The Scarlet Letter

The Fear of Miscegenation in Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter

By the middle of the nineteenth century, the young American establishment appeared to have surmounted the instability of its formative stages. The citizens of what had originated as a disorganized and inefficient alliance of thirteen diverse territories succeeded in cultivating a nationalistic pride in the destiny of their great democracy. A new generation recognized the devastations of a distant Revolutionary War and the subsequent struggles for unity as mere specters of history. However, beneath a surface of harmony and contentment, currents of discord threatened to plunge the United States into ruin and collapse. Racial tensions had rested at the center of public focus for much of the preceding century, commanding widespread attention since the contentious issue of slavery first became a matter of federal divisiveness in 1808.

Not surprisingly, the subject of ethnicity functions as a primary topic in a substantial portion of the era's literary canon. The external inevitably rendered its impact upon human psychology, and numerous works dating to the epoch in question chronicle the interactions between Caucasian settlers and the other peoples who populated to vast U. S. landscape. In many of these narratives, the latterly...

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