Lesson 3: Nathaniel Hawthorne and Literary Humor

Nathaniel Hawthorne' stories are more often associated with dark examinations of complex systems of morality than any sense of conventional comic humor. And yet Hawthorne's subtle satiric wit oftentimes offered equally piercing insights into the human psyche. In this lesson, students read a humorous story by Nathaniel Hawthorne and, as part of a curriculum unit on American literary humor, compare it to other American literary humorists in order to gain perspective on each writer's brand of humor and its significance within the context of American literary tradition. After debating the merits of "moral" humor like Hawthorne's as compared with the "folk" humor of Harris and Twain, students test the possibilities of blending these traditions by recasting a paragraph of Hawthorne's story in dialect style.

Guiding Questions

What place does Nathaniel Hawthorne have in the history of American literary humor?

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.