Jaclyn Raw

Document Type

Thesis - University Access Only

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department / School



The American Romantic Period of the mid-nineteenth century is usually characterized as the "flowering of New England," with an emphasis on the transcendental movement and on Gothic horror writers like Poe. However, a flowering of interest in the pseudo-sciences also occurred among writers like Hawthorne, who were not exclusively Gothic in their approaches. The study of the human psyche during this time of budding modern psychology was accented by a fascination with phrenology and mesmerism, among other socalled scientific studies. Because Hawthorne's Puritan roots and sense of cultural guilt unquestionably affected his personal psyche, his interest in. aberrations of human thought and behavior figure centrally in much of his fiction. Of particular importance, however, is his portrayal of characters affected by what today would be defined as schizophrenia. While the study of schizophrenia was still in its infancy during Hawthorne's time, it was clinically documented for the first time in the early 1800s, and in some of his works, Hawthorne presents his protagonists as schizophrenic. In this thesis, I focus on a number of Hawthorne's short stories and one of his novels, The Scarlet Letter, discussing how Hawthorne incorporated into his fiction the clinical symptoms of schizophrenia, as described by his contemporaries' treatises on insanity. Starting with a biographical study of Hawthorne's wide reading and acquaintance with these treatises, both in the original form and in translation, I argue that Hawthorne used the symptoms of mental illness in order to grasp more thoroughly how humans interact with one another and how the resulting isolation affects those with a mental disturbance. Although Hawthorne was indeed a part of the Romantic Movement, his character studies thus served as precursors to the age of psychological realism as characterized by writers such as Henry James.

Library of Congress Subject Headings

Hawthorne, Nathaniel, 1804-1864 -- Characters -- Mentally ill Mentally ill in literature Schizophrenia in literature American fiction -- 19th century -- History and criticism



Number of Pages



South Dakota State University