Richard H. Millington

Smith College

The Meanings of Hawthorne's Women

Let me begin with a thought experiment: let us imagine that "Rappaccini's Daughter" was

written by Margaret Fuller. This minor revision of literary history might have two kinds of

consequences. The first would be interpretive. Whatever overlay of mystification about the story's

meaning that has accrued over long years of interpretive labor-that it is a story about science, say,

or an allegory of Christian salvation-would vanish in a minute. The tale would emerge definitively-as

it perhaps already emerges in the readings of its most clear-eyed interpreters-as an excoriating

critique of the diseased masculinity that is one of 19th-century America's main contributions to

present-day American culture. Instructed by her other writing-"The Great Lawsuit," say-how easy it

might be to see:

that the actions of all the male characters are driven by a poisonous mix of fascination and horror

about female sexuality;

that this horror yields from the start a willingness to erase Beatrice as a human being and reduce her

to the object of an experiment-a reduction that at once implies and produces her death;

that this reduction of Beatrice to object is the characteristic maneuver of both paternal and erotic

feeling in the story, and typical of the emotional repertoire that defines masculinity within it;

that this mix of emotions finds its characteristic expression in a voyeurism compounded of loathing,

aggression, and self-hatred;

that, in short, "Rappaccini's Daughter" knows everything about our gender system that feminist film

studies has discovered in the past couple of decades, and that it is, in sum, 19th-century American

literature's most powerfully feminist short story.

A second effect of our imaginary discovery of the true author of Hawthorne's tale would, I

imagine, be a striking revision of our literary-historical landscape, with "Rappaccini's Daughter"

emerging as a kind of mid-19th-century "The Yellow Wallpaper" and Fuller, freed from the

prison-house of her allusion-ridden prose-style, achieving her full prominence and power on course

syllabi throughout the nation.

My point in conducting this experiment in counterfactual literary history is to express with

some drama the paradox I want to explore today: what does it mean that Hawthorne-apparently no

friend to the hunger for new possibilities and patterns of life felt by the century's emerging feminist

thinkers-seems to have written the most powerfully feminist fiction of the American 19th Century?

I propose the following route for our ruminations-and I should say in advance that my goal is

less to propose one definitive answer to my question than to explore some of the analytic

perspectives or possibilities that might illuminate this apparent paradox. First, I want to consider

whether there is a cogent pattern that characterizes Hawthorne's portrayal of women, first in some

of his most powerful stories and then, as they emerge, in more complex form, in the novels. Second,

I will survey some of the prevailing scholarly responses to Hawthorne's respresentation of

women-and, of course, to the larger issue of Hawthorne's feminism we're interrogating. (Here I'll be

working through, I hope usefully, a set of interpretive controversies and possibilities that might find

their way into your own work.) Finally, I want to propose, somewhat speculatively, a way of

understanding gender issues in Hawthorne's work and career in relation to some of the

characteristic institutions and practices of the emerging middle-class culture he represents and

interrogates in his writing. (This last effort has something in common, I hope, with your own project

to bring Hawthorne's fiction into productive relation to contemporary material culture.)

Hawthorne's Women

Can we discern a pattern, an implicit analytic shape, to Hawthorne's representation of

women, and to his portrayal of gender relations more largely? I think the answer is, emphatically,

yes . . . and it was brilliantly and lucidly identified, some years ago, by Nina Baym in her

hash-settling essay "Thwarted Nature: Nathaniel Hawthorne as Feminist." Baym argues that many

of the stories we most value and most often teach compose a sustained analysis of-and a powerful

attack upon-male behavior. Again and again, in nascent form in stories like "Wakefield" and "Young

Goodman Brown," in full flower in "The Minister's Black Veil," "The Birth-Mark," and

"Rappaccini's Daughter, Hawthorne stages encounters between men and women. In these

encounters, male characters-their underlying anxiousness and aggression disguised as ambition or

obsession-refuse the invitation to full, complex, and humane life offered by their female

counterparts. These acts of neurotic refusal punish-and even kill off-the women and yield to the

male characters the utterly empty lives they seem all along to seek.

Baym argues that this pattern of cowardly or sadistic male refusal of the richer possibilities of

life represented by women continues, in fuller and more complex form, in the novels. What had

perhaps seemed a set of psychological flaws in the stories emerges as a fully social phenomenon in

the novels, a kind of cultural symptom. As he creates female characters who are not simply

containers for positive values but exemplars of a full and subversive alternative life-Zenobia, Miriam,

pre-eminently Hester-Hawthorne, via his implicit repudiation of male flight from such women, indicts

the thinness and rigidity of a society that seems at once to induce and endorse such poisonous


I find this a powerfully convincing analysis, admirable especially for its freedom from the

mistake of identifying Hawthorne's perspective with that of the male characters his fiction is engaged

in analyzing. In recommending it as a description of what's at stake in much of Hawthorne's most

powerful work-in celebrating it, really-I might nevertheless propose a few differences in emphasis.

If we think about the stories in particular, we might notice that what's especially at issue (given the

relative thinness of the female characters) is a consistent critique of a version of masculinity, in which

male ambition seems to drive the treatment of the women and the repudiation of the values, typically

associated with domestic life, they represent. Here we might observe that what Baym is calling

"feminism" is essentially an account of masculinity, in which the version of manhood attacked is

associated with the marketplace values troubling many cultural observers during Hawthorne's time.

This distinction seems potentially significant as we consider the nature of Hawthorne's investment in

these tales, because, while a critique of masculinity may be a crucial element of feminist analysis, it is

not necessarily identical with it. That is, one might, as a man, be profoundly critical of a prevailing or

emerging form of male identity without questioning supposedly "natural" female roles. Indeed, in

these stories, female characters seem to exemplify vlaues linked to women in middle-class domestic

ideology. Still, Baym is certainly right to argue that the thwarting of talented female lives is crucially

at issue as Hawthorne invents Hester, Zenobia, and Miriam.

Here is a second possible shift in emphasis. For Baym, the key and central issue in

Hawthorne's fiction is female sexuality: it is that "natural" power and possession, as she conceives it,

that becomes the focus of male horror and the thwarting, control, or punishment of which becomes

the secret goal of male endeavor. For Baym, thus, Hawthorne's key indictment of his culture is its

destruction of a pleasurable and natural relation to the body. While I would completely agree that

sexuality is powerfully evoked and at issue in these texts-who could deny it?-I'd argue that

Hawthorne's implicit argument is a broader one, concerning questions of value as well as a release

from self-suppression. For me, Hawthorne uses his admirable or formidable female characters to

represent an adequately complex and comparatively free relation to life. Such a relation would, of

course, include a healthy sexuality (sexuality understood by Hawthorne, I think, as a particularly

complex emotional terrain and a key target of a culture's ordering schemes). But I think the key

issue for Hawthorne, and the heroic possibility at once evoked and mourned or yearned for through

the bleak careers of his heroic women, is that of a more freely chosen, more adequately imagined,

more powerfully ethical life. This is, of course, clearest in The Scarlet Letter, in which Hester not

only keeps alive and at last momentarily expresses a glorious erotic life, but in doing so exemplifies

what it might mean to locate a life at once subversive of and engaged with one's community. Such a

life, one notices, is precisely what Dimmesdale-a victim, one might propose, of his deep affiliation to

the power system whose norms he has violated-cannot compass. Such a life, we might also

observe, is the goal of the narrator of "The Custom House," who, in seeking to become a "citizen of

somewhere else" allies himself to Hester across the boundaries of gender. So: If we join the critique

of masculinity we witness in the stories to the creation of a character like Hester, we might conclude

that Hawthorne's women operate as a powerfully moving and constructive expressers of the

alternative values these fictions endorse and yearn for.

Critical Responses and Possibilities

If one accepts the overall accuracy of Baym's account of the consistency of Hawthorne's way

of telling the stories of his couples-and, it seems to me, it is hard not to-what interpretive

conclusions ought we to draw about the meanings of women (or, more broadly, the meanings of

gender) in his fiction? I want now to work through some of the possibilities the strongest recent

criticism has offered to us, and which we might offer to our students (and perhaps find a way to

dramatize via the website). I think these critical responses can be organized into three "strategies."

1.First, one might simply buy Baym's argument, and the view of Hawthorne's

achievement that follows from it. This gives us Hawthorne as a prescient and

generous-minded cultural analyst, finding, in his portrayal of the war between the

genders, a way to dramatize and combat the emptying out of both women's and men's

lives by the ever-narrower forms of being their culture offers them. This is, to me, an

appealing view-and one that can, I believe, be maintained and argued for and enjoyed

with a clear critical conscience . . . . But is does have a weakness, one that I alluded

to at the start of this talk when I referred to the "paradox" of Hawthorne-as-Feminist.

What this argument obscures from view is a biographical record that makes it pretty

hard to maintain an untroubled conviction of Hawthorne's enlightenment on gender

questions, for there are elements of his own behavior that at the very least suggest a

gap between the apparent convictions of the fiction and the actions of the man. I'm

thinking here, for instance, of his opposition to Sophia's publication of her letters

(something we might put together with some of his famous/infamous commentary on

women writers); of his extremely cruel comments at the death of Margaret Fuller; of

his refusal to send his daughter Una to the school she longed to attend . . . indeed, of

the whole troubled trajectory of Una's life, as it emerges in T. Walter Herbert's

remarkable Dearest Beloved: The Hawthornes and the Making of the

Middle-Class Family; of his repudiation of Louisa Lander, a young American

sculptor in Rome who had been close to him and his family, at the first whiff of

scandalous rumor, even as the character of Miriam may have been gestating in his

imagination. No one of these facts of life is conclusive-but the accumulation of them

seems formidable, even to someone like me, strongly disposed to admire Hawthorne

and to distrust biographical arguments and aware that we all perhaps write more

cogently than we live.

2.This sort of dissonance has led some very powerful scholars to a more skeptical view

of the "feminism" of Hawthorne's work, and, indeed, of its claim to liberatory, or

"subversive," or culturally critical force more largely. The best of these arguments do

not deny the validity of Baym's pattern or the existence of a powerfully sympathetic

identification between Hawthorne and, say, Hester (The Scarlet Letter tends to be

the crucial text here.) But these readers see not a committed, feminist Hawthorne but

an ambivalent, even a tormented man, drawn powerfully to contain the subversive

possibilities unleashed by his own troubled sympathies. Thus for T. Walter Herbert,

the best of these critics, the end of The Scarlet Letter turns Hester's rebellion against

Puritan authority into an endorsement of the authorized womanhood of his own time,

and it enfolds Pearl-as Hawthorne hoped to enfold Una-within the prescribed

boundaries of gentleness, sympathy, happiness-pf cprrect 19th-Century femininity.

Herbert's Hawthorne, then, is not a heroic foe of 19th-century American middle-class

gender ideology but a writer who in his very troubled and troubling relation to it

reveals the costly and complex conditions of its operation. And the literary value of his

work inheres not in its remarkable analytic power over his contradictory and

self-thwarting culture but in the way it reveals his-and our-embeddedness in it. [Let me

remark parenthetically that David Leverenz (Manhood and the American

Renaissance) is another critic worth consulting here, and that there's a kind of

symmetry between this kind of "containment" argument about Hawthorne and gender

and the very important view of the political force of his fiction advanced by Sacvan

Bercovitch in The Office of The Scarlet Letter. The weak point of these readings, it

seems to me, lie in their tendency to take Hawthorne's narrator's views, which often

dramatize views within the community, for his own.)

3.The last critical strategy I'll mention is not widely practiced but is brilliant in its

simplicity and, in its own way, promisingly sensible. In contrast to the celebration

exemplified by Baym, or the containment argued by Herbert, we might call this

interpretive move "substitution." In a now classic essay, "Archimides and the Paradox

of Feminist Criticism," Myra Jehlen, discussing strongly sympathetic portraits of female

characters by male writers-let's think of Hester here-cautions against regarding such

portraits as "feminist." Jehlen instead proposes that what's at stake for the male writer

in such cases is not the situation of actual women but that of the writer himself.

Speaking of Richardson and Clarissa, but extending her point to a larger set of male

novelists, Jehlen writes: "If . . . he envisioned his heroine in terms with which feminists

may sympathize, it is, I believe, because he viewed her as representing not really

woman but the interior self, the female interior self in all men-in all men, but especially

developed perhaps in writers, whose external role in this society is particularly

incommensurate with their vision, who create new worlds but earn sparse recognition

or often outright scorn in this one." (The Signs Reader, 92). Jehlen's argument

suggests a relatively easy resolution of the paradox of Hawthorne the

patriarch/feminist: Hawthorne's Hester gives life to the critical perspective and

commitment at the center of his writerly identity. I might add that one could infer some

support for Jehlen's idea by thinking about The House of the Seven Gables, the

novel I haven't so far mentioned. Here we might notice that in the book he thought

closest to his actual life and sensibility, and most engaged in working out a way for

men and women to live together in the calmer light of everyday life, the gender drama

is much more conventional: it's Holgrave who needs anchoring in Phoebe's efficacious

goodness, and Phoebe who needs complicating via exposure to his more free-ranging

and critical mind.

Hawthorne's Gender?

I leave what I hope is a fair description of some valuable ways of understanding the meanings

of Hawthorne's stunning portrayal of women without declaring a winner. Instead, I'd like to try a

different interpretive experiment, one that doesn't try to banish or "solve" that paradoxical gap

between life and text but sets out to understand it in historical context. With the foregoing account

of what happens within Hawthorne's fiction in mind, I want to focus upon a different gender drama:

the way in which he typically presents himself and his texts to the reader. For reasons that will

become clear, I'll call this closing section of this talk "Hawthorne's Gender ?"

In Notions of the Americans (1828), Cooper's European bachelor offers the following tribute to

the American woman:

To me woman appears to fill in America the very station for which she was designed by

nature. In the lowest conditions of life, she is treated with the tenderness and respect that is

due to beings whom we believe to be the repositories of the better principles of our nature.

Retired within the sacred precincts of her own abode, she is preserved from the destroying

taint of excessive intercourse with the world. She makes no bargains beyond those which

supply her own little personal wants, and her heart is not early corrupted by the baneful and

unfeminine vice of selfishness . . . . She must be sought in the haunts of her domestic privacy,

and not amid the wranglings, deceptions, and heart-burnings of keen and sordid traffic.

There is much to notice in this standard-issue celebration of gender ideology, but I hope I am not

alone in having called to mind the Hawthorne of the various Prefaces-at a remove from the

man-testing avenues of commercial life, or retired (as at the Old Manse) within the sacred precincts

of a "domestic privacy," offering there with rueful tenderness and slightly comical deference the

possibility of a gentle and restorative intercourse with the reader. It is this curious but I think

insistent and characteristic conjunction-of a kind of gender blurring with an act of writerly

self-presentation (and thus, paradoxically, with excursions into the very marketplace his language is

effacing)-that I want to explore as we try to put together several striking, but apparently

paradoxical, features, or puzzle pieces, of Hawthorne's career: the curious "femininity" of his various

modes of self-presentation, both public and private; the stunning rigor of his attack on a predatory

masculinity; the apparent failure to apply the insights of the fiction to the life.

The first piece of my puzzle is the one just described: Hawthorne's tendency, especially in the

prefatory essays or passages that become an insistent formal feature of his texts, to present himself

so as to be read, in the characteristic gender vocabulary of antebellum culture, as female. I'm

thinking, as I just suggested, of the thematic scenery of delicate near-retirement; of the emphasis on

incompleteness and the achievement of selfhood via connection (seemingly so different from

"self-made" manhood's emphasis on containment and self-control), which becomes his customary

way of figuring his relation to the reader; of the frequent evocation of a kind of male domesticity.

This is to say that I am wondering not about Hawthorne's identification with women but his literary

presentation of himself AS one.

The second puzzle piece concerns what happens within the imaginative structures implied by

these prefatory passages: if, as Hawthorne's language persistently suggests, the prefaces are

"thresholds," what takes place within the textual interiors such thresholds demarcate? Obviously, the

strictly accurate answer to this question is "many different things," but to me the most striking of

them (here I'm thinking especially of Mosses from and Old Manse) is the intense and intensely

analytic feminism of some of the fictions contained there. I suppose both the term and the readings it

implies might be disputed, but in tales like "The Birth-Mark," "Rappaccini's Daughter," "The

Minister's Black Veil," "Young Goodman Brown," and "The Artist of the Beautiful" (not to mention

the novels) Hawthorne conducts what seems to me to be an analysis and criticism of male

personality unequaled in its depth and rigor. But why should the anxiousness, rigidity, and

aggressiveness of male character have emerged so insistently as one of Hawthorne's central


Here, finally, is the third and last piece of my puzzle. If this picture of Hawthorne's deep

understanding of the inner shape of middle-class gender roles is accurate, what are we to make of

the account of Hawthorne's life that has emerged so compellingly in T. Walter Herbert's

work-where gender relations within and around that family seem ridden by breakdowns of

sympathetic idenfification, by failures to recognize in life and in actual women the debilitating

narratives so fully understood in the fiction? How did such rich analysis come to yield so little usable


Readers of Hawthorne scholarship will of course recognize that this knot of questions does

not originate with me, and Melville's famous label-"Hawthorne: a Problem"-seems to belong with

special force to this whole question of identification with women-of vicarious femininity or feminism

in Hawthorne's work. I want now to propose a way of understanding the relationship between the

pieces of my puzzle-the imaginary femininity of the Prefaces, the analytic feminism of the fiction, the

apparent short-circuiting of wisdom in the life. I will set aside the psychological explanations,

whether personal or cultural, that seem like the most plausible routes toward such an understanding

. . . and speculate instead about what might be called the "cultural location" of reading in antebellum


Let me turn first, and most extensively, to the "imaginary femininity" of the figure of himself

Hawthorne composes in the Prefaces. The definitive public celebration of Hawthorne's womanly

qualities comes in Longfellow's 1842 review of Twice-told Tales. Longfellow discovers the many

"feminine elements" of Hawthorne's genius: "depth and tenderness of feeling," exceeding purity of

mind," "a certain airy grace and arch vivacity in narrating incidents and delineating characters." He

notices the intensity of the maternal sentiment achieved in "The Gentle Boy," the "minute delicacy of

touch" and "womanly knowledge of a child's mind and character" apparent in "Little Annie's

Ramble," the fineness and delicacy of his portrayal of female character-concluding, at last, that

"Every woman owes [Hawthorne] a debt of gratitude for those lovely visions of womanly faith,

tenderness, and truth, which glide so gracefully through his pages" (Idol, 62).

What's going on here? This passage, both in its content and in the enthusiasm of its own

public performance of the femininity it evokes, has long signaled to me that there's something "off,"

or partial, in our standard account of the relation between a combative, rivalrous, anxious

19th-Century masculinity and the male writer's task of establishing a writerly identity. For what we

must infer from the context is the complete "normality" of what I have been calling "imaginary

femininity." The other paragraphs of Longfellow's review-and this one must be doing the same

thing-each identify an element of Hawthorne's talent (his "poetic" capacity, his preference for

authentically American materials, the elegance of his prose) that demonstrates his qualifications as

an elite American writer. What Hemingway would have heard as fighting words, then, Hawthorne

must have heard as compliments. And from this, I think, we might learn two things: not only is a

publically acknowledged femininity fully compatible with at least some styles of middle-class

masculinity, but the capacity to perform femininity emerges as a crucial aspect of the male writer's

professional qualifications-at least as Longfellow was setting out to define them. In a sense,

Longfellow welcomes Hawthorne as one of the boys by pointing out his ability to be one of the


We might glimpse an intriguing professional exchange or act of instruction here: Longfellow

finds and celebrates in Hawthorne's fiction the feminine qualities that Hawthorne will later learn to

foreground in his prefaces. But this public exchange between the two writers is preceded by an

earlier, more personal one that is still more curious. Upon the appearance of the first version of

Twice-told Tales (and in anticipation, one must imagine, of a review), Hawthorne sent Longfellow

a now-famous account of his life since college. The figure that emerges from this

letter-self-sequestered; "carried apart from the main current of life"; not having lived, but only

dreamed about living; untouched by personal or readerly responsiveness-has, a number of readers

have noticed, a striking later life. It appears both as the Prefaces' figure of the writer, seeking a

mutually enlivening interchange with his reader, and-more surprisingly-as the figure of the lover in

Hawthorne's courtship letters to Sophia, demonstrating his eagerness for love's self-completing

connection and shared selfhood. To take the most famous instance: "Thou only hast revealed me to

myself; for without thy aid, my best knowledge of myself would have been merely to know my own

shadow-to watch it flickering on the wall, and mistake its fantasies for my own real actions. Indeed

we are but shadows . . . till the heart is touched. That touch creates us-then we begin to be-thereby

we are beings of reality, and inheritors of eternity" (Letters, 1813-1843, 495).

It is, at last, from the curious dual career of this emotionally vulnerable figure-its capacity to

function as both a lover and a figurative professional identity-that I will compose my "solution" to the

puzzle I have proposed. For what the double life of this version of Hawthorne shows us, I think, is

the affinity, within antebellum middle-class culture, between writing and courtship: that these two

domains, each a curious mix of the private and the social, are cognate cultural locations, occupying

allied positions in the emotional life of middle-class men and women. Social historians, most notably

Karen Lystra in Searching the Heart, have begun to give us a striking picture of the relation

between the emergence of an ethos of romantic love and the reshaping of understandings of

selfhood and gender roles in Victorian America. Courtship-itself an intensely literary

activity-emerges from Lystra's materials and analysis as a kind of privately conducted (writer's)

workshop for the production of an alternative masculinity, a masculinity not felt to be in some simple

contrast to the toughness called for in the public sphere but expressing an equally authentic aspect

of masculine personality. In a number of ways, it makes sense to call this alternative masculinity

"imaginary femininity": under the tutelage and subject to the judgment of the beloved, men,

particularly in their letters, were called upon to perform, as a sign of their readiness for marriage, a

subjectivity constructed in opposition to marketplace masculinity-a subjectivity built upon emotional

self-scrutiny and disclosure, upon a concept of selfhood as most fully realized when shared or

merged, upon an espousal of the private, the "domestic" as life's most authentic locale: a

subjectivity, in short, understood (and explicitly identified by many male letter-writers) as-at

once-vicariously female and (at least potentially) authentically male.

What, then, might be the meaning of the apparent affinity between these two figures of

himself-the lover, the author-Hawthorne writes into being? How might this apparent connection

between courtship and authorship help us with the puzzle I have proposed. First, Hawthorne's

"imaginary femininity"-the "feminine" qualities that Longfellow celebrates and Hawthorne

performs-emerges not as personal idiosyncrasy, nor mere marketing strategy, but as a

version-perhaps and exemplary instance-of a cultural role that's at the center of the

meaning-strategies of the antebellum middle class. Hawthorne can construct a professional identity

out of the materials of courtship because writing and romance alike locate meaning in a heightened

privacy they help call into being, and they alike depend upon-indeed, they construe meaningfulness

as-the vicarious achievement, within that ostensibly private place, of a differently configured


What about my second conundrum, the surprising "feminism" of much of Hawthorne's fiction?

I think that the analogy to courtship also helps us see the formal shape of Hawthorne's narrative in a

useful way. If the gender-blurring Prefaces mark our entry into writing's private space, what

characteristically happens there-the rigorous criticism of the blighted psychology of careerist male

characters, or, in "sketches" like "Little Annie's Ramble," the performance of a domestic

sensibility-seems to resemble courtship's construction of an anti- or counter- masculinity. Both

courtship and Hawthorne's fiction, I am suggesting, draw their content from and implicitly identify

their work as the vicarious achievement, within an ostensibly private place, of a differently

configured masculinity-to be vicariously possessed by the male reader and, perhaps, to be

imaginatively acknowledged and authorized by the female one. No one would imagine that this is all

that Hawthorne's fiction does, or courtship does, but both courtship and reading seem to emerge as

cultural "interiors" engaged in the construction of a newly emphatic and celebrated interiority. And

both of these activities, courting and reading, emerge as definitively self-defining forms of cultural

exchange among the very class of people who were forming literature's burgeoning audience

Finally, and at last: if the positing of a male role that I've been calling "imaginary femininity"

helps us understand, in a way that takes us past idiosyncrasy, Hawthorne's acts of writerly

self-presentation, and if the social geography of courtship helps us find a cultural meaning for the

formal shape of Hawthorne's male-bashing narratives, what help-however speculative-do I get with

my last question: Why do the analyses, identifications, and commitments of the fiction fail to bear

fruit in the life? The best answers we have to such a question have been grounded in the complex

way private actions or inactions might express culturally produced or historically local conflicts or

anxieties. But perhaps the analysis I have been pursuing here can suggest a social origin for the

difficulty of crossing the gap between the actual and the imaginary.

First, it may help us see that "imaginary femininity" is, at bottom, a male role-even, for

Hawthorne, a professional role-and that, as a form of cultural expression, it may have more to do

with renegotiating masculinity than recognizing an actual femininity. Or, more deeply, and to me,

more convincingly: Hawthorne's failures of recognition or application may express more than a

personal limitation. They may represent, at least in part, the very nature of the meaning

strategy-typical of the new forms of sequestered significance that come to characterize middle-class

life-that I've been calling "imaginary femininity": intensely private and essentially vicarious, both

courtship and reading may construct meanings that exhaust themselves in the beautiful interiors they

call into being.

Works Cited or Referred to

Baym, Nina. "Thwarted Nature: Nathaniel Hawthorne as Feminist." In Fritz Fleischmann,

ed., American Novelists Revisited: Essays in Feminist Criticism. Boston: G.K. Hall,


Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Letters, 1814-1843. Centenary Edition, Vol. 15. Ed. William

Charvat Columbus: Ohio University Press, 1984.

Herbert, T. Walter, Jr. Dearest Beloved: The Hawthornes and the Making of the

Middle-Class Family. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993.

__________. "Nathaniel Hawthorne, Una Hawthorne, and The Scarlet Letter: Interactive

Selfhood and the Cultural Construction of Gender." PMLA 103 (1988): 285-97.

Idol, John L., and Buford Jones, eds. Nathaniel Hawthorne: The Contemporary Reviews.

Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994.

Leverenz, David. Manhood and the American Renaissance. Ithaca: Cornell University

Press, 1989.

Lystra, Karen. Searching the Heart: Women, Men, and Romantic Love in

Nineteenth-Century America. New York: Oxford University Press, 1989.