Historical Context

History of Nathaniel Hawthorne


This is a Nathaniel Hawthorne.

In 1842, Hawthorne married Sophia Peabody. Together, they had a son, Julian, and a daughter, Una. The family moved to Concord, Massachusetts, and twelve years later, Hawthorne left and spent four years as the U.S. consul at Liverpool, England. He published The Scarlet Letter, the work for which he is most famous, in 1850 (Nancy Stade iii-iv).

History of the Puritans

Puritanism was the most popular religion in New England in the early American time period. Puritan beliefs were unique from those of other Christian denominations of the time because they believed in and stressed the doctrine of predestination. Their three covenants were the Covenant of Works, the Covenant of Grace, and the Covenant of Redemption (Campbell 2010).

John Winthrop was the most prominent leader of New England. His goal was to start a model Puritan Society (John Winthrop 1). He gave the speech “A Model Of Christian Charity” on his ship on the way to America. He wanted to create a city that was uniquely Puritan. It would be a place where Puritanism could be practiced without hindrance from others. Their settlement was said to become “a city on a hill” where others would be watching them live the model Christian life.


This is “A Model of Christian Charity”. (Click to expand.)

The New England Puritans had much higher literacy rates than other communities at the time. In social and political matters men were much more influential than women. Church attendance was mandatory for all. The Puritans taught members not to feel remorse about punishments.  This belief was largely influenced by their interpretations of the Old Testament (Puritan life n.d.).

Puritan Influence on Hawthorne

Hawthorne had Puritan ancestors who had been involved in the persecution of women during the Salem Witch Trials. Many of his topics may have related to how Hawthorne felt about the wrongdoings of those ancestors. Living mostly in Salem, he had an indubitable awareness of it. His works on the Puritans offered him an outlet through which he could explore his past, and his opinions and feelings on it.