University of Tasmania
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'Troubled joy' : The paradox of the female figure in Nathaniel Hawthorne's fiction.

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posted on 2023-05-26, 20:23 authored by Gaby, Rosemary Sarah
The figure of woman is of central importance to the whole presentation of meaning in Nathaniel Hawthorne's fiction. In comparison to other writers of the nineteenth century, and especially his male compatriots, Hawthorne grants the female figure a remarkable degree of prominence and significance in his works. His presentation of woman is noteworthy not only for the depth and subtlety with which his female characters are portrayed but also for the unique way in which he manipulates the standard female stereotypes to explore through symbolic suggestion the whole purpose of woman's existence and the foundations of her relations with man. This thesis attempts to show how Hawthorne's symbolic method consistently points towards the importance of accepting women as complex, multi-dimensional human beings. Paradoxically, in Hawthorne's language, this acceptance means that women can fulfil a super-human purpose. They operate as a unifying force in his works, providing the key to harmony and the means by which man can re-establish his relations with man. My first chapter considers the contemporary context of Hawthorne's work, the role of woman in nineteenth century America, the way that role was perceived in fact and fiction, and the kinds of influence which were likely to affect Hawthorne's personal vision of womanhood. Chapter II examines the women of Hawthorne's short stories, the ways in which he develops a distinct 'family' of characters who reappear throughout his corpus, and the symbolic language which informs his whole presentation of woman's role. Chapters III, IV and V deal respectively with The Scarlet Letter, The Blithedale Romance, and The Marble Faun, concentrating specifically upon the female characters - their significance in these works and in relation to Hawthorne's vision as a whole. My conclusion attempts to draw the threads together, to show how the very individuality of Hawthorne's dark ladies and fair maidens is representative of a common promise of 'troubled joy', and to show how Hawthorne applied this promise to the future of his country and of the whole human race.


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Copyright 1984 the Author - The University is continuing to endeavour to trace the copyright owner(s) and in the meantime this item has been reproduced here in good faith. We would be pleased to hear from the copyright owner(s). Includes bibliography

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