Grade 9 Literature
The Scarlet Letter
by Nathanial Hawthorne
A Short Biography of Nathanial Hawthorne
Nathanial Hawthorne was born on July 4, 1804 in Salem, Massachusetts. Hawthorne added a "w" to his original family name of Hathorne to distinguish himself from one of his ancestors, John Hathorne, a judge in the Salem Witch Trials. Hawthorne's father died when the boy was four, leaving his mother to raise him. Financial support from an uncle allowed Hawthorne to attend Bowdoin College, and at a young age Nathanial knew his profession, saying
“I do not want to be a doctor and live by men's diseases,
nor a minister to live by their sins, nor a lawyer and live
by their quarrels. So, I don't see that there is anything
left for me but to be an author." source
After college, Hawthorne moved back with his mother and spent this time reading great works of literature, and writing short stories. Although he had trouble publishing his stories successfully, he published his first novel Fanshawe in 1828. He continued writing his stories, although he had to take on other jobs to provide adequate income, especially when he married Sophia Peabody in 1842. Through his life Hawthorne continued writing, his works including Mosses from an Old Manse, The Scarlet Letter, and The House of the Seven Gables. Hawthorne's works inspired famous writers like Herman Melville, and have earned their place as some of the most beautifully written literature in history. Hawthorne passed away in 1864.
Where is the setting of The Scarlet Letter?
The Scarlet Letter setting, contrary to illiterate belief, is Boston, not Salem. See the official Boston tourist site source
Who Were the Puritans?
What Did Nathanial Hawthorne Write?
(1804-1864) Hawthorne Wrote:
The Scarlet Letter
On May 23, 1864, Longfellow wrote this poem as a tribute to Hawthorne who died in the early morning of May 19th.
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
How beautiful it was, that one bright day
In the long week of rain!
Though all its splendor could not chase away
The omnipresent pain. The lovely town was white with apple-blooms,
And the great elms o'erhead
Dark shadows wove on their aerial looms
Shot through with golden thread.
Across the meadows, by the gray old manse,
The historic river flowed:
I was as one who wanders in a trance,
Unconscious of his road.
The faces of familiar friends seemed strange;
Their voices I could hear,
And yet the words they uttered seemed to change
Their meaning to my ear.
For the face I looked for was not there,
The one low voice was mute;
Only an unseen presence filled the air,
And baffled my pursuit.
Now I look back, and meadow, manse, and stream
Dimly my thought defines;
I only see - a dream within a dream -
The hilltop hearsed with pines.
I only hear above his place of rest
Their tender undertone,
The infinite longings of a troubled breast,
The voice so like his own.
There in seclusion and remote from men
The wizard hand lies cold,
Which at its topmost speed let fall the pen,
And left the tale half told.
Ah! Who shall lift that wand of magic power,
And the lost clue regain?
The unfinished window in Aladdin's tower
Unfinished must remain!
Page citation: http://www.hawthorneinsalem.org/page/12235/
Guided Activities By Topic For Students Using Hawthorne in Salem Website Resources:
Hawthorne in Salem website
Glencoe Scarlet Letter Study Guide