Social and Personal Transformation through Relationships in the Major Romances of Nathaniel Hawthorne
Date of Award
Dissertation - Restricted
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
The age in which Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote was an age of great ferment, an age punctuated by movements attempting to reform almost every aspect of society, In a letter to Carlyle, Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote in 1840 that "We are all a little wild here with numberless projects of social reform. Not a reading man but has a draft of a new Community in his waistcoat pocket ..." The notion that Nathaniel Hawthorne was largely oblivious to or disengaged from contemporary social developments has been dispelled for the most part, but there is an ongoing scholarly debate focusing on Hawthorne's views concerning the desirability of reform and the avenues through which change might be brought about. Emerson observed that "There are always two parties, the party of the Past and the party of the Future; the Establishment and the Movement," and many commentators have attempted to align Hawthorne with one or another of the political antinomies. Some scholars have concurred with George Woodberry's conclusion that "No man was less of a reformer," and have identified Hawthorne as a conservative in politics, philosophy, temperament, or women. On the other hand, other commentators have contended that "parts of him vibrated to radical romantic ideas" (Kent Bales), and have found in Hawthorne's writings, or his personal experiences, "pagan" impulses (Regis Michaud), and "subversive emotions" (Henry Nash Smith), Nina Baym concludes, for example, that" ...Hawthorne's four novels show a hatred of the system as intense as that of any feminist..."