Examines author’s critique & rejection of Puritan values in The Scarlet Letter, Young Goodman Brown, The Birthmark & Rappaccini’s Daughter.
Nathaniel Hawthorne, in his novel The Scarlet Letter and in Young Goodman Brown and other short stories, offers a fictional critique of the strict, conservative, and even cruel moral values and world view of Puritanism. The major characters in the novel and short stories suffer mightily not because they are evil, but because they live in a society whose Puritanical values condemn them for acts which are merely human, however wayward. Hawthorne draws these characters with great understanding and compassion, responses fully lacking in the Puritan society which condemns them. At the same time, Hawthorne, through his narrators, offers a stiff indictment of the cold-hearted Puritans who so cruelly condemn and isolate these characters from society for their all-too-human transgressions. This rejection of Puritanical values is the thread which unites the novel and the stories to be examined.