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Hawthorne at Salem

Hawthorne in Salem


Welcome to the Explore Section

Salem Athenaeum, 337 Essex St. in Salem, in 2000
Salem Athenaeum, 337 Essex St. in Salem, in 2000 In (photography by Terri Whitney)
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.

Explore activities are also listed under the particular area, topic, and subtopic. After you click on an area (e.g., Literature), topic (e.g. The Custom House Sketch), and subtopic (e.g., Fact and Fantasy), click on "Explore" in the Resources list and you will see the guided activities related to that subtopic.


Special Notes

  • Explore activities are listed by topic only, so once you click on a topic, you may click on any subtopic. You will see a list of activities related to ALL subtopics for that topic.

    To see a larger version of an image, click on the image. In some cases there will be captions included with this larger image.

    Important! When you click on a link within an activity, to return, right click on your mouse, then click on "back."


Guided Activities By Topic For Students Using Hawthorne in Salem Website Resources:

Explore Activities from the Literature Section

Activities Relating to the Custom-House Sketch

Illustration of the Custom House from early edition of <I>The Scarlet Letter</I>
Illustration of the Custom House from early edition of The Scarlet Letter (courtesy of James R. Osgood and Co.)
  1. A student interested in history or architecture might wish to look at the information on merchants of the eighteenth century in Salem, the images of the houseswhere Elias Haskett Derby lived, and the image of Derby Wharf shortly after Hawthorne's time. Then the student might use those sources along with the description Hawthorne gives of Salem at the beginning of the "Custom House" chapter to write an essay discussing how maritime Salem of Hawthorne's time, in the mid-nineteenth century, differs from the Salem of the Golden Age of the late 1700s.

  1. A student who enjoys creative writing might wish to look at the architecture of the Custom House and the panoramic tour of Hawthorne's office and then use these materials and the sections of "The Custom-House" chapter in which Hawthorne describes life at the Custom House and his fellow employees to write a creative, first person piece from Hawthorne's viewpoint which reveals his attitudes toward his job and the people at the Custom House.

  2. A student interested in the character of Hester Prynne might view a photograph of a painting of Hester by George Henry Boughton in 1881 and read the remarks of the late Dr. Joseph Flibbert of Salem College on the character in an earlier Hawthorne work, "The Gentle Boy," who might have been the model for Hester Prynne, read "The Gentle Boy, ", and examine the movie poster for the 1965 version of The Scarlet Letter and the compare these depictions with the Hester of The Scarlet Letter.

Activities Related to Faith and Religion

Plate II, Adam and Eve, Derby Family Bible, Universal Bible, 1759 ed.
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:

  • tolerance
  • compassion
  • romantic love
  • loyalty
  • industriousness
  • forgiveness
  • individualism
  • flexibility
  • acceptance of mystery and limits of human knowledge

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.

Learning Activities Related to Native Americans

Chief Big Thunder (Frank Loring)
Chief Big Thunder (Frank Loring) (courtesy of Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA)

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.


  • Margaret B. Moore's book The Salem World of Nathaniel Hawthorne provides useful information about Hawthorne's treatment of Native Americans. Read the synopsis cited above and then examine The Scarlet Letter for examples of Hawthorne's treatment of Native Americans in the novel . Note that the forest and its natural inhabitants are portrayed at times as dark, mysterious, and surely allied with the forces of darkness and iniquity and at other times as noble, enduring, natural, and even innocent. Consider how Hawthorne's attitude toward Indians in The Scarlet Letter may have informed his thematic treatment of the duality presented by God's Law on the one hand (civilized, restrained, white, and Christian) and Nature's Law on the other (savage, passionate, dark, and pagan). 
  • Review Ellen Knight's article on the Squaw Satchem , the excerpt of John Winthrop's Journal for June 1630 , and review some of the original documents from the early Colonial period . What can you glean from these documents about the attitudes of early colonists toward the Native Americans they encountered? Now read Johnson's critical commentary on The Scarlet Letter and the excerpt from Colacurcio's The Province of Piety. Does Hawthorne's attitude toward Native Americans in The Scarlet Letter seem to agree with or to be at odds with the early colonists' perceptions of them? Is he mainly sympathetic or antipathetic toward them? 
    Illustration by Frank T. Merrill of Shem Drowne’s Indian warrior weathervane that stood on top of the Province House in Boston
    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)
  • Jarold Ramsey in Redefining American Literary History explores ". . . why, after four centuries of contact, America's first traditional literatures have had so little influence on our literary heritage." While his article deals mainly with Thoreau, explore the Hawthorne In Salem Web Site to find materials pertaining to Hawthorne to either support or refute his thesis that ". . . literary imaging of native life, of which there has been so much, must not be confused with literary assimilation of native imaginative traditions, of which there has been too little." 
  • Read Hawthorne's "The Seven Vagabonds" and consider his thematic treatment of "vagabondage," in particular the repulsion and attraction he feels with regard to the tension between duty versus freedom. Hawthorne said at age 33 that "Our Indian races having reared no monuments, like the Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians, when they have disappeared from the earth their history will appear a fable, and they misty phantoms." . In other communications to his contemporaries, he discusses or alludes to his attitudes toward duty and freedom . Can his ambiguous attitude toward duty versus freedom be found in other short stories and novels (particularly The Scarlet Letter)? What does his attitude say to you about the place of the artist in the world and the conflict between his duties and responsibilities and the role of creativity and spontaneity in his life? Finally, explain the last sentence of "The Seven Vagabonds": "Finally, with a pensive shadow thrown across my mind, yet emulous of the light philosophy of my late companions, I joined myself to the Penobscot Indian, and set forth towards the distant city."

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” 

Learning Activities Related to Hawthorne and Women

Illustration by George Henry Boughton in 1881 for <I>The Scarlet Letter</I>
Illustration by George Henry Boughton in 1881 for The Scarlet Letter (courtesy of Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA)
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:

a. write a list of questions that you will ask each suspect;
b. use the text of the story to find answers to your questions
c. based on your interrogation, determine whether you will charge a suspect with murder and write a list of reasons for your decision

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?

Images of Beatrice from Dante's Divine Comedy (Purgatorio):


The Death of Beatrice by D.G. Rosetti 
The Meeting of Dante with Beatrice by Henry Holiday 


Image of Beatrice Cenci

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:

  1. Ethics and science (responsibility of scientists)
  2. Relationship between creator/inventor and creations/inventions
  3. Educational approaches and curricula
  4. Relationships among families and friends
  5. Impact of obsessions on self and others

· 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:

  • Where does it break out?
  • What are its effects?
  • How does it spread?

Next, apply that to the story, "Lady Eleanore's Mantle":

  • In your opinion, after studying about smallpox, does Lady Eleanor appear to have symptoms of the disease?
  • How is it affecting the people of the city? Why were the citizens so fearful of this disease?
  • How many would have become sick?

Learn about the outbreak of smallpox in 1721 by visiting the following web sites:

Contemporary study

  • Were you vaccinated? Find at least 3 people who were (hint: check with your parents). Were they re-vaccinated to travel outside the United States?
  • Does smallpox still occur today?
  • List several of the current questions surrounding smallpox and outline the current vaccination program.
  • How might an author today use smallpox in a story?

Explore Activities Relating to Quakers

John Hathorne, 1717, Charter St. Burying Ground
John Hathorne, 1717, Charter St. Burying Ground (Photography by Joseph R. Modugno)
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.
  1. Why would Hawthorne have admired the Quakers?


  2. Why would Hawthorne have been critical of the Quakers?


  3. To what extent does his family history shape his response to them?
Other website pages which might assist with this activity are: 2. It is interesting to note that "The Gentle Boy" is the only Hawthorne tale that Sophia illustrated and the only one that Hawthorne dedicated it to her. Read "The Gentle Boy"carefully paying particular attention to the similarities and differences between Dorothy and Catherine, Ibrahim's two mothers. When you are finished, read the introductory page to the Hawthorne and Women portion of this website as well as the account of Hawthorne's wife, Sophia Peabody . Is there anything in Sophia's character or in Hawthorne's attitude toward women or toward Quakers that would induce him to connect this particular story so intimately with his wife? It may be helpful to consider some of Hawthorne's other women characters such as Hester Prynne of The Scarlet Letter or Zenobia Pierce of The Blithedale Romance before you reach your conclusions.

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?

Learning Activities Related to Literary Links between Hawthorne and Melville

"A Tanglewood Tale," a play about the relationship between Hawthorne and Melville in the Berkshires by Juliane and Stephen Glantz
"A Tanglewood Tale," a play about the relationship between Hawthorne and Melville in the Berkshires by Juliane and Stephen Glantz (courtesy of Shakespeare and Company)
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:

Explore Activities from the Buildings and Houses Section

Activities Relating to the Salem Custom House

Exterior of the Salem Custom House, 2000
Exterior of the Salem Custom House, 2000(photography by Aaron Toleos)
  1. A student who is interested in documentaries might read the section of the Custom-House sketch in which Hawthorne describes the Federal eagle and compare the description to photograph of the eagle. This student could then write an essay discussing the differences between Hawthorne's eagle and the actual eagle sculpture, and speculate on reasons for the differences. For example, a student could consider whether Hawthorne was a poor observer and look for other evidence for this position by comparing other descriptions in the Custom- House sketch with material evidence found on the web site, or could explore the ways Hawthorne alters descriptions to suit his literary needs.
  1. A student interested in architecture could look at the video on the Federal style, and at the rollover page. This student could then look for examples of the style in their own community and write an essay comparing local buildings to the Custom House.

  2. A student interested in history could read the letters from Collector Lee and Perley Putnam and from the carpenter, painter and mason who built the Custom house and compare these to architectural drawings and historical photographs of the building. The student could then write a history of the construction of the Custom House, citing this material.
  3. You have been using a Web site to explore the life and work of Nathaniel Hawthorne. One advantage of this is that you can see reproductions of a large number of texts and images that are housed in museums and research libraries without having to travel to those places. Many of these primary source materials would be difficult for you to access without this Web site. You would have to travel to Salem and spend a great many days locating and viewing them. By using this site you can read old newspaper columns about Hawthorne's firing and see nineteenth century postcards of the Custom House right away from your school or home computer.

    Of course this deprives you of the experience of having in front of you a piece of paper that Hawthorne actually signed. You also cannot feel the excitement of locating those old newspaper columns or postcards yourself. However, since it would be difficult for most students to do research at the Phillips Library or the Salem Maritime National Historic Site, this Web version of primary source materials is the next best thing.

    There is an additional benefit of using digital materials on the Web. There are computer technologies that allow you to go beyond reading a text or looking at a still photograph. Digital panoramas can allow you to visit a place -- the Custom House, for example -- through a simple sort of virtual reality.

    In this Explore Activity you will compare the sorts of impressions that you can form using three different technologies: texts, still pictures and digital panoramas. This will allow you to see what each might be especially good for and also what might be lacking. You are going to begin by reading about the Custom House and answering some questions that will clarify what a text can tell you about a building. Next you will view some still pictures of the Custom House and consider what images can tell you that texts cannot. Finally you will look at the panoramas and decide what they offer that goes beyond either the texts or still pictures. You will also be asked to think abut problems that may arise with the panoramas and the other digital reproductions.

    Step One: Texts
    You are going to read a set of pages from the Historic Structure Report, a book by preservationist Orville Carroll that was commissioned by the National Park Service. The Historic Structure Report explains how the Custom House came into being and records all of the renovations and other changes to the structure through the 1970's.

    Click the following links to open up the pages, than read through them.

    Now I want you to consider what this text can and cannot tell you about the Custom House. Write your responses to this set of questions. 1. What was the first issue facing the builders of the Custom House? 
    2. How did the Treasury department decide which architectural style to build? 
    3. Why wasn't the Custom House finished on time and on budget? 
    4. How did an unresolved issue from the construction of the building find its way into Nathaniel Hawthorne's writing?
    5. Does the Custom House strike you as an elegant or a utilitarian building?
    6. Do you imagine the building to be large or small? 
    7. Would the interior be dark or airy? 
    8. How many rooms does the Custom House have; how are they laid out? 

    Notice that you can discover the answers to some of the questions fairly easily. Others are more problematic. For example, you can answer the third question by looking up the apropriation for the Custom House, the actual cost after construction, and the dates that the various workers submitted bills. It is much harder to justify an answer to question seven. To do so you have to imagine yourself inside the building and make a guess about how much light gets through the windows. You don't know if the Custom House faces north, south, east or west, or if there are large trees or tall building surrounding it. You don't even know how big the windows are or where they are placed. At best you might be able to figure out how many windows there are.

    The text describes the whole process of construction and subsequent work on the Custom House. This sort of history is very useful if you want to discuss how the Federal government commissioned public buildings in the nineteenth century. It may also be a good thing to know if you want to trace the changes made to the Custom House over time.

    What this or any text cannot tell you is how the building looks and what it might be like to be inside. For that we must turn to another technology -- pictures.

    Close the first set of pages by clicking in the upper corners of the pop out windows.

    Step Two: Images
    Now you are going to examine a set of still photographs and drawings from the Historic Structure Report. The photographs show the Custom House at different dates throughout the nineteenth century. The architectural drawings and plans depict the layout and details of construction.

    Click on this next set of links:

    Now write your impressions of the Custom House based on viewing these images. You may use these questions as a guide: 1. Was the Custom House a large or smallish structure compared to its neighboring buildings in Salem? 
    2. Would you say that this is an elegant building or a utilitarian one? 
    3. How many rooms does the Custom House have -- how are they laid out? 
    4. Is this a dark building or is it light and airy? 
    5. What was the neighborhood of the Custom House like? 
    6. Did the Custom House change a lot or mostly stay the same through the nineteenth century? 
    7. Can you tell how finished the building is inside? 
    8. Would you feel cramped inside the Custom House or awed by its spaciousness?

    You can form a much more detailed picture of what the Custom House looks like after viewing these pictures. It is fairly easy to answer questions like one and three. You can see not only the Custom House but also its neighboring buildings in a number of photos. On the floor plan you can count the number of rooms and easily see their relationship to one another.

    However, the photos and drawings do not tell you anything about the process of commissioning the building as the text did. They also do not give you any sense of what it would be like to actually be there at the Custom House. You would be hard pressed to answer questions seven and eight with anything other than a guess.

    Architecture affects us emotionally. Think about your different reactions to entering a monumental courthouse or museum versus a cozy wooden cottage. You may have felt awe in the first case and felt welcomed in the second. In addition, the way we move around in buildings has an effect on us. A nineteenth century brick office building can constrain our movements as we walk down short, narrow hallways. Modern steel and glass skyscrapers can energize us with their long, sweeping corridors.

    It is difficult to get this sort of "feeling" about the Custom House from looking at the still pictures. You cannot really imagine yourself moving from room to room inside -- you have not seen anything that can help you imagine what this would be like. To do so we must turn to a third technology -- virtual reality.

    Close the second set of pages by clicking in the upper corners of the pop out windows.

    Step three: Panoramas
    Now you will look at three panoramic tours of the Custom House. Aaron Toleos and Jan Arabas created these panoramas in the fall of 2002. The first is an exterior view of the Custom House and its Derby wharf neighborhood. The others are interior views of the Surveyor's Office and the Collector's office, both located on the first floor of the building.

    Click on the following links:

    To navigate these panoramas, click and drag your mouse across the images. Hold down the shift key to zoom in. Hold down the option/alt key to zoom out.

    Now write your impressions of the Custom House based on viewing the panoramas. You may use these questions as a guide:

    1. How does the Custom House feel -- awe inspiring, cozy, quietly grand? 
    2. Is your impression of a large or smallish structure? 
    3. Would you say that this is an elegant building or a utilitarian one? 
    4. What can you say about the layout? Is it easy to move around? Cramped? 
    5. Is this a dark building or is it light and airy?
    6. What is the inside like -- how finished does it look? How many people can it accommodate comfortably? Is it what you expected based on your impressions of the outside -- or were you surprised at what it looked like? 
    7. What is the neighborhood of the Custom House like? 
    8. The Surveyor's Office is maintained much as it was during Hawthorne's time while the Collector's Office went through a major modernization in the 1880's. Compare the two. 
    9. How has the Custom House changed since the nineteenth century? 
    10. Imagine that you are a nineteenth century sailor who as gone to the Custom House to present your papers? How does the building strike you? Are you proud that your government has such a building? Does the Custom House make you hate bureaucracy?

    The Custom House panoramas allow you to take a look around; they duplicate the experience you might have if you visited the actual building and spun around in a circle. You are able to answer questions such as six, seven and eight with much more surety than if you only had still pictures. You can get some sense of the size of the Custom House, the amount of light inside and the overall look and feel of Federal architecture that only comes from visiting the inside and outside of a structure.

    At the same time I want to point out that this experience is somewhat distorted. The panoramas do not really duplicate the experience of visiting the Custom House. You cannot look up or down. Your ability to take a close look at a pen or an inkwell or a window molding is severely restricted. The panoramas make the Surveyor's Office seem more cramped than it really is. They do not really help you figure out how a person would walk from room to room, or how far any room is from another or how many people could comfortably enter the Collector's office at once.

    In spite of the limitations, the panoramas are the best tool if you want to simulate a visit to the Custom House. They give you a sense of moving through and around the building. You can look behind you. You can look to one side to peer at the surveyor's bookcase and then to the other to glance out the window. Of all the technologies, the panorama is the one that helps you decide whether this is an elegant or plain sort of building, because you can see how all the details add up -- the gothic muntins spilling sunlight onto the high ceilings and the door moldings, for example.

    The still pictures are the better tool if you want to see what the Custom House has looked like at various points in its history. The text is best if you want to piece together an account of how the building came into being in the first place. I might say that the panoramas give you a sense of place; the still images give you a sense of time, and the text gives you a sense of meaning.