Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Mrs. Hutchinson: An Analysis

Midway through his twenties, Nathaniel Hawthorne released Mrs. Hutchinson in 1830.

In his renowned book The Scarlet Letter, which was released two decades later, he made references to this tale and its lead character.

Many literary critics credit Nathaniel Hawthorne's contempt for the past of his own ancestors for the creation of Mrs. Hutchinson and The Scarlet Letter.

Many people were persecuted at the time due to the highly Puritanical way of thinking, especially women who acted differently from how the patriarchal society expected them to. Such persecutions were carried out by Nathaniel Hawthorne's forebears. William Hathorne, who arrived in Salem, Massachusetts in 1630, was a magistrate who persecuted Quakers, while John Hathorne was a Puritan judge who tried and condemned many Salem witches in the 1690s. Nathaniel Hawthorne added the letter "w" to his last name in what seemed to be an attempt to put distance between himself and these relatives. While his religious beliefs remained unclear, he did refer to the Salem's Meeting House, which was the place of worship of his ancestors for about two decades, and which he attended as a young boy, as his childhood purgatory (Keane).

Narrative Technique

Nathaniel Hawthorne's narrative style is famous for his overabundant use of complex words and parley. He always gives a feeling of formality through his prose, which can also be said is true in Mrs. Hutchinson. He did not spare any details, whether it was in describing the characters or the setting, even if he was limited by the smaller word count of a short story. This technique makes it harder for readers to understand and consequently interpret his works. As much as Hester Prynne's modernist resistance and The Scarlet Letter's feminism are left to the reader's judgment, Anne Hutchinson's innocence is also left to the reader's interpretation of Nathaniel Hawthorne's prose.


The main character in the short story is, of course, Anne Hutchinson. She was smart, talented and brave, which threatened the townspeople. Women at the time were not supposed to have any convictions or opinions, yet Anne Hutchinson was a strong woman. The townspeople gravely disliked her because of this, and the leaders ultimately forced her to silence.

Other characters in the story include Vane the youthful governor and old man Cotton.

Hugh Peters is also in the story and was described as "full of holy wrath, and scarce containing himself from rushing forward to convict her damnable heresies." The supreme civil tribunal is also present, at which "the most eminent of the clergy" were a part of, "and appear to have taken a very active part as witnesses and advisers."

Plot Summary

Anne Hutchinson travelled to Massachusetts in the early 1600s. Here, she shared her thoughts on religion with the townspeople. She used the Bible to prove that the leaders of the Puritan Church, the "unregenerated and uncommisioned men," have led the people astray. She spoke about how these men have fooled and pulled everyone away from the true path to Heaven.

The townspeople did not receive Anne Hutchinson's opinions with warmth.

They thought that she was spreading heresy. The supreme civil tribunal called upon her to appear before them so that they could question her claims. Anne Hutchinson stood her ground and answered each question with confidence. She continued to use the Holy Book to support her claims. Soon, the supreme civil tribunal realized that they could not outdo her strong convictions. She exuded strength and power that threatened the order that the Puritan Church have built long before her arrival.

In the end, the supreme civil tribunal decided to silence Anne Hutchinson by prohibiting her from speaking her truth and sharing her opinions with the townspeople.

She was also banished to Rhode Island, where her husband eventually died. The people of Rhode Island were more distasteful to Anne Hutchinson than those in Massachusetts, so she decided, together with her family, to form her own small colony away from the townspeople. She led this colony until she was killed tragically during an evening prayer.


Rooting from his ancestry's highly Puritan beliefs and practices and his disdain towards them, Nathaniel Hawthorne's works usually has themes surrounding religious freedom and persecution. Mrs. Hutchinson is not an exemption; Anne Hutchinson chose to speak about her opposition towards the current status of the society and its strict but false religious beliefs. She practiced religious freedom and was persecuted because of it. She was banished from Massachusetts when the leaders realized her strength. In this light, Mrs. Hutchinson is considered a personal apology from Nathaniel Hawthorne for his ancestral guilt.

It is also in this light that historical context becomes an important aspect of Nathaniel Hawthorne's works.

In order to fully appreciate and properly analyze his prose, one must have a clear understanding of where the story came from. The context of the power of the Puritans at the time should be taken into consideration. The oppression of women during this era is also an important consideration when examining the works of the author.

Speaking of oppression of women, feminism is also a theme that recurs in Nathaniel Hawthorne's works.

In particular, the heroine of Mrs. Hutchinson is a strong and brave woman who, despite the limitations set upon by the patriarchal structure of the society, decided to use her voice to inform her fellow townspeople of the wrongdoings of their leaders. She refused to back down even when she was called to face the supreme civil tribunal. When she was banished, her strength was not stripped from her personality; instead, she chose to build her own colony and practice her leadership. In the time of the short story's publication, Anne Hutchinson's attributes are modernist. While most women were content with sticking to their traditional gender roles, Anne Hutchinson was out on the streets, talking about the truth that she believed in. Her strength, perseverance, and leadership are common attributes of feminists.

Literary Devices

Although not found in the text itself (i.e. Mrs. Hutchinson), metaphor is always used when describing Hester Prynne from The Scarlett Letter as a Hutchinsonian personality. Truly, Anne Hutchinson became a prominent source of inspiration for Nathaniel Hawthorne when writing his most famous heroine. An example of their parallelism is seen through their fate, which was dictated by the Puritans; both Anne Hutchinson and Hester Prynne were banished because of their "sins." Colacurcio (1972) sees Hester Prynne as a type of Anne Hutchinson, especially when these two women represent an opposition against the religious hierarchies of their time. In fact, some may argue that the scarlet A in Hester Prynne's clothes, aside from representing her as an adulterer, also stood for Anne Hutchinson.

Symbolism is also present in Nathaniel Hawthorne's short story.

Anne Hutchinson's baby, who was the only survivor after the grave massacre that killed her mother, symbolizes innocence and the damage that the Puritans leave on their trail. The same can be said with Hester Prynne's baby in The Scarlet Letter. Both of these babies have not committed a crime, yet they suffer because of the strict laws and punishments that were set by the religious hierarchies upon their mothers. By using these innocent children, it almost seems like Nathaniel Hawthorne was trying to evoke compassion from the members of the society and to highlight the brutality of the Church.

Critical Commentaries

Smith (1998) argued that Nathaniel Hawthorne consistently placed humanism against Puritan ideology in his works. She also claimed that the author is preoccupied with antinomianism, or the belief that Christians are freed from the laws of man by virtue of the grace, according to the gospel.

She also recounted Nathaniel Hawthorne's misogynistic encounters with women, such as Margaret Fuller, which contrasted his consistent use of feminist characters.

Hester Prynne and Anne Hutchinson are not the only strong women in his prose. Characters such as Beatrice, Faith, Phoebe and Zenobia also exude feminism. Smith (1998) said:

Hester, a feminine Christ figure, overcomes sin by confession and oblation, providing salvation for herself as well as for Dimmesdale, Pearl, and the whole Puritan community; Beatrice, despite her innate poison, is more sincere than her lover, Giovanni, or her creator, Rappaccini (she at least is true to her nature); Faith, specter evidence to the contrary, greets her husband in the village—pink ribbons intact—the morning after the witches' sabbath; Phoebe is the strong and wise savior of the Pyncheon family; and Zenobia is characterized by strange powers and sensuality… (66)

On the other hand, his male characters are relatively weak.

Hester Prynne's lover refused to step forward even though she was being persecuted by the society for their affair, while Anne Hutchinson's husband died before her.

Serrano (2006) added that Anne Hutchinson is the beginning of Nathaniel Hawthorne's strong female characters.

In her dissertation, she talked about this connection by saying:

Anne Hutchinson, Hester, and Pearl, as characters in Hawthorne's fiction, therefore, communicate to one another though the rosebush that Hester encounters in the first chapter of the novel. The roses that blossomed under Hutchinson's feet unite two new generations of New England women, Hester and Pearl, both of whom encounter the symbolic implications of the roses throughout the novel.


Colacurcio, Michael. “Footsteps of Anne Hutchinson: The Context of ‘The Scarlett Letter.’” English Literary History, vol. 39, 1972, pp. 459-494.

Keane, Patrick. “Proto-Feminist, Trouble-Making Rebel: Hawthorne a ‘Remarkable Case’ & the Genesis of Hester Prynne.” Numéro Cinq Magazine, vol. VI, no. 11, 2015, Accessed 4 Mar. 2017.

Hawthorne, Nathaniel. “Mrs. Hutchinson.” Eldritch Press, Accessed 4 Mar. 2017.

Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Scarlet Letter. Ticknor and Fields, 1850.

Serrano, Gabriela. The Feminine Ancestral Footsteps: Symbolic Language Between Women in ‘The Scarlet Letter’ and ‘The House of the Seven Gables.’ Doctoral Dissertation, University of North Texas, 2006.

Smith, Grace Elizabeth. The Opened Letter: Rereading Hawthorne. Dissertation, University of North Texas, 1998.

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