Show Less
Restricted access

Sin and Sympathy

Nathaniel Hawthorne's Sentimental Religion

Klaus P. Hansen

Hawthorne still baffles critics; no approach has succeeded in putting forward an accepted explanation of his works as a whole. Nobody has been able so far to assign him to any of the ideologies of his century. Hawthorne developed a religion of his own. Its point of departure is mankind's liability to wickedness. Since guilt is an essential human quality the reaction towards it becomes of importance. All of Hawthorne's works are focused on this reaction and they demonstrate ethically acceptable as well as unacceptable patterns of behavior. Hawthorne's private religion was not generated in a vacuum. Some ideas, but only very few, are of Puritan origin; more stem from the enlightened sentimentalism of the 18th century, from Adam Smith in particular.