Hawthorne's Gothic: 'On a Field, Sable, The Letter A, Gules' - PhDData

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Hawthorne’s Gothic: ‘On a Field, Sable, The Letter A, Gules’

The thesis was published by Tang, Soo Ping, in September 2022, University of Stirling.


Various characteristics of Gothic fiction are evident in Hawthorne’s tales and romances – the interest in man’s primitive self, the concern with historical and psychological facts and with imaginative and intuitive experience,’ the delineation of the human conflict between spiritual aspirations and sensual needs, the emphasis on the ambiguity of good and evil as moral concepts, and the enactment of horror and terror. For Hawthorne these elements relate to the human struggle between mind and
heart, between faith and passion – a struggle which is consonant with his own conflict with his Puritan conscience and his poetic imagination. They focus on the complexity of human feeling, yet help towards a final realization of man’s significance and promise. They enable Hawthorne to resolve the eternal conflict between soul and body.

The thesis deals with Hawthorne’s four romances – The Scarlet letter, The House of the Seven Gables, The Blithedale Romance and The Marble Faun. In the first three, Hawthorne is hampered by his Puritan conscience so that passion is often subjugated by faith. In The Scarlet letter the persecution of .Hester and the ardent life she represents is at least justified in that it mirrors a historical truth. Moreover, Hawthorne
achieves a certain ambivalence which, instead of signalling his own uncertainty and feebleness, enhances the complexity and mysteriousness of man’s nature and situation. In The House of the Seven Gables and The Blithedale Romance, however, Puritan religiosity predominates and expresses itself in a wholly sentimental and repressive attitude. It is only in The Marble Faun that Hawthorne sees beyond the dilemma of man’s dual aspects to realize the mythic and religious significance inherent in his seemingly divided self. While, in doing so, he manifests the typical Gothic idea that primitive man has a certain magnificence, Hawthorne is more interested in the fact that feeling is uplifting and ennobling. Human passion has a spiritual aspect.

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