Date of Award

12-5-2008

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

English

Abstract

Nathaniel Hawthorne was one in a long line of American scholars, politicians, statesmen, and writers who created a national mythos. By creating, or recreating, a national past wherein every American would share, at least in myth, a common New England beginning, it was hoped that Americans would share a common view of America as the city set on a hill which the Puritans believed they had established. This was to accomplish many objectives: glorify America's Puritan beginnings, make heroic the Puritan forefathers, and remind every American of the brotherhood of all Americans. In addition to this, Hawthorne undertook to examine and explain American history, and to work through a very complicated national and personal accommodation. On a national level, Hawthorne needed to show his readers the Puritan character as both the manly hero who served as a noble warrior for liberty and as a harsh bigot who persecuted those with whom he disagreed. In doing so, he was able to aid in the creation of the national mythos while providing his contemporaries with the idea that they were yet more noble than their Puritan forebearers. Additionally, Hawthorne sought a personal accommodation. The Puritans whom he calls his forebearers were not mythic ones; they were his ancestors. He was both repelled by and attracted to Puritanism and felt that he had inherited from his ancestors "strong traits of their nature" (Hawthorne "The Custom House" 13). As a result, he sought to come to terms with these ancestors by exploring not only the history of the Puritans themselves, but also the succeeding two hundred years, to examine how the Puritan attitudes and ideals emerged in consecutive ages.

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