Nathaniel Hawthorne was born on July 4th, 1804 in Salem, Massachusetts. His father was also named Nathaniel Hawthorne, and his mother was Elizabeth Clarke Manning. Hawthorne was raised in a Puritan home, and was raised quite religiously. Having been born in Salem, the home of the Salem Witch Trials many years ago, Hawthorne was very familiar on the subject. In fact, one of his ancestors was a judge during that awful period in time. John Hathorne was the only judge in Salem who did not repent of his misdeeds and sins during the trials.
Hawthorne new quite early that writing was his strength, and he had his first book published in 1828 when he was 24. This book, Fanshawe, was well received, but Hawthorne would later try to destroy any memory if it, as he felt that it was not his best work. He wrote short stories for about eight years until he decided to compile all of these stories into one book called Twice-Told Tales. This book was received well in the community, and Hawthorne was pleased with it. Other lesser-known books include The New Adam and Eve, The House of Seven Gables, and The Blithedale Romance (Wikipedia, 2018)
Soon, Hawthorne met a young woman named Sophia Peabody in 1838. Sophia had previously suffered from multiple illnesses, such as migraines. However, after she met Hawthorne, the illnesses Sophia previously had suffered from seemed to vanish as if by magic. There was clearly chemistry between the two, and they were married in 1842. They moved all around the country as Hawthorne continued to write his stories and obtain publishing deals for all of them. With many novels released between 1850 and 1860, Hawthorne’s best one was The Scarlett Letter. This novel is the one he is best known for. Hawthorne died on May 19th, 1864 at 60 years old.
Hawthorne used many literary devices well throughout his writing. One of them was foreshadowing in The Birthmark. In this story, Georgiana’s death is foreshadowed in part by all of Aylmer’s previously failed experiments. Close to none of them resulted in the way Aylmer had intended them to. Aylmer’s experiments seemed to always fail and tended to have destructive consequences. It is therefore reasonable to assume that this attempt will not work. Aylmer attempts to remove the birthmark from his wife’s face, and he fails. This leads to much, much more destructive consequences than any of his previous experiments.
Another literary device Hawthorne used was irony. In The Birthmark, Aylmer is very intelligent, though ignorant at the same time. He has seen that most of his experiments have ended in failures. His ideas for the experiments are decent, however, he ignores the failed results that come from these experiments. Aylmer is ignorant of the fact that he could hurt his wife with this experiment. This does not affect his adamant attitude that this experiment will be the one that works. However, because of his ignorance, Aylmer loses his wife to yet another failed experiment.
Perspective Reading Response
In Hawthorne’s short essay, On Solitude, he is writing to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow on why he has chosen solitude as a means to write good stories.
How does Hawthorne regard his solitude? How does he feel it has affected his life and writing?
Hawthorne believed that his solitude had given him a new look on life, as one may say. He saw things from a different perspective, and that affected his story writing. Hawthorne said that he dreams about living, and in a way, he found that he could live through is writing of books and stories.
Merit of Studying Hawthorne
Hawthorne is an author worth studying because he obviously put much thought into what he was writing as he wrote it. May authors will, of course, do this, but Hawthorne did this very well, much better than others. He considers the deeper meaning of the stories as he wrote them, not after. He makes the reader think about the stories in a deeper way just by reading them.