Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Best Quotes 💬

Nathaniel Hawthorne was a bonafide master of symbolic and allegorical writings, so anyone who’s looking to pick his works off the bookshelf should expect to be thrilled by several of his best quotes which are, as you might guess, symbolic and allegorical.

Nathaniel Hawthorne

(1804-1864), American

Several of Hawthorne’s best quotes may hit readers with a massive dose of Puritanism ideas and reflections, but they all have, in one way or the other, some vital undercurrent meanings that can resonate with the real-life situations of readers from any age, geography, and time. The best of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s quotes are listed and explained here in this article. 

Quotes on Happiness 

Happiness is a butterfly, which when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.

Being a substance that every person pursues at the cause of their life, happiness becomes a concept in which Hawthorne finds fascination and interest. 

The author has several sage quotes on happiness, such as the above, and how best to attain it. He believes the subject is very likely more attracted by a person’s composure, calmness, and tranquility of life. 

In buttressing his point, Hawthorne opts for an allusion using butterflies and how likely they are to perch on a Peaceful object, and this similar translates to how people must act in they must attract happiness into themselves.

Happiness is not found in things you possess, but in what you dare to release.

This is another excerpt on happiness from the pool of Hawthorne’s sage wisdom, and just like the first quote where he urges individuals to be calm and allow happiness to find them, here the author makes a statement implying that happiness is more of an external thing. 

However, it only comes to you when you have triggered it by performing certain actions to attract it.

On the Power of Writing 

Words – so innocent and powerless as they are, as standing in a dictionary, how potent for good and evil they become in the hands of one who knows how to combine them.

Great writers and authors know the power that lies in words, and Nathaniel Hawthorne – who was certainly one of the greats of his era – knew that for a fact. 

Hawthorn shares a similar belief with the industry’s biggest minds, such as Henry David Thoreau, by acknowledging that words, in the hands of an expert, can become as sharp as a double-edged sword. 

The attestation to this is how through the centuries, the world has undergone several social, political, and economic reforms and revolutions through the impact of certain books. Hawthorne’s book, ‘The Scarlet Letter,’ is one such book that wields historical and transformational power and people and society.

On Dreaming and Achieving Them 

Dream strange things and make them look like the truth.

Nathaniel Hawthorne, in this one-liner quote, affirms his reliance on dreams as the backstory to every great invention and exploit. 

However, just as how dreams are necessary and important, the author expects dreamers to back their dreams with hard work and perseverance if they must make those dreams a thing of reality. 

The thing you set your mind on is the thing you ultimately become.

In this quote, also about dreams and how to achieve them, Nathaniel Hawthorne appears to be borrowing from the principle of the law of attraction – which says that you attract whatever you put your thought and energy on. 

There is a strong lesson here for readers to try and glean, and that is the fact that one has to always stay positive in thought and in actions in other to attract the best things in life. 

On the Importance of Every Single Person 

Every individual has a place to fill in the world and is important in some respect whether he chooses to be so or not.

Everyone has a purpose in life; no one is created without reason; and by this mindset, Hawthorne argues that everyone has a reason to be in this world – even if they want to admit it or not. 

The author favors an early search and realization of one’s purpose in life rather than one treating such a subject with apathy and lack of interest. 

Even though Hawthorne argues that everyone has a purpose, he doesn’t dispute the fact that some people might beat about the bush and fail to find their purpose in life by the time it had ended. 

On Evil Proclivity of Humans 

There is evil in every human heart, which may remain latent, perhaps, through the whole of life; but circumstances may rouse it to activity.

Hawthorne debates there is an inherent evil disposition hard-wired deeply in every person – even in the most upright of people. In essence, no one is ever truly good; they’ve just not been angered enough to spawn that bit of evil fit. 

Life’s situations, he argues, trigger this tendency for being evil or wicked, and all must strive to constantly keep their conscience and morality in check. 

On how Time Flies but Scars Remain 

Time flies over us, but leaves its shadow behind.

Time as a concept has been a fascinating subject for all ages, and Hawthorne himself couldn’t resist being baffled by it that he leaves his own opinion and observation about it. 

Hawthorne admits that although time comes and goes sometimes very quickly as it flashes before our eyes, the memories and scars created in those times tend to remain for longer periods. Sometimes forever. 

On Providence 

Just as there comes a warm sunbeam into every cottage window, so comes a love beam of God’s care and pity for every separate need.

Having emerged from a family that has a centuries history of upholding the Christianity-driven puritan legacy, Nathaniel Hawthorne agrees with the concept of God and his works of providence for his creation.

Hawthorne believes that God is kind and companionate and will always take care of the needs of the individuals of his creation.

On the Irony of Life 

We dream in our waking moments, and walk in our sleep.

Hawthorne draws from this quote to express how important and naturally entwined we are to our dreams and visions. This quote may seem short and witty, but it very well summarizes the author’s understanding of the reality of life. 

By this excerpt, Hawthorne rehashes the importance of having – and not being scared of – big dreams, and meeting them with hard work – which he refers to here as ‘walk.’ As dreams are but mere ideas that are dead unless resurrected by hard, painstaking work. 

On the Supernatural and the Things Unseen

There is something truer and more real, than what we can see with the eyes, and touch with the finger

Often, we’ve seen well-read authors and writers question the existence of a supreme being or God. Nathaniel Hawthorne, by his admission, believed in God and his preternatural influence on humanity.

Even though this God can not be reached, seen, or heard, his exploits are visibly felt through the inexplicability of some natural occurrences and phenomena.

On the Fastest Way to Fail

To do nothing is the way to be nothing.

Hawthorne may have managed to carve his name deep in the walls among the greats as far as classic writers are concerned, but he had his fair share of hard work and discipline when starting as an inexperienced youngster. 

The author, by no means, had the success of his career served on a platter, as his biographical data shows he sacrificed years and years in preparation for the achievements that he eventually gained – including going to college, learning, and apprenticing under some of the industry’s best, and observing a personal isolation period in which he trained his mind to become a professional writer. 


Did Hawthorne believe in God?

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s life and writings gravitate towards the belief in the existence of God – even though several of his works may come off as a critique of God and his supremacy over man. The author has well-documented opinions about subjects revolving around the supernatural and providence – aspects which he often likened to God and divinity. 

How does Nathaniel Hawthorne perceive evil and humanity?

Hawthorne sees every man as possessing an inherent proclivity to be evil. He argues that the few who may come off as good and righteous have somehow mastered the art of quieting or drowning out their evils.

Who is the most powerful person, according to Nathaniel Hawthorne?

Hawthorne believes that writers are some of the most powerful people on earth, but not just any writer; only those who have the skill to transform ordinary words into a lethal weapon that can be used for good or for bad.

Victor Onuorah
About Victor Onuorah
Victor is as much a prolific writer as he is an avid reader. With a degree in Journalism, he goes around scouring literary storehouses and archives; picking up, dusting the dirt off, and leaving clean even the most crooked pieces of literature all with the skill of analysis.
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