|This section of the site lists all guided paths and activities designed for students relating to topics in the Literature and Buildings and Houses sections of the Website. Scroll down this page to see a list of all activities grouped by topic. You may click on a topic to see activities related to that topic.
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Plate II, Adam and Eve, Derby Family Bible, Universal Bible, 1759 ed. (courtesy of Salem Maritime National Historic Site)
1. Students interested in Hawthorne's religious views might consider the fragments from Related Literaturealong with Margaret Moore's excerpts under Critical Commentary. Based upon that information, draw some conclusions about why Hawthorne avoided any doctrinaire religious allegiance. Moore speaks of Hawthorne's "instinct of faith." Margaret Moore powerfully suggests that while Hawthorne avoided any specific religious affiliation, his prose and his thinking were permeated with religious ideas.] After your reading, what do you take her to mean by that phrase? To rephrase, what is Hawthorne's "instinct of faith"? What role might Hawthorne's family history and the environment of Salem have had in determining his religious views?
2. Take some time to look carefully at the images associated with Hawthorne's Framework of Faith and those images associated with Hawthorne's Ideas of Good and Evil. Imagine you are a young person who is highly educated, deeply sensitive, and steeped in the history of your town and of your family's place in that history. What might the effect be on such a person to live surrounded by the images you see? Write a journal entry or a short autobiographical sketch as if you were Nathaniel Hawthorne or someone like him.
Other Website pages which might assist with this activity are:
3. Contemplate for a few moments some of the images connected with A Framework of Faith, especially on the one hand those photographs of Salem gravestones, those portraits of the Puritan fathers and the painting of the witch trial and on the other, the images taken from "The Snow Image" and the image of the virgins from an illustration of The Scarlet Letter. The contrast is striking. Then consider the differences between Hawthorne's descriptions of what is faulty about Anne Hutchinson, Hester Prynne, the father in "The Snow Image," and the Quaker mother in "The Gentle Boy" . What conclusions can you draw about the variety of spiritual threads in Hawthorne's world and his response to them?
4. When Nathaniel Hawthorne and his wife, Sophia, moved to Concord, Massachusetts, they rented The Old Manse from Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau helped the Hawthorne's plant a garden. In addition, the Alcott's also lived in the neighborhood and became acquainted with the Nathaniel and Sophia. Partly because of these circumstances, Nathaniel Hawthorne is sometimes counted among the American Transcendentalists. Explore some transcendental thinking and then examine the materials gathered under A Framework of Faithand decide for yourself if Hawthorne should be placed in that camp.
5. A Research Topic and Preliminary Writing Question on Ideas of Good and Evil
The following makes for a rich topic of investigation as a research project: Ideas of Good and Evil in Works by Nathaniel Hawthorne and Herman Melville. (Alternatively, the topic can be adapted to one of the two, rather than both authors.) If students can begin to explore this topic by reflecting upon works they already know by Hawthorne and Melville, then they have a solid head start. Two Hawthorne in Salem website articles that are also helpful in this context are “Christian Imagery in Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter” in the Scholars’ Forum section of “Faith and Religion”/“Ideas of Good and Evil” and “Echoes of Hawthorne in Melville’s Billy Budd” in the Scholars’ Forum section of “Hawthorne and Melville”/”Literary Links.”
As a preliminary to research, students familiar with The Scarlet Letter and Billy Budd can write detailed paragraphs or brainstorming lists in response to the following question: What are some examples of ways that Hawthorne and Melville identify what they consider to be good, right, or virtuous and bad, wrong, or virtueless in their novels The Scarlet Letter and Billy Budd? The following paragraphs provide some responses to consider for this wide-ranging question:
Hawthorne begins the narrative portion of The Scarlet Letter by calling the dissenter Anne Hutchinson “saintly” and by ascribing a merciful tenderness to a wild rosebush that, according to legend, had grown in her footsteps. From this early point in the novel, therefore, and especially as it reinforces “The Custom House” introduction, the reader can see that Hawthorne values freedoms of speech and worship and those courageous enough to champion them in the face of intolerant regimes like those of the Massachusetts Puritans. The use of the rosebush, moreover, infuses Hawthorne’s prose with a typically Romantic reverence for nature. The evident implication is that “speculating” about religious questions, as Anne Hutchinson had and as Hester Prynne does, is natural and good; but exiling and silencing them is against nature and thoroughly wrong.
Other attributes admired by Hawthorne are Hester’s service to her community, her charitable actions, and her longsuffering attitude in atoning for her sin. Clearly he values unselfishness, kindness toward those in need, humility, and bravery.
Much of what Hawthorne admires can also be shown indirectly by identifying those things he faults. Among the admired are the following:
All of these are to some extent violated in Hester’s world in The Scarlet Letter.
In “The Custom House,” Hawthorne shows shame for his family’s roles in the Puritan persecutions of Quakers and alleged witches. To the novel’s character, also a historical figure executed as a witch, Mistress Hibbins, he ascribes mental illness, thus suggesting that Puritans intentionally exterminated the infirm, as would nazis in the century succeeding Hawthorne’s. Certainly, intolerance and cruelty qualify as forms of evil in The Scarlet Letter.
The marketplace women who shout for Hester Prynne’s death exhibit a heartlessness that Hawthorne also condemns. It is clear that those women lust for the blood sport of a public execution much more than they care about any fellow female’s sins of the flesh. Scapegoating, therefore, is also an evil that the novel dramatizes; and in fact any example of objectifying human beings in order to treat them as subhuman for any purpose is clearly frowned upon by the author. Roger’s mind games with Arthur and the Boston brats’ harassment of Pearl are further examples.
The heart and the heartless are indeed key components of the novel. The chapter entitled “The Interior of a Heart,” for example, goes far to redeem Arthur Dimmesdale from his contemptible hypocrisy by showing the reader the weight of guilt the minister carries within; and, when it is clear that his and Hester’s passion derives from a love far deeper than could ever have existed between Hester and Roger, Arthur is all the more forgivable and pitiable, especially in contrast with tormenting, heartless Roger. With his hand frequently over his heart, it is fair to say that Arthur is worn down by acute heartache until a final burst of defiance leaves him stricken as if from heart failure. Loving his faith and the career he has built on it, he is torn mercilessly by the even stronger but forbidden passion he possesses for Hester Prynne.
As Hawthorne’s fiction exhibits exaltation of strong women, Melville’s possesses glorification of a group of free-spirited men -- sailors. He finds them generally far preferable to the kind of people who tend to be corrupted by too much time on land – those wicked landlubbers! He shares the widespread admiration for the fine physical specimens he terms “Handsome Sailors,” but such men are more than just comely. They are also skilled and graceful in their professions, and their good nature makes them approachable and well-liked by many. They do not seem to have axes to grind, nor do they resemble goon squad leaders who rise to prominence by means of belittling others. They are open and refreshing, more than just regular guys, in fact -- endearing ones. All of these attributes certainly belong to one Handsome Sailor –- the title character in Billy Budd.
Billy is not without defect – but then who is? Unfortunately, he is beyond ignorant – completely illiterate and painfully naïve. Melville is certainly not championing these qualities; his leading figure in Moby-Dick, for example, is the very bright, articulate, and observant Ishmael, certainly as sympathetic a character as Billy but definitely no dummy! It is Billy’s inability to articulate anything at all in moments of stress that ultimately serves as his tragic flaw and brings about his downfall.
Beyond defects and weaknesses, however, Billy Budd points to qualities and behaviors that the author clearly abhors and views as evil. Claggart provides examples of most of these: his gross misuse of authority to settle imagined scores rather than serve the good of the whole ship; his disregard for truth as he encourages his henchmen to frame Billy and tell their boss what they think he wants to hear without the interference of accuracy; and his malicious, wanton hatred of the fine and good qualities in the young man he secretly admires but perversely seeks to destroy. Thus Melville seems to say that those who abuse, lie, kill, and destroy are those who serve the devil.
Then there is Captain Vere – the really complicating factor in the story. On the surface, he is an affable, if remote fellow; but clearly Melville finds him to be the last person who should ever have been entrusted with naval leadership in wartime. The bad in Vere is essentially a rigidity of vision, whether from a fundamental meanness or stupidity Melville never says, but certainly Vere does not and evidently could not rise to levels of grace in the face of adversity. Instead, he resorts to what he understands as the letter of the law, even though he knows he employs it in the service of lies and against virtue. Billy may ask God to bless Captain Vere, but Melville makes clear that he, most of the rest of the crew, and probably the novel’s readers as well have other, much less favorable wishes in mind for the severely limited captain.
Following such preliminary writing on the topic of good and evil in Hawthorne’s and Melville’s works, students should be ready to formulate thesis statements. Based on the preceding paragraphs, for example, a thesis could be worded as follows: Hawthorne and Melville share Romantic views of good and evil in their fiction. Both men’s interest in nature and ways that civilization corrupts the natural could help develop such a theme. Whatever direction the student might take, however, s/he clearly benefits from background reading and writing thoughts about it in advance of documenting research ideas with specific citations from sources.
1. This activity was created by Dr. Doug Rowlett from Houston Community College System, Southwest Campus, Stafford, TX.
In nineteenth-century Salem the frontier was a distant place only to be read about by most inhabitants, and interactions with living Native Americans were few and far removed. The occasional Native American visitor to Salem had become by Hawthorne's time a quaint relic, more curiosity than threat in most people's minds.
However, residents did read about them in the newspapers and in popular books and articles and were certainly aware of their place in the history of New England, and there were still a few people alive during Hawthorne's early years who could recount old tales from previous generations about "Indian depredations." While Hawthorne never wrote the kinds of Indian-centered tales that Fenimore Cooper did, a close examination of his stories and novels will show he did make more use of Native Americans than is at first apparent.
Illustration by Frank T. Merrill of Shem Drowne’s Indian warrior weathervane that stood on top of the Province House in Boston (courtesy of Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA)
2. Explore Activities Related to “Main-Street”
A.) Images of American Indians
Make some observations on the portrayal of American Indians and the Indian-White relationship in these 19th century illustrations and art works. Categorize the ways Indians are presented during this period. As you view the images, it's important to remember that they present Indians through Euro-American imagination and ideology. Consider the following questions while analyzing individual illustrations or art works: What is emphasized in the work? What ideas and values are evident? What emotions does the work appeal to or communicate?
B.) The following websites provide additional American art images and articles on American art history.
C.) Artwork by American Indians of the Northeast
In the oral cultures of American Indians, artwork serves as a visual language that expresses the lives and worldviews of the people. Through signs and symbols, function and form each work speaks or tells a story rich in history and belief. Study the following images and observe on the form and design of each; consider the materials, as well. Describe what you find aesthetically pleasing or interesting. Explain how the object provides insight into the lifeways and culture, the beliefs and values of the creator. Make note of symbols or decorative motifs that you see as important or puzzling. In the 19th century, Euro-American ideas of "art" defined American Indian creations as "craft"-expressions of the primitive or naïve-not as sophisticated as the "high" art of the Western world. Do you agree? Collectively, how might these works, tell a different story, and offer an alternative view to the "official" white explanations of Indians and early American history?
D.) The following websites and links provide additional images of American Indian art and articles on American Indian traditions and artistic expression.
3. Explore Activities Related to “The Duston Family”
|1. In Hawthorne's fiction he frequently uses older female characters to examine connections to the past and the relationship between the past and present. Both Hepzibah Pyncheon from The House of the Seven Gables and Old Esther Dudley from "Old Esther Dudley" are characters who reflect this approach by Hawthorne. To explore this theme more fully, you may consider the following:
a. Look at the excerpts about and images related to Hepzibah Pyncheon and Esther Dudley listed below and consider the questions that follow:
How do Hawthorne's descriptions of Hepzibah and Esther underscore their connections to the past? What words does he use to describe their appearance, attire, and environments to suggest the close ties they feel to the past? How do the illustrations and images reinforce Hawthorne's ideas?
b. Both Seven Gables and the Province House contain mirrors that seem to reflect the presence of figures from the past. Examine the passages in which Hawthorne describes the mirrors. What appears in each? How does Esther feel about the images she sees? What does the narrative suggest about the images that appear in Seven Gables?
c. Hepzibah and Esther share certain qualities, but are also different from each other. What differences do you see? How does each woman feel about the past and its legacy? Is this an important difference?
d. The endings of "Old Esther Dudley" and The House of the Seven Gables present different outcomes for these two women. Look closely at the excerpts from the endings. How does each work offer a comment on the relationship between past and present? Which outcome do you prefer and why?
2. As Richard Millington suggests in his critical commentary, the story "Rappaccini's Daughter" would be quite different if written by Margaret Fuller. She might have changed the point of view so that the reader saw things from Beatrice's perspective.
To see what effect this might have, imagine that you are Beatrice. Since you have no one to talk to, you record your thoughts in a diary. Write the diary entries that describe your meeting with Giovanni and the way you feel as you continue to see him. What are your hopes for the future?
Compare what you have written to the story by Hawthorne. Has your view of Beatrice changed? Do you see Giovanni or Beatrice's father differently than you did before? How does point of view influence your perceptions?
3. Imagine yourself a detective in 16th century Padua. You have learned of the death of Beatrice Rappaccini, and heard that a family servant claims she died from unnatural causes. You have been asked to investigate whether a crime has occurred, and if so, to identify the perpetrator. You have three possible suspects to interrogate: Giovanni Guasconti, Giacomo Rappaccini, and Pietro Baglioni. To complete your investigation you must do the following:
4. As many of the images featured in this section suggest, the figures of Beatrice from Dante's Divine Comedy (Purgatorio) and of Beatrice Cenci informed the characterization of Beatrice Rappaccini in Hawthorne's story. Like many other nineteenth-century artists and writers, Hawthorne was attracted to the image of woman as a redemptive figure who transforms another through love (Dante's Beatrice). He was also fascinated by ideas about woman as a mixed being who represented both innocence and danger (Beatrice Cenci). Read material on the two Beatrices from the web sites "Dante's 'love' for Beatrice" and "Screaming in the Castle". How has Hawthorne drawn upon these two figures to shape Beatrice Rappaccini? What important differences exist between Hawthorne's character and her predecessors?
Image of Beatrice Cenci
5. This learning activity was submitted by Donna Reiss, Professor of English at Tidewater Community College, Virginia Beach, VA.
Two of Nathaniel Hawthorne's best-known short stories are excellent companions to a reading of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein: "The Birthmark" and "Rappaccini's Daughter." Like Frankenstein, they dramatize the impact of science and technology on human behavior and relationships. Although set in the nineteenth century, these works provoke our thinking about similar issues in the current century and help set the stage for an exploration of these issues throughout the twentieth century. This Explore activity focuses on "Rappaccini's Daughter," but the topics are also relevant for "The Birthmark."
As you read "Rappaccini's Daughter," consider the list of ideas and topics below that are also related to Frankenstein. I recommend that you review the Frankenstein Project Guidelines for suggestions such as the following:
· The Literature section of the Hawthorne in Salem Website has several topics that you can relate to your reading of "Rappaccini's Daughter." Even when the sources do not refer specifically to that story, sometimes the authors of the online articles discuss other Hawthorne works in ways that you can recognize as similar to "Rappaccini's Daughter." In particular, the sections titled "Women in Hawthorne" and "Alienation" might be of interest.
· In addition, the Explore section links to some graphical and resources and other commentary that might interest you. Ideas of good and evil, for example, are emphasized in the Faith and Religion section.
6. This learning activity related to "Lady Eleanore's Mantle" was developed by Dr. Melissa Pennell.
Excerpts are from the story "Lady Eleanor's Mantle" (from Twice Told Tales, Volume 2, 1851)
First, look up the symptoms and history of smallpox:
Next, apply that to the story, "Lady Eleanore's Mantle":
Learn about the outbreak of smallpox in 1721 by visiting the following web sites:
|1. Students interested in Hawthorne's relationship to Quakers might consider his representation of them in "The Gentle Boy," "Main Street," and The Scarlet Letter and then use the passages from Claudia Durst Johnson and Margaret Moore to better understand how Quaker beliefs differed from Puritan beliefs. A consideration of the following questions might prove productive.
|Other website pages which might assist with this activity are:
3. Hawthorne often admires the Quakers in his stories, representing them as "wanderers" who, as he writes in "Main Street,"
have received from Heaven a gift that, in all epochs of the world, has brought with it the penalties of mortal suffering and persecution, scorn, enmity, and death itself;--a gift that, thus terrible to its possessors, has ever been most hateful to all other men, since its very existence seems to threaten the overthrow of whatever else the toilsome ages have built up;--the gift of a new idea.Similarly in "The Artist of the Beautiful," Owen Warland, in hoping that his love, Annie, may indeed understand him is described as follows:
And then the thought stole into his mind, that this young girl possessed the gift to comprehend him, better than all the world beside. And what a help and strength would it be to him, in his lonely toil, if he could gain the sympathy of the only being whom he loved! To persons whose pursuits are insulated from the common business of life--who are either in advance of mankind, or apart from it--there often comes a sensation of moral cold, that makes the spirit shiver, as if it had reached the frozen solitudes around the pole. What the prophet, the poet, the reformer, the criminal, or any other man, with human yearnings, but separated from the multitude by a peculiar lot, might feel, poor Owen Warland felt.What are the implications the similarities between these descriptions? Are Quakers and artists somehow alike? If so, how? If not, how are the likenesses in the descriptions misleading? Is Hawthorne's ambivalence toward both Quakers, indeed all religious advocates, similar to his ambivalence toward artists? Is the alienation Quakers experience identical to the alienation experienced by artists? What else can you see?
|1.) Students studying The Blithedale Romance can view these images of fabric pastorals from the Peabody-Essex Museum and respond to the questions that follow: