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Hawthorne – Author or Painter?

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “singularly effective” tone in his writings paints a vivid image for readers. He redefined American literature, bringing it close to par with the elites of British literature – which was far ahead of American literature during his time. Edgar Allen Poe referred to Hawthorne’s collection of short stories Twice-Told Tales as “work of art(s)” and Hawthorne as “a painter”. His short story Wakefield, took readers on a meticulously described tale of a man who left his house and resided in incognito status before finally returning twenty years later. The story described by Hawthorne himself as “purest originality” (396) – a quality which Poe values the most in short stories – not only tells a story but gives readers a glimpse into Wakefield’s inner feelings as “analysis of the motives” to his actions. He chose not to give the story fully away but leave the moral of it up to the reader’s interpretation stating that “whenever any subject so forcibly affects the mind, time is well spent in thinking of it” (396). For example, the scene where he painted the image of Wakefield “smiling on [his wife]” (397) as he walked out, and the recurring image his wife sees years later, leaves readers open to solve the mystery of the smile.  Hawthorn manages to develop a connection with his readers, keeping them interacted with the writing by limiting their observation and encourage development of a personal thesis:: “The uncertainties of the story connects with the people and “appeals to the general sympathies of mankind” (396). As with a painting, the inspection of the “artwork” can be done within “one sitting”, keeping “unity” and “totality” of the story.

Indoor Art People Looking At A Painting
Indoor Art People Looking At A Painting

The image created does not limit itself to visual means but introduces readers to a more realistic dimension through description of other senses for example “the scraping of his foot” (398). Every artist has their style, and Hawthorne’s is “purity itself”. His stories are purely focused on the main character and analysis of their thoughts and feelings, referred to by Poe as “a sketch of singular power”. He is one of the first author to successfully bring out pride in American literature and truly deserve the praise Edgar Allen Poe had given him.



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