Adoption Averted in <i>The Scarlet Letter</i>

Carol J. Singley

in Adopting America: Childhood, Kinship, and National Identity in Literature

Published in print March 2011 | ISBN: 9780199779390
Published online May 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780199895106 | DOI:
Adoption Averted in The Scarlet Letter

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Nathaniel Hawthorne explores nonnormative kinship structures in The Scarlet Letter. Hester Prynne successfully defends her right to custody of her daughter, Pearl, when the Salem magistrates threaten to place her for adoption. In this landmark novel of 1850, Hawthorne rejects the adoption plot as practiced by the domestic novelists he famously excoriated. His portrait of an adulterous mother in control of her motherhood stands in striking contrast to a body of fiction in which mothers tearfully relinquish their children to others. Through the trope of adoption—in this case averted—Hawthorne examines historical as well as contemporary configurations of family and explores the strength of bonds of blood and care necessary to form a stable society.

Keywords: Nathaniel Hawthorne; The Scarlet Letter; Hester Prynne; Roger Chillingworth; Arthur Dimmesdale; Pearl Prynne; puritan; child custody; birth mother; illegitimacy; maternity; middle class

Chapter.  10048 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (19th Century)

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