The psychological dimension of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s writing, typical of his best short stories, is well demonstrated in his tale “The Birthmark.”
Frederick C. Crews in “The Logic of Compulsion in ‘Roger Malvin’s Burial’” explores the psychological drama that prevails in Hawthorne’s short stories:
. . . I chose this one tale to analyze because it illustrates the indispensability, and I should even say the priority, of understanding the literal psychological dramas in Hawthorne’s fiction. Like all of his best tales, this one is packed with symbolic suggestions and invite a moralistic reading, and the problem it explores appears to be a problem of ethics. Yet a scrupulous examination of the main character’s motives reveals that Hawthorne has approached his subject on a deeper level than the ethical – that he has not asked what someone in a certain predicament should do, but rather how a man may become the victim of unconscious hypocrisies over which he has no ethical control at all (111).
Peter Conn in “Finding a Voice in an New Nation” explains Hawthorne’s mix of psychology and theology.
His chosen terrain lay between the realms of theology and psychology, and allegory provided the means of his explorations. . . .He was a secularized Puritan symbolist, who recovered the dramas enacted in cases of conscience by tracing the lines that bound men and women to their motives. Concerned with individuals as specimens or types, he endowed his characters with solemnly stylized features and then studied their anxiety, or doubt, or guilt. He placed them amid settings and objects that gave symbolic expression to their inward states (83-84).
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...y A.N. Kaul. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1966.
McPherson, Hugo. “Hawthorne’s Use of Mythology.” In Readings on Nathaniel Hawthorne, edited by Clarice Swisher. San Diego, CA: Greenhaven Press, 1996.
Melville, Herman. “Hawthorne and His Mosses,” The Literary World August 17, 24, 1850. http://eldred.ne.mediaone.net/nh/hahm.html
Peckham, Morse. “The Development of Hawthorne’s Romanticism.” In Readings on Nathaniel Hawthorne, edited by Clarice Swisher. San Diego, CA: Greenhaven Press, 1996.
Swisher, Clarice. “Nathaniel Hawthorne: a Biography.” In Readings on Nathaniel Hawthorne, edited by Clarice Swisher. San Diego, CA: Greenhaven Press, 1996.
Waggoner, Hyatt. “Nathaniel Hawthorne.” In Six American Novelists of the Nineteenth Century, edited by Richard Foster. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1968.
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