Nathaniel Hawthorne: The Morning of His Life
His Boyhood Years and Emergence as an Artist
Melinda M. Ponder
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
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
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.