Explore one aspect of the life of Nathaniel Hawthorne and discuss how that part of his background affected his writing.

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This paper will explore that aspect of Hawthorne’s life and examine how this important part of his personal background…


The focus will be threefold: the unique role of the town of Salem; the self-imposed weight of Hawthorne’s ancestry; and the characteristics--and dangers--of strict Puritan beliefs.
In order to better understand Hawthorne’s influences, we must examine the historical happenings in his birthplace, especially those years prior to his birth. Salem, Massachusetts has a rich history illustrating early American culture, representing both the good and bad aspects unique to this time. Hawthorne’s great-great-grandfather William was an early leader in Salem, known for his theocratic Puritan beliefs and a strong conviction to rid the community of anyone who did not share those strict tenets. In 1692 Salem, William’s son John was a judge who presided over the Salem Witch trials. He, too, was well known for issuing harsh judgments for a wide variety of wrongs--real or imagined. Often times, innocent people were maimed or put to death (Meltzer 10). It is this legacy that Nathaniel could not escape, even when removed by generations. As biographer Milton Meltzer believed:
There is no evidence of William or John Hawthorne ever suffering pangs of conscience. But Nathaniel bore their guilt, and his tormented heart would influence what he chose to write about, and how he did it. (14)
Nathaniel Hawthorne’s personal history began on July 4, 1804 in Salem. Subsequent generations had taken on more ordinary, less noteworthy roles in the community; Hawthorne’s father was a sea captain (online-literature). He inherited from his father a reserved nature, together with a moodiness that made him more suited for solitude. When Hawthorne was four, his father contracted yellow fever while traveling in Dutch Guiana; his death would always haunt Hawthorne as he struggled with losing a father he barely knew (Meltzer 16). It is the legacy of family--and this great familial loss--that would ...
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