Scarlet Letter Book Report
1. Author’s biography: Nathaniel Hawthorne
(1804-1864) Nathaniel Hawthorne was an american novelist and short story writer. Descended from a Puritan family that included one of the judges at Salem's witchcraft trials, Hawthorne became an explorer of the New England soul inhis works. After his father was lost at sea, his mother became a recluse and encouraged a similar tendency in her son. He struggled against this heritage all his life. After graduating from Bowdoin, he settled in his native Salem and set out to become a writer. He read widely in the history of New England and spent summers tramping the countryside and filling notebooks with shrewd observations.
In1828 he published an undistinguished novel, Fanshawe, which was hardly noticed by anyone except a Boston publisher named Goodrich, whose New England Magazine became Hawthorne's chief outlet. Two volumes of his short stories, Twice-Told Tales, appeared in 1837 and 1842 to mild approval. They reveal Hawthorne's preoccupation with the power of the past, particularly its relationship to guilt andsecrecy, intellectual and moral pride, and the corrosive effects of these spiritual dilemmas on the personality. Badly in need of money, Hawthorne edited and wrote almost all the material for another Goodrich magazine as well as children's books under the name Peter Parley, part of a popular series that Goodrich had launched. With the help of his college friend Franklin Pierce, a rising power in theDemocratic party, he spent two years as a political appointee in the Boston Custom House.
For a while he lived with the transcendentalists at Brook Farm near Boston but found no affinity with them. After his marriage to Sophia Peabody he settled in Concord and was similarly unimpressed by Bronson Alcott, Ralph Waldo Emerson, and the other worthies of that village at the height of its intellectualfame. Only Henry David Thoreau won his wary friendship. Otherwise Hawthorne's personal happiness revolved around his wife and growing family. His book of tales, Mosses from an Old Manse, subtly reflects his rejection of Emersonian optimism.
Still in need of money, he became surveyor of customs at Salem with Pierce's help, but when the Democrats lost power in 1850, he was dismissed--to hiseternal gratitude. He moved to western Massachusetts, vowing to make a living with his pen, and produced his masterpiece of the historical imagination, The Scarlet Letter, a penetrating dramatization of the contradictions of seventeenth-century Puritanism. He followed this triumph with two more novels, The House of the Seven Gables and The Blithedale Romance. After returning to Concord with enough moneyto buy a fine house, he wrote a campaign biography for his friend Pierce, who astonished everyone by becoming the dark horse Democratic presidential candidate in 1852. After his election, Pierce rewarded Hawthorne with the lucrative consulship of Liverpool.
After four years in that post, Hawthorne resigned, complaining of boredom, and toured England and the Continent for two years. A sojourn inItaly produced The Marble Faun, a novel about European sensuality and American guilt that anticipated much of Henry James. Hawthorne's wry view of the English, "sodden in strong beer," was apparent in his last book, Our Old Home (1863). He dedicated it to Pierce, ignoring the Civil War which had made the former president's prosouthern views loathsome to most New Englanders. Hawthorne diedprofoundly pessimistic about the industrial America that was emerging from the gunsmoke. More than any other fiction writer of his time, Hawthorne combined high artistry and intellectual power. He also helped establish the short story as a uniquely American literary form.
1. Chapter summaries
In the 1st chapter, the author explains the setting and a scene of the novel. It says that...