Nathaniel Hawthorne and Literary Humor

A lesson that looks at the rarely discussed humorous side of Hawthorne.  Discusses characterization, point of view, satiric wit, and writer's style. Interesting lesson since Hawthorne is rarely ever associated with humor.  Includes assessment and extension pieces.

Standards & Objectives

Academic standards
CLE 3003.8.1
Demonstrate knowledge of significant works of American literature from the colonial period to the present and make relevant comparisons.
CLE 3003.8.2
Understand the characteristics of various literary genres (e.g., poetry, novel, biography, short story, essay, drama).
CLE 3003.8.3
Recognize the conventions of various literary genres and understand how they articulate the writers vision.
CLE 3003.8.4
Analyze works of American literature for what is suggested about the historical period in which they were written.
CLE 3003.8.5
Know and use appropriate literary terms to derive meaning and comprehension from various literary genres.
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Learning objectives: 

At the end of this lesson students will be able to:

  • Analyze the use of literary conventions and devices to develop character and point of view in the short story
  • Discuss the purposes and significance of literary humor
  • Examine Hawthorne's style of humor in relation to that of other American humorists

Lesson Variations

Blooms taxonomy level: 
Extension suggestions: 

Conclude this lesson by asking students to translate a passage from Hawthorne's story into dialect. Have them look, for example, at the paragraph beginning, "The fair widow knew, of old, that Colonel Killigrew's compliments were not always measured by sober truth..." Ask them to imagine how Simon Wheeler or Sut Lovingood might portray the scene Hawthorne's narrator describes. In the process of recasting Hawthorne's prose, they will likely discover that he is a more artful stylist than they might at first suppose, and discover too, as Mark Twain discovered, that an equal measure of art is required to achieve such effects in the easy-going accents of a storyteller.