Excerpt from Edwin Haviland Miller's book, Salem Is My Dwelling Place,
in which he asserts that Hawthorne's mother's "isolation from the world was
extreme" (32) and in which he discusses how this affected Hawthorne. (courtesy
of University of Iowa Press)
"Mrs. Hathorne's isolation from the world was extreme, granting all mitigating circumstances. At various times Elizabeth and Nathaniel noted without drawing somewhat obvious conclusions that their mother could not cope with feelings and demonstrations of affection. In Elizabeth's words, both the Hathornes and Mannings 'possessed deep, strong, passionate affections & natures, but were very undemonstrative, with a real inability to express their deeper emotions.' It was not her intention, but Elizabeth could have been describing Hawthorne's writings with the recurrent emphasis upon repression, non-communication, and the absence and fear of tactile contact and gratification. She perhaps did not perceive that the mother's failure was often her brother's subject matter (32-33).
The bond of children to parent, then, was intense but somewhat chilled. The mother was unable to supply the affection and support as fully as the children expected or perhaps needed. But she set a model for their behavior. Hawthorne was in many ways his mother's son. As everybody testified and his behavior illustrated, he was reclusive and often melancholic and like his fictional characters a spectator with the coolness and distance provided by such a stance. It was one way of keeping hell-fired emotions under seeming control. The energy lacking in his life and in his characters may be traceable to his mother and the ambience she created for her children" (33).