniel Hawthorne fiction
Symbolism is an important tool in Hawthorne’s writing. Romanticists and dark romantics used a lot of symbolism in their writing. When an object represents an idea, it is known as symbolism. It is a literary method. A place, person, or object can be a symbol if it represents anything other than what it is. Many of Hawthorne’s characters are depicted as having feelings of remorse and uncertainty about what is good and what is bad. Symbolism abounds in Hawthorne’s works, from the characters and locations to the items themselves.
A moral lesson is conveyed through symbolism and metaphor in “The Minister’s Black Veil” by author Hawthorne. The ‘black veil’ is the most prevalent symbol in the short story. One of the most powerful symbols of sin is the veil. Because everyone sins, the guilt and secret of one’s own hidden transgressions separates us from perfection. As he tries to persuade his followers to expose their actual nature through the veil, Mr.Hooper instead ends up alienating himself. While Mr.Hooper appears to wear a veil, it is not him but the individuals who hide their actual selves beneath the facade of goodness.
In an ironic twist, rather of admitting their own sinfulness, the people begin to suspect Mr.Hooper of being a sinner as well. This offered the Puritans an excuse to avoid dealing with their own wicked natures rather than confronting Hooper’s curtain.
Nathaniel Hawthorne depiction of the internal struggle of protagonist
Many of his short-stories reflect a protagonist’s internal struggle to keep his religious beliefs and shed the burden of guilt. Puritan New England is the setting for the vast majority of his novels and stories. As a result of his relatives’ involvement in the Salem Witch Trials and the influence they had on Hawthorne, he makes references to witchcraft in some of his stories.
One of the classic short stories, “Young Goodman Brown” shows the hero’s internal conflict over whether or not to join the forces of evil. While walking through the woods, his internal battle transforms him into a new man. To engage with the devil, and especially when he abandons his pink-ribbon Faith, is morally reprehensible. Brown must determine if he longs for the devil’s lap or that of Faith before he joins Black Sabbath and engages in demon worship. The text has numerous examples of this conflict.
A conviction in the wicked essence of humans is prevalent in the story, as he discovers that those who pretend to be decent in front of others have arrived at the Sabbath and become devil’s buddies. That fateful night, Goodman Brown returns to his community as a transformed man. He has lost his innocence and his faith in the people around him. The dynamic between him and his wife also shifts dramatically. The tale revolves around this dispute, which also serves as a commentary on the time period.
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Many of his protagonists are unable to free themselves from the burden of their own sins. They go through some sort of psychological metamorphosis and come out on the other side with a lack of empathy and compassion for everyone around them, especially for those they formerly loved. Examples of such guilty and awe-struck heroes are Brown in “Young Goodman Brown” and Parson Hooper in “The Minister’s Black Veil.”
Gothic elements in Hawthorne’s stories
There are a lot of stories by Hawthorne that include characters who travel into the woods and come out the other side either enlightened or guilt-ridden. Even though the fates of the men involved in these expeditions are rarely revealed, it is clear that they emerge from the woods a different breed of man. They lose track of who they used to be and transform into completely new men. A common thread running through many of his tales is a preoccupation with the possibility of one’s own inner development.
“Nature” is not a lovely and quick analgesic agent for Gothic literature writers and dark romanticists like Hawthorne. It is not a place where one may hide from the world’s calamities. It is not a secure haven that would spread its arms and softly lift one out of his or her adversity. Nature, on the other hand, is often a source of anxiety for Hawthorne and the gothics. For them, getting out into nature is like stepping into the unknown; anything may happen. Sin and evil are frequently depicted as being in the wilderness or in the woods.
Several of Hawthorne’s stories have aspects of the fantastical. The term “supernatural” refers to a force that is beyond human comprehension and often contradicts the rules of nature. In his works, Hawthorne uses the paranormal to amplify the feelings of fear and trepidation that come with exploring new terrain. In Hawthorne’s plays, supernatural elements are used to elicit awe and horror in the audience. Young Goodman Brown’s devil is a manifestation of the paranormal. It is a recurring motif throughout the novel.
To summarise, Hawthrone utilised his work as a vehicle to convey his opinions not only on religion but also on the Salem witch trials. He wished to dissociate himself from his relatives’ shambolic role in those trials. He has used his literary genius to dive into the psychological worlds of his characters and explain their inner struggles. He has not only depicted nature in detail, but has also described mystical awe. His use of irony, symbolism, and metaphor to convey moral themes continues to enthral readers.