Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864) was an American author born in Salem, Massachusetts. Before gaining fame as a writer, Hawthorne worked in a Customs House, which collected taxes on imports and exports. When he was fired as surveyor after the 1848 Presidential election resulted in a change in Administration, he began to devote himself fully to writing, producing his best-known novels in 3 successive years (The Scarlet Letter, The House of Seven Gables, The Blithedale Romance).
The House of Seven Gables (1851) is based on Hawthorne's family history. Hawthorne's great-great grandfather was a judge in the Salem witch trials, and according to a family legend, a woman sentenced to death during the trials cursed the Hawthorne family. After the death of the judge, the family remained in obscurity until Nathaniel Hawthorne distinguished himself as a writer. In his preface to the novel, Hawthorne states that he seeks to illustrate "a moral; — the truth, namely, that the wrong-doing of one generation lives into the successive ones, and, divesting itself of every temporary advantage, becomes a pure and uncontrollable mischief." The novel depicts the decline of the Pyncheon family due to a curse.