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Nathaniel Hawthorne: The Author and His Times

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It was a brash, bustling, energetic country in which

Hawthorne grew up and carved out his writing career. The

covered wagons were rolling West, with signs that bravely

declared "California or bust!" The first passenger railroad

opened, and the trains went huffing and puffing along at the

(then) incredible speed of 20 miles an hour. Jackson was

elected president, throwing the conservative statesmen out of

office and ushering in the age of democracy and the common


It was an age between wars, when America, having beaten

England for the second time--in the War of 1812--was flexing its

adolescent muscles. Hope was in the air, and also a feeling of

impatience with the imported, second-hand, European way of doing

things. "Down with the past" might have been the slogan of the

time. Americans sensed a fresh, creative task at hand in the

building of a new country. It was a task that called for strong

backs, clear eyes, and open minds.

There were experiments in living going on to match the

experiments in politics and technology. Starry-eyed

intellectuals gathered outside Boston to thrive on a vegetarian

diet at Alcott's Fruitlands. Thoreau conducted his own private

experiments in a life close to nature at Walden Pond. Horace

Mann planned to change the world by changing education.

Where was Hawthorne while all this excitement was going on?

In his bedroom in Salem, reading a book. You get the distinct



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