Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
College of Humanities and Social Sciences
Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair
Monika M. Elbert
Alyce S. Miller
This thesis examines the bachelor narrator motif in seven of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s sketches, published between 1831 and 1843. Hawthorne’s narrators are artists, alienated from society in general, and from women in particular. Moreover, they are modeled upon the figure of the European flaneur, the idle ‘man about town’ who believes he can read the character of the stranger in the crowd. In these first person narrations, Hawthorne explores the problems of subjectivity (involving self-concept, including the split between the conscious and the unconscious, and the gap between the mind and the material world) and the problem of knowledge (involving the five senses and reason). The central argument of the thesis is that the bachelor narrators in the sketches are the literary antecedents of the character Miles Coverdale in Hawthorne’s novel The Blithedale Romance (1852), which tells the story of a failed utopian experiment. In his early period, Hawthorne experimented with many of the narrative strategies and themes in his bachelor sketches that evolve and take shape in the novel. Common to the sketches and the novel is the theme of the alienation of the artist and the uncertainty of knowledge, including knowledge of the self.
The thesis is divided into three chapters. Chapter One explores a group of opticsdriven sketches, and the related theme of voyeurism. This chapter includes a discussion of “Sunday at Home” (1837), “Sights from a Steeple” (1831), and “Foot-prints on the Sea-Shore” (1838). Women are the objects of a controlling male gaze, and men blame women for disturbing their ability to reason, and for attempting to lure them into marriage. Chapter Two features the dissociated narrator, and includes a discussion of “Monsieur du Miroir” (1837) and “Little Annie’s Ramble” (1835). The narrator in “Monsieur du Miroir” is unable to connect to others, especially women. His view of reality is distorted by a narcissus complex, and by a failure to evolve beyond the mirror stage, as defined by Jacques Lacan. “Little Annie’s Ramble” is framed upon the fairytale Little Red Riding Hood. “Annie” can be interpreted as a tale of adult lechery and abduction, and features a flaneur/artist whose fear of women causes him to shift his attention towards a five year-old girl. Chapter Three contains a discussion of “The Haunted Mind” (1835) and “The Old Apple Dealer” (1843). In these two sketches, the senses are unreliable determinants of reality. In “The Haunted Mind” Hawthorne examines the philosophical subject of time from the point of view of a disoriented and alienated narrator. In “The Old Apple Dealer” he critiques America’s naive belief in progress, and describes the alteration of perception due to the experience of velocity on a passenger train. Coverdale is a composite of the bachelor narrators in the sketches that Hawthorne experimented with at the outset of his literary career. The conclusion examines the first-person narration of Miles Coverdale, who fails to recognize his role in the failure of a utopian experiment. In his portrait of Coverdale, Hawthorne reveals how much in tune he is with the problem of stereotyping on the basis of class or gender.
Anderson, Carol L., "The Bachelor Narrator Motif in the Sketches of Nathaniel Hawthorne" (2010). Theses, Dissertations and Culminating Projects. 718.