Nathaniel Hawthorne Writing Style ✍️

The writing style of Nathaniel Hawthorne is deeply symbolic and slightly dark-humored as befitting for a historic puritan reality that he mostly sought to portray.

Nathaniel Hawthorne

(1804-1864), American

Hawthorne’s writing style is well grounded in traditional romance, and his scenic form – which includes descriptions of cultural country living, nature, troubled and haunted places, and people – suggests his works also qualify for gothic writing. Interestingly, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s fascinating family background and his forebears’ history in upholding Puritanism cultures had a huge influence in shaping his later writing style. This article examines the unique writing style of the writer of ‘The Scarlet Letter,’ Nathaniel Hawthorne. 

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Fictional Romanticism Style

The writing style of Nathaniel Hawthorne is rooted in Romanticism, a literary style that supports an artistic expression of oneself by taking advantage of one’s imaginative creativity – including freedom from all external laws or regulations that might affect one’s creative expression. 

The movement is said to have started in Europe, in the latter years of the 1700s. However, Hawthorne’s style appears to be more of a refined edition which began growing in popularity in American literature in the late 19th century. 

Under the Romanticism style, Hawthorne specialized more on Dark Romanticism as a subgenre – which is sometimes known as Gothic Fiction. This genre is generally characterized by the portrayal of bizarre, unnatural entities, events, or things.

Stories about witchcraft, ghosts, necromancy (which is the act of communing with the dead); or of strangely shaped beings and creatures such as the banshee, werewolf, Minotaur, vampire etcetera – are all part of the characteristics of a dark romance being that they deal with things and events beyond the natural.

However, a peculiar thing about Hawthorne’s Dark Romanticism is that he made sure to focus on the fantasticism of humanity – which is why his books are typically flooded with themes around witchcraft, ghosts and haunted mansions and places, God and religion – and not leaving out other supernaturals.

Hawthorne’s Dark Romanticism writings are innately hinged on his belief that humans were naturally flawed – with even the most decent of them having the propensity to be evil, so he made it his specialty to explore the dark side of humanity.

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Allegory

Hawthorne was a fan and heavy user of symbolic and allegorical expressions. This ability to refurbish his work – pegging his message to a historical antecedent – was one of the reasons his works were set apart from the works of his contemporaries.

Hawthorne’s use of psychological allegory envelops his works, and this is very clearly shown in his masterpiece ‘The Scarlet Letter’ – which has several sightings of such technique.

While allegory, by definition, follows an artistic expression carrying a hidden, usually unimplied meaning with some morals, psychological allegory has more to do with the emotional significance of such allegorical expressions. 

Just to cite one of several instances where Nathaniel Hawthorne’s use of psychological allegory gains prominence in ‘The Scarlet Letter’ is when Hester, during her public trial – standing on a scaffold, is pressured by the people to reveal the identity of the man responsible for her baby.

Just then her accomplice, reverend Arthur Dimmesdale joins her on the scaffold asking her to confess her partner in adultery -even though he knows full well he’s the one responsible. Nevertheless, Hester doesn’t divulge the truth, for she wanted to bear the full weight of the shame for herself and Dimmesdale – who bears the guilt of not fessing up. 

In this event, Hawthorne implies a subtle allegory where he uses Hester’s admission to shame to cover up the much bigger guilt Dimmesdale is feeling – and the consequences of his emotional turmoils from the guilt eventually kills him. It is also important to mention that the whole body of 

Hawthorne’s ‘The Scarlet Letter’ is also an allegorical depiction of the sixth commandment of God or the seventh for the Jewish people. 

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Symbolism Usage

Hawthorne’s exertion of symbolism as a common style for his writing is also profound. Not just for ‘The Scarlet Letter’ – his best work, but also across all his other novels and short stories like ‘The Minister’s Black Veil,’ ‘Young Goodman Brown,’ and ‘The House of the Seven Garbles.’ 

However for his best work, ‘The Scarlet Letter,’ there’s an overflowing depiction of symbols starting from the book’s title – which is a physical depiction of Hester’s sin – and then it goes down to other aspects such as the names of the characters like Pearl and Chillingworth, where the former represents the result of Hester’s adulterous sin and the latter a cold, vindictive personality. 

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s High Psychological Theme-Style

Hawthorne seems to have worked more with a theme style that paid greater attention to the intrinsic struggle of his characters rather than their extrinsic and cross-characters conflicts. 

In ‘The Scarlet Letter,’ for example, while Roger Chillingworth is the chief antagonist of the book, he doesn’t seem to have any verbal or physical tearing down with his fellow characters. 

Instead, what happens is all the major characters appear to be going through some sort of psychological preoccupation or issue – each to their own. Take Hester, for example, the supposed hero of the book; one finds her struggling with guilt, the same with Dimmesdale – with the only difference being that the former is also dealing with public shaming and the latter is not.  

Chillingworth wants revenge for Arthur Dimmesdale for sleeping with his wife, forgetting that he is partly responsible for things going bad when he chooses to abandon his wife for several years. 

In a nutshell, Hawthorne showed through his work how humanity tends to be chaotic and self-destructive – such that they don’t need any external conflict to undo them, and this brings one to the basis of Hawthorne’s true writing interest; the Dark Romanticism.

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Extended Dialogue Style

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s dialogue style is old and long-winded, almost what anyone would expect from a 19th-century writer. 

Given, it can be argued that writers of Hawthorne’s era didn’t have the pleasure of tapping into the richness of advanced language vocabularies (like today’s writers are blessed with)

to help them visually execute their ideas in writing – which is why mostly classic works are often flawed by verbosity.

But with Hawthorne’s dialogue style, there seem to be unusually extended dialogic patterns for his books, and while it can be argued that he needs as much length to visualize his ideas to his readers, it may also be an intentional effort by the author to mesmerize his audience. 


 What genre did Nathaniel Hawthorne write on?

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s specialty lies in historical fiction and dark romanticism. His works are mostly based on these genres but he goes across and beyond borders to incorporate themes of high imagination, such as the God concept, the supernaturals, strange and mysterious characters, and events.

What writing style is prevalent in ‘The Scarlet Letter’ by Nathaniel Hawthorne?

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s ‘The Scarlet Letter’ is bombarded with allegory and symbolism, but there is also a wide usage of metaphor and extended dialogues by key characters. 

Why do Hawthorne’s works have overly extended dialogues?

Nathaniel Hawthorne enjoyed visual storytelling and loved to bring his ideas and thoughts to life, every bit of it – including the nitty gritty. His extended dialogues are nothing but a mere effort to help his readers visualize his plot in the best way possible.

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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