The dynamic tension of contraries in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s stories

“In Nathaniel Hawthorne, contraries and contradictions co-exist in a dynamic tension. He was a Christian who wrote impassionedly of the narrowness and bigotry that Christianity has engendered. He was an old-fashioned moralist who probed the inner workings of obsessive guilt with a modern psychologist’s zeal. He was a Gothic romancer, a child of the European literary age, whose subject matter, in many of his best works, was quintessentially American—the rockhewn theocracy of Puritan New England a century and a half before his time. He was an intellectual who distrusted the intellect, who believed that in the eternal conflict between “head” and “heart,” the promptings of the heart were most often the right ones. He was…obsessed by the evil that men do, hopeful that good may sometimes come of it, convinced, above all, that human nature is an inextricable mixture of good and evil.”

Newsday, May 16, 1982


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