Chapter 6 Nathaniel Hawthorne and Mellville





课 型

Theory and practice

课 题

Nathaniel Hawthorne and Herman Melville


Aim of knowledge: 1. To make students get to know the masterpieces of Nathaniel Hawthorn and Herman Melville

                 2. To make students get the general idea about the symbolism in the Scarlet Letter and Moby Dick

Aim of ability: training of the ability to analyze literature with literary theories

Aim of quality: To discuss how to pursue true love


Lecture, discussion, PPT presentation


Key Points: the Scarlet Letter and Hawthorne’s  view on sin and evil

Difficult Points: Symbolism in the Scarlet Letter and Moby Dick  



教 学 内 容


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Step 1: Review Questions

1. Why did he insert a “w” into his name: Hathorne to Hawthorne ?

     To escape the curse put on his family by one of the convicted witches’husband

2. In what way is he similar to Melville and Poe respectively as far as the style is concerned?

  Symbolism and grotesque quality


Step 2 Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864)

. Life

1) Born in 1804 in Salem, Massachusetts.

2) He was a descendant of a long line of Puritan ancestors including John Hathorne, a presiding magistrate in the Salem witch trials.(塞勒姆女巫审判案)

He was born in a prestigious New England family. When he was born, his family declined. Mother overly protective; a life of almost complete solitude; shy and bookish; “painful solitude” by Emerson

  1. Attended Bowdoin College from 1821 to 1825;
  2. Friends: 
    • future poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow 
    • Franklin Pierce who became the 14th President of the United States.
  3. Hawthorne was hired in 1839 as a weigher and gauger at the Boston Custom House.
  4. He joined the transcendentalist utopian community at Brook Farm in 1841;
  5. This utopian experiment aimed to promote economic self-sufficiency and transcendentalist principles.
  6. His later works show some Transcendentalist influence, including a belief in individual choice and consequence, and an emphasis on symbolism.
  7. In 1852, he wrote the campaign biography of his old friend Franklin Pierce. With Pierce’s election as President, Hawthorne was rewarded in 1853 with the position of United States consul in Liverpool.
  8. In 1857, his appointment ended;
  9. He died in 1864, a few years after returning to America.
  10. Growing up with a strong sense of guilt: The declination of his family, he thought, was because of his ancestors' misdeeds. Then "blackness of Hawthorne" was formed.


. Contribution

Hawthorne has been considered to be the first great American writer of fiction. His concern with moral or ethical problems and his talent in dealing with them brought him success as a novelist. The central subject of Hwathorne’s major works was human soul. It was in his exploration of human soul that Hawthorn revealed his criticism of life. He is considered as a master of symbolism.

1) Push American Romantic fiction to its summit.

2) ample use of symbols in fiction

3) With Poe, he creates psycho-analytic Romantic fiction in Am. Lit. 

Poe—irrational or abnormal people;

Hawthorne—the hidden evils in human heart.

4) Together with Allen Poe, he creates modern short story theory.


. Works

. General Introduction

1. Collections of Short Stories

  1. Twice-Told Tales  1837 《故事重述》
  2. Mosses from an Old Manse  1843《古宅青苔》
  3. The Snow-Image, and Other Twice-Told Tales 1852《雪人和其他重讲一遍的故事》

2. His Four Major Romances or Novels Written Between 1850 and 1860

a) The Scarlet Letter《红字》 (1850)

b) The House of the Seven Gables  《七个尖角阁的房子》 (1851)

c) The Blithedale Romance 《福谷传奇》 (1852)

d) The Marble Faun 《玉石雕像》(1860)

3. Much of Hawthornes work is set in colonial New England, and many of his short stories have been read as moral allegories influenced by his Puritan background.

a) The Birth-Mark 《胎记》(1843)

b)Rappaccinis Daughter 《拉帕奇尼的女儿》(1844)

c) My Kinsman, Major Molineux 《我的亲戚莫里诺少校》(1832)

d)The Ministers Black Veil 《教长的黑面纱》(1836)

 e) Young Goodman Brown《好小伙子布朗》 (1835)


. Major Themes of His Works

1. Sin and Evil

Evil is at the core of human life, “that blackness in Hawthorne”.

Whenever there is sin, there is punishment. Sin or evil can be passed from generation to generation. 霍桑在探讨罪恶时,不是宣扬加尔文教义,而是抨击了它对人性的摧残,是要使人正视罪的存在,并把人从泯灭人性的罪恶感中解脱出来。

2. History and Antiquity

interest in history and antiquity; Events happening long ago

3. Alienation - a character is in a state of isolation because of self-cause, or societal cause, or a combination of both.

4. Puritan New England - used as a background and setting in many tales.

5. Other themes include individual vs. society, self-fulfillment vs. frustration, hypocrisy vs. integrity, love vs. hate, and fate vs. free will, etc.


. Literary Skills

He is a man of literary craftsmanship, extraordinary in

1. the use of symbol: The symbol serves as a weapon to attack reality. It can be found everywhere in his writing

2. the use of ambiguity: to keep the reader in the world of uncertainty – multiple point of view

3. revelation of characters’ psychology

4. the use of supernatural


.Reasons for Hawthorn’s Current Popularity

1. He was a skillful craftsman with an impressive   architectonic sense in form.

2. A second reason for Hawthorne’s greatness is his moral insight.

3. A third reason for Hawthorne’s eminence is his mastery of allegory and symbolism.

4. He is relevant in theme and attitude. According to H.H. Waggoner, Howthorne’s attitudes use irony, ambiguity, and paradox.


Ⅴ.The Scarlet Letter

1. Plot Summary


    time: Middle of the 17th century

    place: Boston, Massachusetts

Protagonist: Hester Prynne

Narrator: The narrator is an unnamed customhouse surveyor who writes some 200 years after the events he describes took place. He has much in common with Hawthorne but should not be taken as a direct mouthpiece for the author’s opinions.


2. Major Characters

Hester Prynne (heroine)

Arthur Dimmesdale (lover)

Roger Chillingworth (husband)


It tells the story of Hester Prynne, who gives birth after committing adultery, refuses to name the father, and struggles to create a new life of repentance and dignity.


3. Symbolism

1) “A”: Adultery/ Adam/ Alienation/ Able/ Angel /Angelic/ Amour (love)

2) The Symbolic Meaning of the Four Major Characters


  -- beauty

  -- strong will and endurance

   “I will not speak. It is too deeply branded. Ye cannot take it off. And would that I 

     might endure his agony as well as mine!”

-- kindness

( brave, strong-minded, warm-hearted, intelligent, sacrificing, decisive, pure, able to reconstruct her life and win a moral victory )

Arthur Dimmesdale

  -- Arthur Dimmesdale→ AD→ Adultery

  -- weak and coward

(timid, selfish, irresponsible, cowardly, weak-minded physical and spiritual disintegration. But dies an honest man. ever ready to show one's worst to the outside world)

Roger Chillingworth

  -- “chill”: cool

  -- heartless and merciless

  -- his misshapen body reflects or symbolizes the evil in his soul, which builds as the novel progresses.

    (cold-blooded, dehumanized morally degraded by his pursuit of revenge, the real evil)


  -- She is the scarlet letter in another form, the scarlet letter endowed with life;

  -- She is the symbol of the ardent love;

  -- She serves as moral in the novel;

  -- She symbolizes the revolt against Puritanism.

(Pure and innocent, the rising nation)

3) Other Symbols

Prison—the place that deprived people of spiritual freedom

Rosebush near the prison—Hester and her love

Color—The dominant color is dark, others are green, red.

Scaffold—24 chapters are closely knitted together by the scaffold scenes appearing three times.

Beginning: public torment and humiliation of Hester

Middle: inner anguish of Dimmesdale, peak of his psychological crisis

End: confession and death of Dimmesdale

Each time brings the four major characters (Hester, Dimmesdale, Chillingworth, and Pearl) together.


4. Major Themes

Public Guilt vs. Private Guilt

Punishment vs. Forgiveness

Sin and Judgment

Civilization vs. Wilderness

The Town vs. the Woods

Every body is potentially a sinner. Need great moral courage to improve human nature. The Scarlet Letter is not a praise of a Hester Prynne sinning, but a hymn on the moral growth of the woman when sinned against.


5. Appreciate the Scarlet Letter , Chapter Two (The Market Place)

1. Discuss

1) Why is the prison the setting of Chapter Two?

The prison is used as the setting of the story because the execution of Hester Prynne as an infamous culprit is expected to take place here and the sentence of a legal tribunal on her has but confirmed the verdict of public sentiment. In addition, the setting also suggests the tragic fate of the protagonist.

2) Describe the appearance of Hester Prynne and the attitude of the people toward her.

Hester Prynne is a young and tall woman with dark and abundant hair that is so glossy that it may throw off the sunshine with a gleam. She has a beautiful face with the impressiveness belonging to a marked brow and deep black eyes. With a figure of perfect elegance on a large scale, she is ladylike with such character as characterized by a certain state and dignity, rather than by the delicate, evanescent, and indescribable grace.  Besides, the attitudes of the people toward her are diverse, but mostly negative and unsympathetic largely from the conventional moral stand of the times.

2. Brief Analysis of Chapter Two: The Market Place

 The Selected Readings in American Literature P28-30


Step3 Herman Melville(1819 - 1891)


  • Melville’s childhood was happy to the age of 11, when his father died in debt.
  • Melville was born in New York City. Both his parents came from well-to-do families, but later their family business failed.
  • He had little education. He had to leave school at the age of 15, and began to work.
    • He worked as a clerk, a farmer and a teacher, before becoming a cabin boy on a ship at about twenty.
  • There are three things which deserve mention about his life:
  • going out to sea,
  • his marriage
  • and his friendship with Hawthorne.
  • Melville was a whaler, the lowest of sailors. He went to Liverpool, England and the South Pacific, spending most of his young manhood undergoing one of the most brutalizing experiences for a man.
    • His experiences and adventures on the sea furnished him with abundant material for fiction.
    • The married life of Melville was more like that of Scott Fitzgerald than Mark Twains. These men all married above them.
    • Mark Twains enjoyed the understanding of his wife.
    • Both Melville and Fitzgerald had to do hackwork for the money they needed to keep their wives in their extravagant style. Melville married Elizabeth Shaw, the daughter of a wealthy judge.
    • To support her and their growing family, he had to write for money.
  • During the summer of 1850, Melville and Hawthorne met. They exchanged visits, meeting at least nine times, and wrote to one another often.
    • Melville saw in Hawthorne the one American who was expressively aware of the evil at the core of American life.
    • He found Hawthorne’s understanding of evil, that blackness of vision, unusually fascinating.

Ⅰ. Themes and Style

1. Themes

  1)Alienation between man and man, man and society, and man and nature.

  2)Impossibility of love, of friendship, of communication, of self-respect, of life itself.

  3)Life on the sea

  4)Quest for the meaning of the universe.

2. Style

  1) His works often ended with a Shakespearean tragedy;

  2) ambiguity: by the technique of multiple view in his narratives;

  3) flowering language;

  4) symbolism;

  5) periodic chapters: pulling all the thins into one sentence;

  6) rich rhythmical prose and his poetic power;

  7) Realistic

Melville wrote stories that were very realistic. His stories frequently dealt with depictions of life on the sea. The majority of his writing was based on personal experiences while aboard whaling ships(捕鲸船). Melville wrote with a style that was his own, intermingling fact,fiction, and subtle symbolism. His writing style was unfamiliar to the literature of the time; he allowed his stories to “ebb and flow”(起伏) rather than simply follow one plot.

Unlike most realists, however, he laced (交织在一起)his stories with philosophical and intellectual issues and explored them through realistic descriptions which also functioned as symbols. Melville wasn‘t much concerned with describing the psychology of his characters, but instead with telling a realistic story with intellectual undertones(潜在)


П. Moby Dick


1846 -《泰比 》Typee

1847 -《奥穆 》Omoo

1849 -《雷得本》Redburn

      《玛地》 Mardi

1850- 《白外衣》White-Jacket

1851 -《 白鲸》 Moby Dick /The Whale

1852 -《皮埃尔》Pierre

1856 -《伊斯雷尔·波特》 Israel Potter

1857 -《骗子的化装表演》The Confidence-Man

1924 -《比利·巴德》Billy Budd

“波里尼西亚三部曲”是麦尔维尔在19世纪40年代创作的作品:最初的长篇小说《泰比》、《奥穆》、《玛地》都是以他在南太平洋的生活为依据写成。                                                       其中《泰比》描写了他在马克萨斯岛上食人部落的惊险经历,揭示了资本主义文明给当地土著人的淳朴生活带来的破坏,因此受到教会的谴责。

《奥穆》是一部既算不上严格意义上的自传, 也不全是虚构,而是一部“融冒险、轶事、人种学和社会批评于一体的著作”,描写作者远航南海和与马克萨斯群岛的食人生番为伍的经历,不管麦尔维尔在南海漂泊时的所见所闻有没有真实性可言,他至少经历了一个与自己生活时代不同的社会,即波里尼西亚殖民社会。


1851年完成的长篇小说《白鲸》 (即《莫比·迪克》)是麦尔维尔的代表作。这是一部寓意丰富、深刻、笔触雄浑的长篇小说。它记述在19世纪上半叶美国捕鲸业蓬勃发展的年代,从事捕鲸业40年的裴圭特号捕鲸船船长亚哈在同一条巨大凶猛的白鲸莫比·迪克搏斗中船破身亡的经历,反映出作者对当时资本主义巨大发展的疑虑和惶恐心情。



1. General Introduction

  1) It is an encyclopedia of everything, history, philosophy, religion, etc.

  2) The main theme of it is about alienation between man and man, man and society, and man and nature.

  3) This work also reveals the basic pattern of nineteenth century American life: loneliness and suicidal individualism in a self-styled democracy.


    Melville set himself against the optimism of Emerson and the Transcendentalist, challenged Conformity(一致性), and rejected the American mind in the 1800s.”


2. Symbolism of Moby Dick

1) to some people, esp. to Ahab, symbol of evil;

  2) symbol of death;

3) symbol of nature; for Melville, the white whale, Moby Dick, symbolizes nature, it is complex, unknowable and dangerous.

4) symbol of mystery (or mysterious, unnatural power); 

  5) symbol of God;

  6) symbol of the invasion and destruction of the environment by human beings’

economic expansion and exploitation;

  7)symbol of justice (especially to environmentalists)

  8) symbol of knowledge


Step 4 Key Points and Difficult Points

Key Points: the Scarlet Letter and Hawthorne’s view on sin and evil

Difficult Points: Symbolism in the Scarlet Letter and Moby Dick


Step 5 Homework

Analyze the Characters in Moby Dick


  • Ahab  - The egomaniacal极端利己的,自大疯狂的captain of the Pequod.

Ahab lost his leg to Moby Dick. He is single-minded in his pursuit of the whale, using a mixture of charisma魅力;神授的能力;非凡的领导力  and terror to persuade his crew to join him.

As a captain, he is dictatorial but not unfair. At moments he shows a compassionate side, caring for the insane Pip and musing on his wife and child back in Nantucket.

  • Starbuck—the first mate of the Pequod.
  • Queequeg—Starbuck’s skilled harpooner and Ishmael’s best friend.

He was once a prince from a south Pacific island and is regarded as a cannibal.

  • Stubb—the second mate of the Pequod.
  • Tashtego—Stubb’s harpooner, an Indian.
  • Flask—the third mate of the Pequod.
  • Daggoo—Flask’s harpooner, a strong       African.
  • Peleg—one of the principal owners of the Pequod.
  • Bildad—another co-owner of the Pequod.
  • Father Mapple—a former whaleman and now    the preacher in the New Bedford Whaleman’s Chapel.


A) The whale, Moby Dick

    An exceptionally large sperm whale with a snow-white head, a wrinkled brow, a crooked jaw, an especially bushy spout, and three holes in the right fluke of his tail. His hump is also white and shaped like a pyramid. The rest of his body is marbled with white. It is complex, unfathomable, malignant, and beautiful as well.

B) Queequeg

    Starbuck’s veteran harpooner, a tattooed cannibal from Kokovoko, an uncharted south Seas Island. Disillusioned with Christianity, he worships a black idol Yojo. He became a close friend of Ishmael.

C) Ismael

    Both a character and a narrator, feeling depressed, seeks escape by going out to sea on the whaling ship, Pequod; A schoolteacher and part-time sailor; A Presbyterian, like Melville. He projects Calvinistic thinking tempered by his background in literature and philosophy; He discusses such issues as free will, predestination, necessity, and damnation; The sole survivor of the Pequod.

D) Ahab:

    The man with one leg, Moby Dick had sheared of his leg on the previous voyage. He has a scar which extends from his head to his leg. Revengeful to kill the whale, but is doomed to be killed by the whale. A tragic hero.

E) Starbuck

    The first mate, is bold enough to criticize Ahab’s vengeance, considers mutiny but fails.




1)The Limits of Knowledge

  • As Ishmael tries, in the opening pages of Moby-Dick, to offer a simple collection of literary excerpts mentioning whales, he discovers that, throughout history, the whale has taken on an incredible multiplicity of meanings. Over the course of the novel, he makes use of nearly every discipline known to man in his attempts to understand the essential nature of the whale. Each of these systems of knowledge, however, including art, taxonomy, and phrenology, fails to give an adequate account.
  • The multiplicity of approaches that Ishmael takes, coupled with his compulsive need to assert his authority as a narrator and the frequent references to the limits of observation (men cannot see the depths of the ocean, for example), suggest that human knowledge is always limited and insufficient. When it comes to Moby Dick himself, this limitation takes on allegorical significance. The ways of Moby Dick, like those of the Christian God, are unknowable to man, and thus trying to interpret them, as Ahab does, is inevitably futile and often fatal.

 2)The Deceptiveness of Fate

  • In addition to highlighting many portentous or foreshadowing events, Ishmael's narrative contains many references to fate, creating the impression that the Pequod's doom is inevitable. Many of the sailors believe in prophecies, and some even claim the ability to foretell the future.
  •  A number of things suggest, however, that characters are actually deluding themselves when they think that they see the work of fate and that fate either doesn't exist or is one of the many forces about which human beings can have no distinct knowledge. Ahab, for example, clearly exploits the sailors' belief in fate to manipulate them into thinking that the quest for Moby Dick is their common destiny.
  • Moreover, the prophesies of Fedallah and others seem to be undercut in Chapter 99, when various individuals interpret the doubloon in different ways, demonstrating that humans project what they want to see when they try to interpret signs and portents.

3)The Exploitative Nature of Whaling

  • At first glance, the Pequod seems like an island of equality and fellowship in the midst of a racist, hierarchically structured world.
  • The ship's crew includes men from all corners of the globe and all races who seem to get along harmoniously.
  • Ishmael is initially uneasy upon meeting Queequeg, but he quickly realizes that it is better to have a “sober cannibal than a drunken Christian” for a shipmate.
  • Additionally, the conditions of work aboard the Pequod promote a certain kind of egalitarianism, since men are promoted and paid according to their skill.
  • However, the work of whaling parallels the other exploitative activities—buffalo hunting, gold mining, unfair trade with indigenous peoples—that characterize American and European territorial expansion.
  • Each of the Pequod's mates, who are white, is entirely dependent on a nonwhite harpooner, and nonwhites perform most of the dirty or dangerous jobs aboard the ship.
  • Flask actually stands on Daggoo, his African harpooner, in order to beat the other mates to a prize whale.
  • Ahab is depicted as walking over the black youth Pip, who listens to Ahab's pacing from below deck, and is thus reminded that his value as a slave is less than the value of a whale.