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Birthmark,” “Rappaccini’s daughter,” and “Ethan Brand”), but he also wrote several other novels(including prefaces to each novel), and a biography of Franklin Pierce.More than the other writers of this period, Hawthorne focused on the past, particularly on the earlyPuritan past of New England. Based on that interest, one of his central themes is human beings’ struggleswithsin and evil. He is critical of the Puritans’ focus on the dichotomy between good and evil, insteadasserting through his fictions that all people have the capacity for both. For example, the title character in“Young Goodman Brown” idealize the influential characters in his life, and then, when he discovers—orimagines—that they may be evil, he loses his own faith and his capacity to live a healthy life.To explore that first theme, Hawthorne often focuses his fictions on a young protagonist (always males)who goes through a difficultinitiationprocess. The initiate encounters a strange setting, such asRappaccini’s garden or the dreamlike chaos of Boston in “My kinsman, Major Molineux,” whichalienates him and causes him to question his values as well as his senses. Another theme is the difficultyhumans have of ascertaining just what they have seemingly seen or experienced. This theme ofhow weinterpretobjects and events outside ourselves runs throughout this period of literature. The endings ofHawthorne’s fictions are usually ambiguous, for Hawthorne’s narrators seldom provide a clear sense ofclosure; for example, the value of Reverend Hooper’s wearing a black veil is never determined. Whenthere is more clarity, as in Arthur Dimmesdale’s apparent spiritual triumph at the end ofThe ScarletLetter, any success is always balanced by the death and/or suffering of one or more characters. To achievehis victory, Dimmesdale must die and Hester Prynne must endure a life of penance and expiation.Another of Hawthorne’s common themes is the human danger of overemphasizing any single trait,particularly the intellect. Hawthorne’s“Unpardonable Sin”is the mistaken belief that an individual canuse his or her intellect, often symbolized by a character’s obsession with science, to reach conclusiveanswers and particularly to understand fully another human being. Hawthorne’s obsessed scientistsinclude Roger Chillingworth inThe Scarlet Letter, Ethan Brand, Dr. Rappaccini, and Dr. Aylmer in “TheBirthmark.” By showing the fatal consequences of these characters’ futile overreliance on reason and theintellect, Hawthorne repeatedly demonstrates his belief in the necessary balance among human traits andhis conviction that all human beings must respect the sanctity and the mysteries of the human soul.