Excerpts from Margaret B. Moore's book, The Salem World of Nathaniel Hawthorne,
in which she explores Hawthorne's relationship with his mother and cites the
views of various critics on this relationship. (courtesy of the University
of Missouri Press)
"He [Hawthorne] himself recognized as his mother lay dying in 1849 that his relationship with her was not quite natural: 'I love my mother, but there has been, ever since my boyhood, a sort of coldness of intercourse between us, such as is apt to come between persons of strong feelings, if they are not managed rightly….I shook with sobs. For a long time, I knelt there, holding her hand; and surely it is the darkest hour I ever lived" (CE 8: 429). Gloria C. Erlich asserts that the Manning influence (that is, the influence from that whole family, rather than the Hathorne family) was paramount, since his mother lost her independence when she went back to live in their home. Edwin Haviland Miller believes Hawthorne spent his life searching for his absent father, that that was his dominant motivation, that his mother was cold, non-nurturing, almost absent, and his father was ever present to his mind. Nina Baym, on the other hand, thinks that his father never meant much to Nathaniel. He had died too early, and his uncles immediately took his place. His mother was the dominant figure in his life, was almost too present, and had sinned in bringing Elizabeth early into the world. Therefore, the Hathornes did not like her, and she herself always felt estranged. T. Walter Herbert holds that Hawthorne felt that he and his mother and sisters were in a 'circle of shared bereavement' in opposition to the Mannings. He also says that 'comparatively few boys lost their fathers in boyhood,' which is demonstrably untrue in Salem. It happened frequently; for instance, it was true of Caleb Foote, Jones Very, and Hawthorne's cousin George Archer, among others" (70-71).