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Nathaniel Hawthorne: The Morning of His Life

Nathaniel Hawthorne: The Morning of His Life
His Boyhood Years and Emergence as an Artist

Melinda M. Ponder
September, 1981

Professor Cecil Tate

This essay is submitted in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the Master's
degree in American Studies at Boston College.

Dr. Melinda Ponder, Department of English, Pine Manor College, Chestnut Hill, MA
Dr. Melinda Ponder, Department of English, Pine Manor College, Chestnut Hill, MA

Part One. Images: The Worlds of Hawthorne's Childhood


This essay is the first section of a projected longer work. In it I have concentrated on Nathaniel Hawthorne's response to his childhood worlds--the visible exterior worlds of Salem and Maine, the intriguing imaginary worlds envisioned by various story-tellers, and the psychological environment created by all the members of the complex Manning household.

In 1853, Hawthorne described his boyhood as it seemed to him then, writing very briefly of the years he had spent in Salem and dwelling at length on the time he had spent "on the banks of the Sebago Lake" with his mother, where he would have "willingly run wild" for the rest of his life. In this autobiographical sketch, Hawthorne emphasized the significance of his days in Maine; his memory even lengthened the time he spent there. Patterning my own description of his childhood period on Hawthorne's mature perception of it, I have given more attention to his experiences in Maine than the number of days he spent there would have warranted.

In my second section, which will cover the years Hawthorne spent in Salem preparing for the entrance examinations of Bowdoin College (1819-1821), I will explore his literary apprenticeships. Lonely in the Manning household, he read voraciously-- the allegorists, Scott, and the popular Gothic novelists. He began his own writing career by creating a miniature newspaper to convey news, gossip, poetry, and humor from the Mannings in Salem to his family in Maine. By March of 1821, he wrote to his mother that he was considering becoming "an Author," an adventurous decision for a seventeen-year-old boy to make. Few men were then "relying for support" upon their pens in America.

My third section will describe Hawthorne's growth during his college years--the friendships he began and his first complete literary work, Fanshawe, which reflects Hawthorne's personal concerns as well as those of his favorite novelists. My final section will deal with Hawthorne's intense and powerful tale "Young Goodman Brown," a story which represents the culmination of the development of Hawthorne's imagination. Written in 1836, it is beautifully constructed out of material from his boyhood which had ripened in his imagination for fifteen years. By then his writing ability enabled him to "body forth" his imaginative visions and to emerge from the Manning house in Salem as one of America's first great literary artists.

Chapter I
Chapter II
Chapter III
Illustration Notes

Page citation: http://www.hawthorneinsalem.org/page/11512/

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