Excerpt from "Bourgeois Sexuality and the Gothic Plot in Wharton and Hawthorne," by Monika M. Elbert.
Excerpt from "Bourgeois Sexuality and the Gothic Plot in Wharton and Hawthorne,"
by Monika M. Elbert. In Hawthorne and Women Engendering and Expanding the
Hawthorne Tradition, edited by John L. Idol Jr. and Melinda M. Ponder (courtesy
of University of Massachusetts Press)
Here Monika M. Elbert offers some explanation as to why Hawthorne would have concerned
himself with those who live on society's outskirts. The groups she cites share
the experience of having wickedness ascribed to them and so, whatever faults they
may have either as individuals or as members of a specific group, they nonetheless
serve to reveal, in the treatment of others toward them, Hawthorne's sense that
the judgment of others is itself the profoundest evil.
. . . Hawthorne allies Hester with the disenfranchised
members of society, those on the periphery, Native Americans, witches, sailors, widows, Quakers, antinomians, and bondservants.
Historically speaking, the Puritan notion of depravity and original sin was secularized in the nineteenth century, so that "depraved nature" was associated
with "the inferior social elements-notably Negroes, Indians Irish immigrants, the urban masses, and, in a crucially qualified sense,
women" (Goshgarian 41; emphasis mine) (259).