Hawthorne’s best books have stayed on for centuries and are still wanted for many more centuries to come, and this is mainly for his books’ ability to enlighten, educate, and inform, particularly on the rich history of the American people. His best books are a must-read for anyone who’s looking to study American history 101 in college. In this article, the best works of Nathaniel Hawthorne have been explored.
The Scarlet Letter
Known as the best work of the renowned author Nathaniel Hawthorne, ‘The Scarlet Letter’ turns up for its colorful reputation by remaining relevant to readers, writers, and directors till this day and age – that’s nearly one and a half-century after its initial publication.
After Hawthorne released the novel in the mid-1800s, the book proved to be the game changer for its gothic genre and became popular across America and the world at large.
‘The Scarlet Letter’ was not Hawthorne’s first attempt at novel writing – given that he had earlier published ‘Fanshawe,’ a book he so badly wanted to cancel because he didn’t think it was good enough to be part of his literary legacy.
However, with the release of his masterwork, the author saw an unprecedented breakthrough in his career – with the book selling out all 2,500 initial copies in just 10 days.
The book’s success rubbed off on the later works of Hawthorne and tremendously changed his social and financial status as he grew more popular and began earning enough to support himself and his family – a feat he was unable to attain before the book.
In ‘The Scarlet Letter,’ Hawthorne tells the story of a village in Massachusetts called Salem, during the height of the Christianity-powered puritan revolution. A woman, Hester Prynne, had broken a moral law, committed adultery, and now has a baby outside of her marriage because her husband had been away for so long.
With Hester refusing to reveal her partner in crime, she is paraded in the public with her child as she wears the scarlet letter ‘A’ dress indicating her sin. On the day of her public shaming, her husband coincidentally returns to witness the event and vows to uncover the truth and get his revenge by doing everything possible. What follows is a thrilling tale of sin, love, and betrayal.
The House of the Seven Gables
‘The House of the Seven Garbles’ is another acclaimed novel by a talented writer, Nathaniel Hawthorne, published in 1851, a year after ‘The Scarlet Letter.’
The book greatly benefited from the success of ‘The Scarlet Letter’ and was inspired by Hawthorne’s ancestors, his cousin, Susanna Ingersoll, and the event of the Salem witch trial of the late 1600s.
‘The House of the Seven Garbles’ became popular and received appreciation from the reading public – inspiring writers and literati like H. P. Lovecraft. The book has undergone several book-to-screen adaptations over the years for its unique and engaging storyline.
Set in a village in New England, the plot headlines there Pyncheon family and the curse that has followed them from generations ago due to a certain misdeed masterminded by their ancestor Colonel Pyncheon against Matthew Maule.
Pyncheon had built a mansion on land unlawfully inherited from Maule, the real owner, who was killed after being convicted of witchcraft. In his dying words, Maule placed a curse on the Pyncheon family and soon after his death, Pyncheon was discovered dead, seated on his chair.
Generations later, Hepzibah Pyncheon and her brother Clifford Pyncheon – along with the other Pyncheon family members inhabiting the haunted mansion find their lives have been frustrated one way or the other, but a spirited and strong-willed Hepzibah leads the Pyncheon family as they seek to lift the curse and find a new, greener chapter to what has been a wretched life.
Circulated in 1828, ‘Fanshawe’ is Hawthorne’s first ever published novel inspired by the author’s personal experience and struggle while attending Bowdoin College.
Published by Marsh and Capen, the book received several good reviews from readers, especially from prominent writers and print and magazine editors who spoke well of the book – urging all readers to purchase it as it was worth keeping in their libraries.
Despite several good reviews, ‘Fanshawe’ became a market flop as several copies of the book were left unsold. Hawthorne wasn’t happy with the book’s reputation, especially with the sales, and reportedly burnt the excesses. It was later, after his death, that a copy was found and reprinted by James O. & Co.
Hawthorne’s ‘Fanshawe’ is a romance that centers around the Angler’s abduction of Ellen Langton and the search for her by her guardian Dr. Melmoth, Fanshawe, and Edward Walcott – her love interests.
Their search opens up an adventure that is both risky and enjoyable for readers – which also reveals the strengths and weaknesses of the characters, as they toughen up to the tasks that lay ahead.
The Blithedale Romance
‘The Blithedale Romance’ is Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel based on a utopian project, the Brook Farm, which he co-owned – along with other pioneers of transcendentalists like Ralph Waldo Emerson.
The book documents his experience being one of the Brook Farmers – which was essentially based on the idea of building a commune of dedicated and intellectual agriculturalists, who could pool resources together to create greater resting and learning times.
Hawthornes reflects on a peaceful and tranquil time over at the Brook Farm project, an experience he would relish so much and dare to share with his wife Sophia Peabody. The book’s story centers around a group of settlers – led by Miles Coverdale – in Blithedale, and how they seek to make the settlement a true utopia for its dwellers.
The Marble Faun
Also ‘The Romance of Monte Beni,’ ‘The Marble Faun’ became Nathaniel Hawthorne’s last completed novel work and was inspired by his short stay with Sophia in Italy.
Hawthorne began writing the prototype in Italy and later finished it in England. At first reading upon completion, Hawthorne thought the book lacked substance and cutting-edge and even considered not publishing it. However, he decided to do so after his wife convinced him the novel was an honorable work of art.
In the story of ‘The Marble Faun,’ Hawthorne takes inspiration from the Italo’s Faun of Praxiteles located in Rome, as he builds a similar character around Donatello, drawing similarities and distinctions in the cultures and legacies of America in comparison to his understanding of the Europe culture.
What is Nathaniel Hawthorne’s best novel?
‘The Scarlet Letter’ is hands down Nathaniel Hawthorne’s best novel and work of art, with the book proving why its readers choose in aspects – in terms of quality, relevance, and market success, among other things.
Is ‘The Scarlet Letter’ Hawthorne’s first known novel?
Although ‘The Scarlet Letter’ comes popular to many as Hawthorne’s first novel work, but ‘Fanshawe’ takes the place of his earliest published novel which he released in 1828, many years before ‘The Scarlet Letter,’ at the time he was still studying at Bowdoin university.
How prolific was Hawthorne in his days?
American classic writer, Nathaniel Hawthorne, was known to have been very prolific, especially in short stories. Before releasing his best work in ‘The Scarlet Letter,’ the author had published dozens of short stories and other literary pieces.