Excerpt from Student Companion to Nathaniel Hawthorne by Melissa McFarland Pennell
Excerpt from Student Companion to Nathaniel Hawthorne by Melissa McFarland
In this excerpt from Student Companion to Nathaniel Hawthorne, Melissa
McFarland Pennell discusses themes which Hawthorne introduces in the Custom-House
sketch that he develops in subsequent chapters of the romance.
" Hawthorne introduces in the sketch several themes that he will explore in the romance that follows. These include the nature of civil authority and its coercive powers, the impact of isolation on the individual, and the sense of separation experienced by the artist or thinker from the rest of society. He also raises questions about the link between person and place, exploring the subconscious attraction that draws an individual back to a place of significance, even one associated with pain. Hawthorne's relationship to the town of Salem reflected this connection in his own life. He declared his departure from the town at the end of his Custom House sojourn, stating, 'I shall do better amongst other faces; and these familiar ones, it need hardly be said, will do just as well without me' (157). Yet not a year later, Hawthorne returned imaginatively to Salem for the setting of The House of the Seven Gables (1851) (69).