Date: August 1956
Creator: Estes, Emory Dolphous, Jr.
Description: While his Transcendentalist contemporaries were expounding their optimistic philosophy of natural goodness, progress, and perfectibility, Hawthorne probed into the human heart, recording the darkest motives of his characters and writing bitter criticism of life. Around him men were declaring that scientific inventions, political organizations, and religious reforms were ushering in a new era; but Hawthorne viewed the new society as a probable continuation of old evils and a manufacturer of new ones. His fiction has been called "an elaborate study of the centrifugal, . . . a dramatization of all those social and psychological forces that lead to disunion, fragmentation, dispersion, incoherence. Critics generally comment on Hawthorne's obsession with guilt. His pessimistic analysis of the mind, his somber outlook on living, and his personal tendency to solitude are frequently credited to his Puritan ancestry; yet as Arvin points out, "He had no more Puritan blood than Emerson and hundreds of other New Englanders of his time: and who will say that they were obsessed with the spectral presence of guilty. One must go beyond Calvinist theology to comprehend the source of guilt that hovers over the pages of his fiction. His religious, moral, educational, and economic background was so typical ...
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