The years between 1849 and 1852 were Nathaniel Hawthorne’s most productive in terms of creative output. Hawthorne penned three romances—the name he gave his longer fictions—in addition to a children’s book and a political biography during these years. These longer stories exhibit the high degree of influence the political climate of the late 1840s and early 1850s had on Hawthorne. The Compromise of 1850 sought to bridge the growing schism in the nation on the topics of boundaries and slavery. By reading Hawthorne’s novels as political allegories of the Compromise of 1850, the political instability of the time becomes clear. Each of the three romances represent a stage of the Compromise (before, during, and after), and the characters are veils through which the political ideologies of the time are represented. The Scarlet Letter (1850) parallels the expansionist ideas of Manifest Destiny and urges occupation of the middle ground. However, The House of the Seven Gables (1851) issues a warning that the actions of the present will influence those in the future through its story over several generations of Pyncheons. In the third romance, or The Blithedale Romance, Hawthorne writes a peaceable dissolution to the utopian community of Blithedale in the wake of the Fugitive Slave Law. It is only through the veil of allegory as well as the veil of romance that Hawthorne found the necessary space from which to discuss the volatile issues of slavery.
Date of publication
Dr. Ann Beebe, Dr. Annette Jessop, Dr. Catherine Ross
Masters in English
Whiting, Melanie A., "The Politics of Utopia: Examining Three Hawthorne Romances as Political Allegories" (2018). English Department Theses. Paper 14.