Research Paper: Nathaniel Hawthorne

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[. . .] For the earth too, had on her Black Veil." (Hawthorne, nd)

This story culminates in the death of the aged Mr. Hooper is goes to his grave still wearing the black veil. The black veil had separated him from the love of others around him for the entirety of his life and separated him even until his death. As Mr. Hooper lay dying he revealed how in his mind that every man and woman around him wore a black veil. The black veil was symbolic for evil and sin the lives of people and symbolic of that which separated humankind from God as sin serves to separate one from God. The black veil is also symbolic of how the sins of humankind are hidden from the view of others in their lives.

IV. The Scarlet Letter

Hawthorne's story "The Scarlet Letter" is one that portrays a child who lives her life without a father, which serves to portray the circumstances of Hawthorne in his life. The story concerns a young woman who is married to a much older man. The woman, Hester, is sent to Boston to await her older husband's arrival and in the interim becomes pregnant with another man's child. The story begins with Hester being led from the jail to the town square wearing a bright red letter 'A' for adulterer. She and her daughter Pearl are shunned by the town throughout this story although Hester's humility and graciousness and charity serve to win some of the people over. The father of the illegitimate Pearl was none other than the local minister although Hester refuses to divulge the father's identity. The last chapter of this story states as follows:

"The eloquent voice, on which the souls of the listening audience had been borne aloft, as on the swelling waves of the sea, at length came to a pause. There was a momentary silence, profound as what should follow the utterance of oracles. The street and the market place absolutely babbled, from side to side, with applauses of the minister. His hearers could not rest until they had told one another of what each knew better than he could tell or hear. According to their united testimony, never had man spoken in so wise, so high, and so holy a spirit, as he that spake this day; nor had inspiration ever breathed through mortal lips more evidently than it did through his. He stood, at this moment, on the very proudest eminence of superiority, to which the gifts of intellect, rich lore, prevailing eloquence, and a reputation of whitest sanctity, could exalt a clergyman in New England's earliest days, when the professional character was of itself a lofty pedestal. Such was the position, which the minister occupied, as he bowed his head forward on the cushions of the pulpit, at the close of his Election Sermon. Meanwhile, Hester Prynne was standing beside the scaffold of the pillory, with the scarlet letter still burning on her breast!" (Hawthorne, 1850)

Throughout this story, Hester bears the burden of the adultery that produced her daughter, Pearl, and the minister carries on in an exalted position with the community never knowing that it was he, the minister, who was guilty along with Hester in the act of Adultery that produced the child Pearl. Instead of a triumphant demeanor following this speech for which the ardencies regarded him so highly, the minister began to look pale and sickly and it was with great shock to the town that the minister upon reaching the scaffold in the middle of town turned to Hester and Pearl and said:

"Hester, come hither, Come, my little Pearl! (Hawthorne, 1850)

It was none other than Hester's elderly husband who tried to stop the minister from such foolishness before the town however, the minister continued on and as he stood upon the scaffold revealed to the town that while they had shuddered at the sight of Hester's red letter 'A' that he had stood preaching to them with his sin hidden from view stating that they had deemed him as holy. That being said the minister ripped open his clothing and showed the scarlet letter A that was on his body. As he lay dying, he has little Pearl if she would kiss him and she did so and the minister bid farewell to Hester and died. The townspeople were speechless.

Hawthorne's "The Scarlet Letter" relates the rigid beliefs of Puritanism and how sin in the community was ostracized, labeled and branded as well as revealing the irony of how some people are labeled sinners and others manage to keep their sins hidden from view and are respected and as in the case of the minister in this story, even exalted to a state of holiness as they are regarded above other common men. Unlike Mr. Hooper, in "The Minister's Black Veil" the minister in "The Scarlet Letter" waits seven years to step forth and proclaim his guilt. It is interesting that Hawthorne uses the number '7' as it is the number of years of the tribulation stated in the Book of Revelations in the New Testament of the Holy Bible, which precedes the coming of Christ to earth.

Summary and Conclusion

The three stories reviewed in this study all mirror the struggle that Hawthorne had with reconciling within himself the principles and beliefs of the Puritans as compared to their persecution of the Quakers who were accused of practicing witchcraft. It seems that Hawthorne has noted the inherent evil that has the potential to exist and live in the lives of each man and woman and the irony of how some individuals, with their secret and hidden sins, stand in judgment of those who secret sins are unable to be hidden, such as in the case of Hester whose sin was made known at the birth of her daughter, Pearl.

Hawthorne's story "The Birthmark" appears to be expressing Hawthorne's belief that humankind was entrusting too much to science and too little to God. Georgiana's birthmark was part of her and an expression of the creator or God. Aylmer's desire to rid Georgiana of the birthmark was arrogantly akin to playing God and the poor Georgiana, putting her trust in science and man rather than in God, was seduced by the desire of acquiescing to her husband who in the practice of alchemy, took the life of his wife during the course of his evil practice of attempting to bring perfection by playing the role of God.

Hawthorne appears to have had great foresight in understanding the role that science would eventually play in the world leading people astray in the attempt to create the 'perfect' effectively diverting their attention from the source or God seeing God's creation as somehow flawed and the offerings of plastic surgery to be superior to God's creation as many have died and been maimed under the knives of medical practitioners in their attempt to achieve earthly perfection. Hawthorne stresses through his stories that it is man's soul that suffers due to man's sins and as stated in the closing of "The Scarlet Letter" by the minister to Hester:

"The law we broke! -- the sin here so awfully revealed! -- let these alone be in thy thoughts! I fear! I fear! It may be, that, when we forgot our God, -- when we violated our reverence each for the other's soul." (Hawthorne, 1850)


Hawthorne, Nathaniel (1999) The Minister's Black Veil: Boston: Ticknor and Fields 1850. Retrieved from

Hawthorne, Nathaniel (1999) The Scarlet Letter: Boston: Ticknor and Fields 1850, Retrieved from:

Hawthorne, Nathaniel. (1999) The Scarlet Letter: A Romance. Boston: Ticknor and Fields, 1850.Retrieved from:

Rummel, C. (1996) Puritanism in Nathaniel Hawthorne's Short Stories. 25 7 1996. American Short Stories. Retrieved from: [END OF PREVIEW]

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Nathaniel Hawthorne.  (2011, October 2).  Retrieved May 21, 2019, from

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"Nathaniel Hawthorne."  2 October 2011.  Web.  21 May 2019. <>.

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"Nathaniel Hawthorne."  October 2, 2011.  Accessed May 21, 2019.