Hawthorne's fiction : the psychology of sin and guilt

Throughout his career, Nathaniel Hawthorne dealt with themes of sin and guilt in his fiction. His treatment of these concepts was not that of the theologian or the moral philosopher who attempt to both define and judge the moral nature of such concepts. Rather, Hawthorne’s emphasis was on the psychological mechanisms and ultimate consequences of sin and guilt. Hawthorne's emphasis was one of effect and not so much one of cause. Hawthorne's interest in the psychology of sin and guilt stemmed undoubtedly from his fascination with his Puritan past. The self-righteous attitudes and judgemental stance that his forefathers often assumed helped to shape his views on sin, guilt, and man. Among the various aspects of sin that Hawthorne dealt with, the effects of the sin of intellectual pride was his foremost concern. Hawthorne's view that pride was the result of a separation, either physical or intellectual, from the community of man is illustrated in many of his short stories and is the crucial mechanism by which the Unpardonable Sin is created. It was this separation and consequent isolation of the individual, which in turn instilled a lack of sympathy in that individual, for his fellow man. This separation between the heart and the intellect was, for Hawthorne, the most unpardonable of human sins.

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