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Examining Hawthorne’s Christian Faith and Moral Critique

May 14, 2023 | 0 comments

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May 14, 2023 | Essays | 0 comments

There has always been a debate centered on the profound nature of Hawthorne’s Christianity. Several literacy experts have questioned whether indeed Hawthorne was a Christian or whether he was just a moralist who wrote exciting short stories in his time. According to (Lynch 2010) the relationship between Hawthorne and Christianity is clear in all his writings but mostly in the Scarlett Letter.  John cline wrote an unpublished thesis that centered on categorizing the Christianity of Hawthorne as per the use of the bible in his writing. He shows several similar quotations in the bible as well as the short stories written by Hawthorne. However, his thesis has often been critiqued as lacking much substance and reference to become an academic authority.

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Hawthorne was born during what many historians have termed as the second rebirth; this is an era when there existed extreme religious awakening.  Churches were being built at a fervent speed; revivals began to be held almost daily. Hawthorne was exposed to this fever and therefore it is reflected in his writing. He criticizes the lack of faith and morals that are depicted in the judgment of others such as found in the scarlet letter short story. Further, one can identify several characters in his stories that are named after biblical characters.  However, unlike the majority of the Christians during his time who were more interested in the hype, Hawthorne attempts to show a deeper meaning to Christianity. He heavily critiques what he terms as puritans that are, religious fanatics who seem to think they are above others simply because of their faith, instead he portrays Christianity as a Unitarian religion where all people can come under the worship of one God and faith.

(Means 2006) cites that majority of the critiques have failed to see and show the importance of the bible to Hawthorne personally. He states that it is only on this basis that one would understand the basis of his work. The short stories that have entertained the world for decades cannot be separated from the life of Hawthorne. (Turner 1980) states that Hawthorne often quoted the bible with the frequency of one who was more than familiar with the scriptures. In his personal life, he showed his devotion to the Christian faith. He attended regularly the Sunday service and his own family often engaged in the study of the bible and evening prayers together, a sign that Christianity was taken seriously in the Hawthorne household.

Hawthorne wrote the story, Young Goodman Brown, at a time when he was insecure about his own faith and questioned the existence of true Christians. The story of the young man who loses his faith is actually considered to be a reflection of his own feelings at the time. According to (Reynolds 2001) Hawthorne is through this story trying to re-establish the morals that come with Christian faith. Through the story, he shows how the puritan era had corrupted Christians making the religion one be avoided rather than admired.  His work tended to be fixated on morals not because he was some kind of moral judgment but rather because he took his Christian faith seriously.  Without faith, as shown by the majority of his characters, human beings become lost in evil deeds whereupon they are unable to seek and find God’s mercy even when they need it most.


Lynch, J. (2010). Nathaniel Hawthorne. Pasadena, Calif: Salem Press

Means, R. (2006). Nathaniel Hawthorne. Toledo, Ohio: Great Neck Publishing.

Reynolds, L. J. (2001). A historical guide to Nathaniel Hawthorne. Oxford [England: Oxford University Press.

Turner, A. (1980). Nathaniel Hawthorne, a biography. New York: Oxford University Press.

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