From Hawthorne: A Life by Brenda Wineapple
With an insight so fine it bordered on the voluptuous, he crafted a style of exquisite ambiguity, of uncompromising passion and stubborn skepticism. Yet his characters are often curiously static, poised between self-knowledge and indifference and, like Hawthorne himself, confounded by what and who they are. For Hawthorne was a man of dignity, of mordant wit, of malicious anger; a man of depression and control; a forthright and candid man aching to confess but too proud, too obstinate, too ashamed to do so; a man of disclosure and disguise, both at once, keen, cynical, intelligent, who digs into his imagination to write of American men and women: isolated in their communities, burdened by their history, riven by their sense of crime and their perpetual, befuddled innocence; people ambitious and vain and displaced and willing, or perhaps forced, to live a double life, a secret life, an exemplary life, haunted and imprisoned, even as his children were – or, in Hawthorne’s terms, as are we all.
Photo of Cephas Thompson's Portrait of Nathaniel Hawthorne courtesy of Northern Illinois UP