Nathaniel Hawthorne Weaves Dreams Into Much of His 19th Century Prose

Essay by B.A. SmithCollege, UndergraduateA+, March 1997

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Nathaniel Hawthorne, a master of American fiction, often utilizes dreams within the annals of

his writings to penetrate, explore and express his perceptions of the complex moral and spiritual conflicts that plague mankind. His clever, yet crucial purpose for using dreams is to represent, through symbolism, the human divergence conflict manifested in the souls of man during the firm Christian precepts of the Era in which he lived. As a visionary in an extremely conservative Puritanical society, he carefully and successfully manages to depict humanity's propensity for sin and secrecy, and any resulting punishment or atonement by weaving dreams into his tales. The dreams he refers to in many of his writings are heavily symbolic due to his Christian foundation, and they imply that he views most dreams as a pigmentation of reality. Hawthorne's ability to express and subsequently bring to fruition the true state of man's sinful nature by parallelling dreams with reality represents not only his religious beliefs but also his true mastery of observation regarding the human soul.

An examination of Hawthorne's own narrative in his short story, The Birthmark, published in 1850 during the latter part of the period of Puritanism expands his observations of mankind with keen insight.                ÂÂ

                        Truth often finds its way to the mind close-muffled

                        in robes of sleep, and then speaks with uncompromising

                        directness of matters in regard to which we practice

                        an unconscious self-deception, during our waking

                        moments. (par.15)

The prophetic statement was made by Hawthorne to open the reader's mind and perhaps inject an introspective glimpse of his perspective that dreams do indeed contain precursors or warnings of future conscious realities. He also contends that people often purposely disregard the contents of their dreams and do not face...