Ágnes Pokol

The Sociological Dimensions of The Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne as a Social Critic on Democracy and the Woman question. Part II.: Society, Women, Artists






When thinking about woman’s position in either the seventeenth or the mid-nineteenth century, it is easy to see in it the classic scenario of minority versus majority.  Regardless of numbers¾the female population did not necessarily have to be smaller than the male in order to qualify as a minority¾in both seventeenth and mid-nineteenth century scenarios the power was with the white man.  Looking at the seventeenth century first, it is to be noted that Ann Hutchinson’s case was exacerbated by the “unfortunate circumstance” of her being a woman: it was brought up against her that “as a woman she was not fit to interpret the word of God.”[1]  Thus, unhappily, she was the embodiment of two minorities at once, with her womanhood being to the detriment of her antinomian endeavors.  As to what antinomianism entailed, it was the propagation of the existence of a certain “inner light” dwelling in every individual, which in turn presupposed a spirituality coming from inner experience of the Holy Spirit rather than from any conformity to religious laws.  In Part I. of this discussion it has been touched upon that this inner light of antinomianism can be regarded as the ancestor of transcendentalism’s ethos of self-reliance, with the emphasis on the individual in both cases.[2]  Therefore, a parallel can be drawn between seventeenth-century Puritanism and mid-nineteenth century Unitarianism serving as majorities, between antinomianism and transcendentalism embodying minorities, and finally between Ann Hutchinson and Emerson as representatives of the minorities.  What is of special interest in this arrangement is the fact that transcendentalism is represented by a man.  On the one hand, bearing in mind Ann Hutchinson’s “double-minority position,” it seems to be a fortunate thing that the representative of transcendentalism was not similarly burdened by the social drawbacks of being a woman.  On the other hand, however, this only goes to show that women in the mid-nineteenth century were still not better off than their seventeenth-century predecessors.  Indeed, even the seemingly progressive and liberal transcendentalists excluded women when hailing self-reliance, indicating a clash between these two very important minority issues of mid-nineteenth century America.  It is at this point that one of the leading contemporary female thinkers of the time is to be introduced, namely Margaret Fuller who, besides Ann Hutchinson, actually served as the other model for the figure of Hester Prynne.  However, before turning to the affinities between Margaret Fuller and Hester Prynne, a more detailed parallel between Ann Hutchinson and the latter deserves attention.

While Hawthorne does not give any direct clue as to the affinities between Fuller and Mistress Prynne, he does so several times in the case of Mrs. Hutchinson.  In fact, the very first reference establishes a link between her and Hawthorne himself: far from an object of pride, one of the latter’s ancestors is identified as her “bitter persecutor” (SL 16).  That Hawthorne himself as a “writer of storybooks” (SL 17) is regarded with disapproval by the self-same ancestors seems to put him on the side of Ann Hutchinson.  The second allusion to her has already been touched upon in Part I., it being connected to the “wild rose-bush” that was said to have “sprung up under the sainted footsteps of Ann Hutchinson” (SL 60).  This indication in connection with the penal institution of the community merely marks Ann Hutchinson’s and Hester Prynne’s similar social status as ostracized members, and it is only a page later with the third allusion that the former’s alleged “crime” is named: Hawthorne describes the scaffold where Hester is also to be punished as the scene of chastisement for “an Antinomian, a Quaker” (SL 61).  So far, then, with three separate hints, an affinity between Hawthorne, Hutchinson, Hester and the rose-bush has been set up. 

The fourth allusion is once again linked to the rose-bush, which “recruits” yet another non-conformist member, namely little Pearl: at Governor Bellingham’s house she announces to the flabbergasted Puritan worthies that she “had not been made at all, but had been plucked by her mother off the bush of wild roses that grew by the prison-door” (SL 128).  This incident opens up a multitude of associations.  Firstly, Hawthorne himself mentions that this startling answer, besides the rose-bush by the prison door that they had passed on their way, “was probably suggested by the near proximity of the Governor’s roses, as Pearl stood outside the window” (SL 128).  That Hawthorne links the worthy old Puritan Governor’s roses with its two nonconformist equivalents (Pearl and prison rose-bush) is another hint that what the Puritan community is so busy persecuting is, in fact, inherent in the most exemplary members as well.  To explain, throughout the seventh chapter “The Governor’s Hall” and the following chapter “The Elf-Child and the Minister” some rather surprisingly luxurious traits in the excellent Governor himself and in his surroundings are referred to: his New England habitation, which was planned “after the residences of gentlemen of fair estate in his native land,” has a brilliancy which “might have befitted Aladdin’s palace, rather than the mansion of a grave old Puritan ruler” (SL 119-120).  In fact, after Hawthorne’s allusion to these seeming contradictions, the Governor himself likens Pearl to one of the “relics of Papistry” from “merry old England” (SL 124-6), unaware of the outward signs around him which are “relics of Papistry” as well. 

To top all this, his “bitter-tempered sister” is none other than Mistress Hibbins, the “same who, a few years later, was executed as a witch” (SL 134)¾thereby being amongst the victims of the witch-hunt performed by Hawthorne’s second forefather, the son of the Antinomian / Quaker-hunter (SL 16).  She actually tries to tempt the departing Hester to join her and her “merry company in the forest,” to which Hester’s answer gives yet another twist: “I must tarry at home, and keep watch over my little Pearl.  Had they taken her from me, I would willingly have gone with thee into the forest, and signed my name in the Black Man’s book too, and that with mine own blood!” (SL 134)  Thus, ironically, it is Pearl, non-conformism incarnate, who saves Hester from the witchcraft of the punishing Puritan worthy’s sister.  Good and evil become thoroughly ambiguous terms, which is only further complicated by Hawthorne’s own stance: he concludes at the end of this chapter that “even thus early had the child saved her [Hester] from Satan’s snare” (SL 134), but later on in the thirteenth chapter “Another View of Hester” he refers to Pearl as the welcome intervention of Hester’s “coming down to us in history, hand in hand with Ann Hutchinson, as the foundress of a religious sect” (SL 187).  It follows, therefore, that the lives of Mistress Hibbins and Ann Hutchinson are both taken as negative alternatives from which Hester is luckily saved.  Interestingly, then, while at the beginning an affinity has been discovered between Hawthorne and Hutchinson as people disapproved by the Puritans, here Hawthorne seems to distance himself from her by listing her amongst negative examples. 

The issue of Pearl’s role as the savor of her mother from worse walks of life is not only the last reference to the affinity between Hester and Ann Hutchinson, but it is also the perfect link between Hester and Margaret Fuller.  Before explaining why this is, a few details about Fuller and about the women’s rights movement in general should be supplied.  As to her childhood, Fuller was brought up as a prodigy by her father Timothy Fuller, “member of Congress, who had surrendered his income and profession in order to write a history of his country.”  Margaret lived in a great big house in Cambridge, “surrounded by the cleverest Harvard students,” and consequently grew up to be nothing less than the “queen of Cambridge.”[3]  To take a leap ahead, 1836 should be highlighted, the year when Fuller sought out and befriended Emerson.  In 1839, she started so-called “Conversation” classes for ladies of the Boston elite, which were attended by the three Peabody sisters: Hawthorne’s future-wife Sophia, Horace Mann’s fiancée Mary, and Fuller’s good friend Elisabeth.  The latter two ladies had been lending helping hands and minds to Bronson Alcott as his aides at the Temple School, a failed but noble attempt at reforming education by re-introducing the Socratic method.  This, however, was only the prelude to their common endeavors on the field of feminism.  Before Fuller’s “giving birth” to the earliest document of the women’s rights movement, in 1840 she became the editor of the transcendentalist magazine The Dial, an occupation that was to last for two years. 

It was during this period in 1841 that the Utopian community of Brook Farm also materialized, bringing along the meeting of Hawthorne and Fuller.  The former actually refers to his Utopian experience in “The Custom-House” of The Scarlet Letter as his “fellowship of toil and impracticable schemes with the dreamy brethren of Brook Farm” (SL 34).  Besides George Ripley¾the mastermind of the Farm¾and Hawthorne, a common acquaintance of theirs was also a permanent inhabitant, namely Elisabeth Peabody.  Fuller was amongst the illustrious guests, along with Emerson, Bronson Alcott, Theodore Parker, Orestes Brownson, and William Channing.  While Ripley “was up before the dawn, dressed in his blue tunic and cowhide boots, milking, cleaning the stalls,” or teaching “philosophy and mathematics,” Mrs. Ripley “had a class in history and a class for Dante in Italian.”  Elisabeth Peabody led a book shop, which was as popular as the visiting Margaret Fuller’s classes of “Conversation on Education,” where “Emerson often came to lead the talk; sometimes Bronson Alcott.  Theodore Parker, who lived close by [] often walked over for a chat about philosophy and farming,” while “Brownson’s coming always occasioned a talk on Catholicism, Pascal or Port Royal.”  As to William Henry Channing, the “Christian socialist,” he “followed the call of the muses” dabbling in landscape painting, poetry, singing, flute and violin playing, thereby becoming “the all-attractive entertainer” of the community.[4] 

It was a year after Fuller’s having ceased to be the editor of The Dial that her essay “The Great Lawsuit” was published in it, which has already been referred to as the earliest document of the American women’s rights movement.  It was expanded into a book another year later, bearing the title Woman in the Nineteenth Century.  As to the final important date to be mentioned, 1848 was the year when the first woman’s rights convention was held, a year before Hawthorne got down to the writing of The Scarlet Letter.  It is with a closer look at “The Great Lawsuit” that the thread about the shortcomings of Emerson’s self-reliance is to be picked up, which will ultimately lead the discussion to the supposed link between Hester Prynne and Margaret Fuller. 

To enumerate the most important observations in “The Great Lawsuit,” it may be seasonable to start with her basic complaint that society sets excessive limits on women’s rights.  She names exemplary women, such as Mary Wollstonecraft, who, “rich in genius, of most tender sympathies, and capable of high virtue and chastened harmony, ought not to find themselves by birth in a place so narrow, that in breaking bonds they become outlaws [].  They find their way at last to purer air, but the world will not take off the brand it has set upon them” (GL 1613, emphasis added).  The accentuated lines immediately bring to mind Hester Prynne’s case, especially the image of the brand.  Fuller goes on to suggest that this problem should be solved with giving women “the freedom, the religious, the intelligent freedom of the universe, to use its means, to learn its secret as far as nature has enabled them” (GL 1608).  This, however, would not necessarily result in a guaranteed performance superior or even equal to that of men:  “Whether much or little has or will be done, whether women will add to the talent of narration, the power of systematizing, whether they will carve marble as well as draw, is not important.  But that it should be acknowledged that they have intellect which needs developing, that they should be considered complete, if beings of affection and habit alone, is important” (GL 1617, emphasis added).  The accentuated lines in this case anticipate the third important observation of Fuller, namely the inadequacy of the contemporary division between head and heart, the former being exclusively represented by men while it is only the latter that is supposed to be the appropriate sphere of operation of women.  There is a witty demonstration of this in the shape of an imaginary dialogue, which is worth quoting:

“She [any wife] is happy enough as she is.  She has more leisure than I [any husband] have, every means of improvement, every indulgence.”

“Have you asked her whether she was satisfied with these indulgences?”

“No, but I know she is.  She is too amiable to wish what would make me unhappy, and too judicious to wish to step beyond the sphere of her sex.  I will never consent to have our peace disturbed by any such discussions.”

“Consent¾you?  It is not consent from you that is in question, it is assent from your wife.”

“Am I not the head of the house?”

“You are not the head of your wife.  God has given her a mind of her own.”

I am the head and she the heart.” (GL 1598)

It is with this very attitude that “the transcendentalists were firmly preaching self-reliance to all and sundry¾but at the same time allocating to women the role of dependent helpmate, thus indicating that self-reliance was for men only.”[5]  According to Fuller, however, without the inclusion of women, the entire program of transcendentalism was suspect.[6]  What is of great interest is Hawthorne’s standpoint in this matter, which seems to be closer to the conservative attitude endorsing the division between head and heart than to Fuller’s progressive stance.[7]  To find support of this, the chapter “Another View of Hester” should be looked at, in which Hawthorne describes Hester’s life as having turned “from passion and feeling, to thought,” thereby making her assume a “freedom of speculation,” which led her, amongst other issues, to dwell on the situation of the “whole race of womanhood.”  Hawthorne goes on to claim that “a woman never overcomes these problems by any exercise of thought.  They are not to be solved, or only in one way.  If her heart chance to come uppermost, they vanish.  Thus, Hester Prynne, whose heart had lost its regular and healthy throb, wandered without a clew in the dark labyrinth of mind” (SL 186-7, added emphasis).  The passage concerning Pearl’s welcome influence on her mother’s walk of life has already been touched upon when looking at the affinities between Hester Prynne and Ann Hutchinson.  It is of relevance in this context as well because it is exactly Hester’s “enthusiasm of thought” that would have led her to a similar fate as that of Mrs. Hutchinson: “But, in the education of the child, the mother’s enthusiasm of thought had something to wreak itself upon.  Providence, in the person of this little girl, had assigned to Hester’s charge the germ and blossom of woman []” (SL 187).

            Indeed, Hawthorne seems to contend in The Scarlet Letter that self-reliance and true womanhood are mutually exclusive: if one considers the course of Hester’s life, it is a transformation from a passionate attractive nonconformist woman to an outwardly conforming but inwardly secretly speculative self-reliant unattractive woman¾hers is the transformation from heart to head that masquerades as heart.  To explain in more detail, the stages of this process should be considered.  At the outset¾which is a kind of an in medias res¾the reader is presented with the consequences of Hester’s passionate nature and disregard for the law which is accepted by the community.  She is a tall young woman, “with a figure of perfect elegance on a large scale,” having “dark and abundant hair [] and a face which, besides being beautiful from regularity of feature and richness of complexion, [has] the impressiveness belonging to a marked brow and deep black eyes” (SL 65).  Hair, complexion, stature all speak of a woman both beautiful and passionate, who is shown to the readers at the outset in a situation that was brought about by just these attributes: beauty and passion along with her non-conformist tendencies have born the lawless fruit of adultery.  The consequent necessity¾if she decides to stay at the Puritan settlement, which she does¾to re-channel the force of passion dwelling in her has a double effect: from outside it appears that this passion is transformed into a strength utilized in assisting the community.  From inside, however, it generates the already-mentioned shift from heart (passion) to head (thought). 

This double effect, in turn, yields yet another double effect.  From outside, Hester loses her attractive appearance¾which used to be the outward result of her inward passion (heart as opposed to head)¾and simultaneously conforms to and participates in the life of the community; “The attractiveness of her person had undergone a similar change. [] There seemed to be no longer anything in Hester’s face for Love to dwell upon; nothing in Hester’s form, though majestic and statue-like, that Passion would ever dream of clasping in its embrace; nothing in Hester’s bosom, to make it ever again a pillow of affection.  Some attribute had departed from her, the permanence of which had been essential to keep her a woman” (SL 185).[8]  One may say, then, that this attribute, which is the essence of womanhood and is generated by passion (woman as heart), is none other in Hawthorne’s opinion than “the power to inspire sexual desire in men.”[9]  Once a woman turns from heart to head, her passion and attraction leave her and she thereby ceases to be a woman.  As to the other effect, it is an internal change, which is none other than the final attainment of self-reliance, a Hester keeping the “independence of solitude” (SR 28) in the midst of the crowd she is apparently conforming to; “It is remarkable, that persons, who speculate the most boldly often conform with the most perfect quietitude to the external regulations of society.  The thought suffices them, without investing itself in the flesh and blood of action.  So it seemed to be with Hester” (SL 187). 

It has to be added, however, that Hawthorne’s exclusion of women from the field of thought (head) and their “banishment” to the sphere of operation of the heart can only be portrayed justly if one considers the great importance he attaches to the heart.  It is none other than the “seat of generosity”[10] and humaneness, without which the most gifted persons turn into monsters:  it is always a very dangerous aspect of the gift of insight or knowledge possessed by his artist and scientist figures[11] that by disturbing “the counterpoise between mind and heart” (EB 1195), as he puts it in his fine tale entitled “Ethan Brand,” they end up abusing this power to the detriment of their fellow human beings.  The example “closest to home” is that of Roger Chillingworth, who, “throughout life, had been calm in temperament, kindly, though not of warm affections, but ever, and in all his relations with the world a pure and upright man.  He had begun an investigation, as he imagined with the severe and equal integrity of a judge, desirous only of truth [].  But, as he proceeded, a terrible fascination, a kind of fierce, though still calm, necessity seized the old man within his gripe, and never set him free again, until he had done all its bidding.  He now dug into the poor clergyman’s heart” (SL 147), thereby violating its sanctity.  Indeed, the sinful passion hidden in Dimmesdale’s breast is puny compared to Chillingworth’s “crime,” which is what Ethan Brand finds in his own heart and identifies as the Unpardonable Sin: “The sin of an intellect that triumphed over the sense of brotherhood and reverence for God, and sacrificed everything to its own mighty claims!  The only sin that deserves a recompense of immortal agony!” (EB 1190)

Finally, the position of the artist both in seventeenth and mid-nineteenth century American society is to be considered.  This, in turn, leads the discussion to the affinities between Hester and Hawthorne, which can be best demonstrated by taking a closer look at the opening chapter of the novel entitled “The Custom-House.”  Severe as seventeenth-century Puritanism may seem in retrospect, it was far from discouraging art; not only prophets but artists were also among the chosen ones for whom the already-mentioned divine gift of insight was in store.  True, the Puritan artist’s first and foremost concern was to convey the divine truth experienced in those special moments of insight, therefore the aesthetic aspect of art was of secondary importance and its sensuous appeal downright frowned upon.  Puritan literature was supposed to be plain, clear and simple¾free from extra flourishes of style which only diverted the reader’s attention from content.  Furthermore, as it was supposed to convey the artist’s insight into the divine truth, it had to teach and not so much to entertain.  It follows, then, that the most important subjects were religion and history and the most often used literary genres were sermons, essays and treatises, and surely not fiction, thereby making it easy to see why Hawthorne refers to his ancestors’ most probable dislike of his chosen profession.  To be “a writer of storybooks” was in their eyes no “mode of glorifying God, or being serviceable to mankind” (SL 17).

In the light of this, it may be assumed that Hawthorne’s decision to take on a position at the Custom-House as a “Surveyor of the Revenue” was not only a refreshing “change of diet” and the trying out of “other faculties” (SL 35) of his nature, but also an attempt at living up to the standards of his Puritan ancestors at last.  By trying to prove his mettle on more practical fields of life, he wanted to discredit the charge of being no more than an “idler” (SL 17).  It has already been hinted at in connection with the relation between the individual and society in Part I. how he soon came to find the job not only boring but a downright danger to his manhood; the deadening routine of a government post was draining away all his better attributes “that [give] emphasis to manly character,” namely “sturdy force […] courage and constancy […] truth [and] self-reliance” (SL 50-1).  That he was removed from his post at last was something like a deus ex machina: it saved him both from remaining there and consequently turning into a “zombie” like his colleagues, and it also saved him from the “disgrace” of giving it up on his own accord.  Furthermore, it enabled him to write the story of The Scarlet Letter, which he found impossible while being under the numbing influence of his bureaucratic surroundings. 

That he returned to writing “storybooks” after all, may seem as his ultimate failure to satisfy the ghosts of his Puritan “great-grandsires” and furthermore his inability to conform to practical-minded mid-nineteenth-century American standards.  However, it was exactly to retain a little bit of decorum that he made up the story about having found the “mysterious package” along with the “rag of scarlet cloth” in the Custom-House, which had allegedly been left behind by his predecessor, Mr. Surveyor Pue.  That he had been commissioned by Pue’s ghost to “do justice” to “old Mistress Prynne’s story” (SL 41) and act as an editor of an authentic document is none other than a clever cover-up: it is a gesture to transform his story from mere fiction into an account based on historical facts, thereby making it seem a worthier product of literature in the eyes of the stern Puritan ancestors.[12]  Two things can be inferred in connection with this.  Firstly, the Custom-House itself can be said to stand for the whole of commerce-oriented materialistic America with its unfavorable atmosphere for artistic talent (sensibility).  Secondly, Hawthorne being at odds with his surroundings and his ancestry is mirrored in his heroine Hester Prynne’s story. 

Ironically enough, however, Hester seems to succeed where Hawthorne could not: she manages to conform to the community’s standards, and instead of being drained of her self-reliance, she gains it throughout her ordeals; she becomes outwardly conforming and inwardly independent.  On the other hand, it has to be admitted that although she turns into a self-reliant individual, her artistic talent continues to be “wasted” on “rude handiwork” instead of being applied to creating beautiful things and “expressing, and thereby soothing, the passion of her life” (SL 98).  Indeed, just as her passion has been transformed into strength and thought, its outward expression has also turned from works of art into showing sympathy and giving assistance to her fellow-citizens.  The medium has remained more or less the same, namely needlework, the only outlet available for women’s imagination¾not only at the time but even as late as the beginning of the nineteenth century.[13]  At the outset of the story, the reader saw the scarlet letter as a work of art, a “specimen of her delicate and imaginative skill” (SL 96).  Needlework, then, served her as, say, the brush serves a painter: it was Hester the artist’s way to give expression to her imagination, her creativity and her passion for the beautiful.  Accordingly, the scarlet letter was the production of an artistic kind of needlework.  In the course of the story, as the letter’s meaning commonly accepted by the community changes from Adultery to Able, Hester’s needlework becomes “worthy” of this new interpretation, namely her “Ableness” in helping the needy of the community by putting her skill to use in “rude handiwork”¾with the only exception of dressing her little girl Pearl, the embodiment of the “warfare of Hester’s spirit” (SL 106), “the scarlet letter endowed with life” (SL 117).  But, then again, Pearl grows up and remains in Europe while Hester returns to the settlement.  It is as if the latter had thereby safely deposited all that Pearl stood for and simultaneously gave her non-conformist passionate daughter the chance to find happiness in more ideal surroundings. 

Also, with the “disappearance” of Pearl, Hester buries the last vestiges of her genuine artistic aspirations.  What Owen Warland, the protagonist of another tale of Hawthorne entitled “The Artist of the Beautiful,” was incapable of, Hester “succeeds” in doing: first an artist at odds with society, she gradually manages to find her place in it by producing things that are useful instead of “merely” beautiful.  It is a dubious success indeed, as it shows that the only way a consensus can be reached between society and the artist is by “cheapening” one’s art; in other words by lowering one’s standards to fit the general demand of practical, consumer-oriented society.  Consequently, what was termed as Hawthorne’s “failure” to live up to his Puritan heritage and to conform to the demands of his time is a disguised but firm refusal to lower his standards and the expression of his belief in the supremacy of Beauty over Utility, of Art over Life¾at least if it is like life in mid-nineteenth-century America. 





Primary Sources

SR                   Emerson, Ralph Waldo.  “Self-Reliance.”  The Works of Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Vol.1.  London: G. Bell and Sons, 1913. 23-49.

GL                   Fuller, Margaret.  “The Great Lawsuit.”  The Norton Anthology of American

Literature.  Ed. Nina Baym.  Vol.1.  New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1983.


SL                   Hawthorne, Nathaniel.  The Scarlet Letter.  London: Collector’s Library, 2003.

EB                   -.-.-.  “Ethan Brand.”  The Complete Novels and Selected Tales of Nathaniel Hawthorne.

            Ed. Norman Holmes Pearson.  New York: Random House Inc., 1937.  1184-1196.

DA                  Tocqueville, Alexis de.  Democracy in America.  Trans. George Lawrence.  Ed. J.P.

            Mayer.  Garden City, N.Y.: Anchor-Doubleday, 1969.


Secondary Sources

Baym, Nina.  The Scarlet Letter.  A Reading.  Boston: G.K. Hall & Co., 1986.

Bollobás, Enikõ.  Az Amerikai Irodalom Története.  Budapest: Osiris Kiadó, 2005.

Brooks, Van Wyck.  The Flowering of New England.  New York: E.P. Dutton & Co., 1952.

Claypole, Jonty.  “Afterword.”  The Scarlet Letter.  London: Collector’s Library, 2003.  295-302.

Cunliffe, Marcus.    American Literature to 1900. Ed. Marcus Cunliffe.  London: Sphere Books, 1986.

Manning, Susan.  “Nathaniel Hawthorne, Artist of Puritanism.”  The New Pelican Guide to English Literature.  Ed. Boris Ford.  Vol. 9.  London: Penguin Books, 1991.

Martin, Terence.  Nathaniel Hawthorne.  Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1983.

Miller, Perry.  “Introduction.”  The Puritans: a Sourcebook of their Writings.  Ed. Perry Miller

and Thomas H. Johnson.  Vol.1.  New York: Harper & Row, 1963.  1-79.

Sarbu, Aladár.  The Reality of Appearances: Vision and Representation in Emerson, Hawthorne

                        and Melville.  Budapest: Akadémiai Kiadó, 1996.

Van Doren, Mark.  “The Scarlet Letter.”  Hawthorne: A Collection of Critical Essays.  Ed. A.N.

Kaul.  New Jersey: Prentice-Hall Inc., 1966.  129-41.

Waggoner, Hyatt H.  Hawthorne: A Critical Study.  Cambridge, Mass.: The Belknap Press of

Harvard UP, 1963.



[1] Claypole 298.

[2] Sarbu 92.

[3] Brooks 246.

[4] All the citations in this paragraph concerning Brook Farm are from Brooks 251-60.

[5] Baym 80-1.  See also Bollobás 168, 172-3.  Furthermore, she pinpoints the principle of „separate spheres” propagated by the Puritans as another possible factor in women’s exlusion from field of intellectual pursuit.

[6] Baym 80-1.

[7] It is interesting to observe certain critics’ hostile attitude towards feminism: although Van Doren also emphasizes Hawthorne’s belief in the division between head (man) and heart (woman), judging by the tone of his lines, he actually seems to share the latter’s feelings, talking about feminism as a threat: “Hawthorne went to the center of woman’s secret, her sexual power, and stayed there.  For him it was not intellectual power.  The women he considered, from Mrs. Hutchinson on, he never could praise if their minds had got the better of them.  Hester threatens to become a feminist in the injustice of her solitude [] (134).”

[8] To be more precise, it should be added that Hester’s beauty and attractiveness are not irretrievablly lost, they do not become extinct: if passion is re-awakened in her, it brings about these attributes as its result.  Cf. chapter eighteen “A Flood of Sunshine” where Hester takes off the scarlet letter and then her cap, and thereby “her sex, her youth, and the whole richness of her beauty, came back from what men call the irrevocable past, and clustered themselves, with her maiden hope, and a happiness before unknown, within the magic circle of this hour” (SL 228).

[9] Baym 80.

[10] For a detailed discussion of Hawthorne’s heart-images, see Waggoner 141-5.

[11] For precision’s sake, let it be added that although Ethan Brand is a lime-burner, he is nevertheless one of Hawthorne’s figures who are usually artists or scientists: he is likewise endowed with a keener sensibility and with a bent on (re)search which ends in tragedy both for himself and for others¾in his case with the destruction of Esther, old Humphrey’s lost daughter.  One may compare Ethan with the more obtuse lime-burner Bartram who „troubled himself with no thoughts save the very few that were requisite to his business” (EB 1185).  They, in fact, form the same contrast as Owen Warland and Robert Danforth the blacksmith in „The Artist of the Beautiful.”

[12] It should be signaled that the “Custom House,” not surprisingly, has several other functions which, however, do not fall in with the line of thought of this essay.  Nevertheless, to give an example, from a stylistic point of view, it is meant to serve as a contrast to the main body of the novel: having completed two-thirds of his story, Hawthorne noticed to his dismay that it was turning out to be much gloomier than he expected it to be.  Therefore he resolved to write an introductory piece in order to balance it out with a contrasting, “different kind of writing¾more timely, more cheerful, more humorous, more realistic.”  Apart from its contrasting function, a context was given to the story as well.  In other words, with “The Custom-House,” Hawthorne created the story of the story.  Baym 101.

[13] Bollobás 164.