Hawthorne and the Resilience of Dissent

Michael T. Gilmore

in The War on Words

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print July 2010 | ISBN: 9780226294131
Published online February 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226294155 | DOI:
Hawthorne and the Resilience of Dissent

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Hawthorne was an inactivist who fetishized deferral. His campaign biography of Franklin Pierce is said to provide a retroactive template for his fiction. The Scarlet Letter, The House of the Seven Gables, The Blithedale Romance—Hawthorne's three “American” novels gave fictional form to the age's ethical and legislative impasse, the Compromise of 1850. This chapter carries this consensus by foregrounding Hawthorne's connection to the dissenting ferment that he, like his friend Pierce, saw as a menace to sectional peace. The novelist was out of the country during much of the 1850s, first as Pierce's consul in Liverpool and then as a resident in Italy; but during his creative heyday, from 1850 to 1852, he was acutely conscious of the mounting pressures on free speech. Indeed, his book on Pierce placed him at the center of those pressures. He hoped the prohibitions would prevail and stifle the seditious ferment of anti-slavery oratory.

Keywords: Hawthorne; Franklin Pierce; Resilience of Dissent; anti-slavery oratory; The Scarlet Letter; The House of the Seven Gables; The Blithedale Romance

Chapter.  5923 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (19th Century)

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