Ever since the sea of faith began its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
the importance of the Christian religion has been debated or ignored. Scholars
have drawn many conclusions as to Hawthorne's religious faith, and few seem
to agree. What seems to me to be clear is that in the Salem he knew he inhaled
a great many doctrines, but found little meaning in such precise formulations.
In this he agreed with Job, who finally admitted that he was finite and had
uttered things 'too wonderful for me' (42:3). But Hawthorne also absorbed
the conviction that religion was significant. Secular Hawthorne's writings
are not; they exude an 'instinct of faith' that may be fractured, but that
retains a vitality reacting to or drawn from the very air of Salem (122).