The Best Works: Nathaniel Hawthorne
4th July, 1804 to 19th May, 1864
Born in Salem, Massachusetts, Nathaniel Hawthorn was one of the key 19th Century American Writers of the Dark Romantic Era. But, he wasn't always the great writer that we appreciate him as today, he started off somewhere else.
Nathaniel Hawthorne began by writing articles for American Newspapers, especially the American Magazine of Useful and Entertaining Knowledge. He followed up his career with publishing his short stories in magazines - these are short stories such as "Young Goodman Brown" which went on to be one of his most well-respected pieces of writing (and a damn good short story in my opinion!) of the Dark Romantic Era. Mixing the art of darkness with cult worship and some sort of Kubrickian language style and story. It is truly brilliant.
He published "The Scarlet Letter" in the Spring of 1950 - this is the book that many consider to be his magnum opus. I personally love it and so do many others who read wide into the "Great American Novel". It went on to become one of the highlights of the Dark Romantic Era in America. After this, because of the strange political situations in Boston and Salem, he moved to Lenox in the same state with his wife.
His next few years were very productive including the writing of "The House of Seven Gables" and the "Blithedale Romance". He then published "A Wonder-book for Girls and Boys" which was a bunch of short stories, mostly autobiographical.
When the Civil War broke out, Hawthorne met with Abraham Lincoln and wrote an essay about it called "Chiefly About War Matters". But, after a trip to the White Mountains - Hawthorne died in his sleep in 1864. Longfellow wrote a poem for him and his wife was too sad to arrange his funeral. His pallbearers included the writers Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Edwin Percy Whipple.
Emerson wrote about the death of Hawthorne:
"I thought there was a tragic element in the event, that might be more fully rendered—in the painful solitude of the man, which, I suppose, could no longer be endured, & he died of it."
The themes of the major works of Hawthorne include:
- Psychology and Surrealism
and many more.
Let's have a look at the five works that I think are the best by Nathaniel Hawthorne!
5. The Marble Faun
Written on the day before the American Civil War, it was an Italian Fantastical Tale in which the four main characters are: Miriam, Hilda, Donatello and Kenyon. From a painter who is described as being one of the most beautiful women on the planet like Cleopatra to concepts on humanity and questions of morality alongside a man who is called an 'evil genius' - this book is one of Hawthorne's last great efforts and it is purely one of the darkest books you can read by him.
4. The Blithedale Romance
Set in a Puritan-inspired farming community. It is based on a real place where Hawthorne lived until 1841 and yet, it still contains some elements that make it look almost unreal and that's the beauty of a Hawthorne novel. From the hyperbolic and almost neurotically dark narrator/protagonist Miles Coverdale, this book was once described as being one of Hawthorne's darkest and most incredible novels.
3. The House of the Seven Gables
One of the greatest novels of the strange and uncanny I've ever experienced. This book is based on the house in which the Salem Witch Trials took place. This novel just sends a shiver down your spine. Coloured with guilt and superstition, the text is an amazing example of Hawthorne's ability to explore the darkest parts of the human soul and bring out the wretchedness of our humanity.
FUN FACT: This book had a huge influence on the works of HP Lovecraft!
2. The Scarlet Letter
One of America's Greatest Novels, this book explores the way in which the legal system is swayed this way and that in the scandal and scorn of the Puritan gossip times. The text that DH Lawrence called Hawthorne's "masterwork" there are so many allusions to history, versions of stories, guilt, sin and even the darkest aspects of the human mind when it comes to confession. This book is something you have to read before you die. It's just too good to miss.
1. Young Goodman Brown
This is one of my personal favourite short stories of all time. It's absolutely depraved in the best of ways and explores the dark side of humanity like a cross between Edgar Allan Poe and "Eyes Wide Shut" by Stanley Kubrick. All about the strangeness of cult-like worship, the humanity of those who have none and the way in which we live our lives in sin - this text, in my opinion, is one of the best things about Hawthorne and one of the best things about American Literature ever.