Literary Criticisms of Nathaniel Hawthorne

Literary Criticisms

 

Henry James

In this portion of a long criticism of Nathaniel Hawthorne's works, American fiction writer Henry James critiques The Scarlet Letter. Overall, he lauds Hawthorne's beautiful prose and brilliant metaphors, although James's pointed criticisms of his overwrought symbolism and pretensions are interesting. He also spends a great deal of words comparing Hawthorne to his Scottish counterpart, explaining how Hawthorne has given America its own literary voice.

Barbara Ellis

Surprisingly, this feminist professor gives Hawthorne good marks on his treatment of women. She claims how the author's female-dominated life gave him a respect towards women that filters into his work; his depiction of Hester Prynne as a internally complex and a source of fear to men is ahead of his time. While other writers could only create stereotypical women, this critic feels Hawthorne has painted a more honest, more profound picture of a female.

Reverend A.C. Coxe

In his criticism of The Scarlet Letter, Reverend Coxe questions the theme of the novel, which he says is a reconciliation of human nature with estrangement from home and country. He also stated that he thought it was a book made for the market. He believes that it was well written, detailed and purely written, in that it uses metaphors rather than direct narration. The moral of the tale, according to Coxe, is "be true."

William Heath

Heath analyzes the sexual element of Hawthorne's writings, finding a "profound ambivalence towards women" in many of his works. He speculates about the deeper sexual tension in Hawthorne's life and how it surfaces in his books. He discusses his sexual anxieties, such as his fear of passion with his wife, and possible feelings of incest, which are backed up by family history. He cautions against assuming that he feared passion because he was incapable of it. He finds Hawthorne to be "a straight-laced moralist." His stories tend to become parables to decipher, rather than dramatic actions.

D.H. Lawrence

D.H. Lawrence analyzes in depth the religious aspect of Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter. Lawrence calls this novel "a marvelous allegory" and a romance, however not a pleasant and pretty one. He talks a lot about Adam and Eve and human sin, and compares it to characters in The Scarlet Letter. He believes Hawthorne cautions people of sin in his writing. At the same time, he finds criticism of women in Hawthorne's writing.

 

Dr. George Baily Loring

In his long criticism of The Scarlet Letter, Dr. George Baily Loring analyzes Hawthorne's characters in depth. In the first portion of his criticism, Loring talks about Dimmesdale and his progression throughout the novel. He elaborates on Dimmesdale’s devotion to God and his religion, while at the same time explaining how this affected him on his sinful actions. Furthermore, he also examines Hester Prynne and the relationship which she held with Arthur Dimmesdale.

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