Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Cheryl Nixon

Second Advisor

Askold Melnyczuk

Third Advisor

John Fulton


In a letter written after her husband's death, Sophia Peabody Hawthorne spoke of a veil Nathaniel Hawthorne had drawn around himself during his life. This complicated metaphor is an echo from Hawthorne's work and life, where the construction of boundaries that are solid but not opaque, allow the writer to conceal and draw attention to the cart of concealment without revealing what, if anything, is hidden. That Hawthorne carefully considered what he would and would not reveal is clear in many of his works, and in pieces like "The Minister's Black Veil," where the act of concealment draws rather than deflects attention, he appears to be actively manipulating boundaries for the purposes of plot and characterization.

Also considered in this thesis is the preface to The Scarlet Letter, wherein Hawthorne blends the distinction between writer, narrator and character to varying degrees, so that the piece transitions smoothly from memoir to fiction. Hawthorne is released from responsibility as a player in the piece because he can claim it as fiction, but is able to maintain a foundation of truth by drawing on vivid personal memory throughout. Following this is a section on The House of the Seven Gables and the physical structure of the same name in Salem, Massachusetts, where the boundary between fiction and reality is uncertain and liminal space between worlds may be fully experienced. The two sections together examine Hawthorne's masterful treatment of boundaries, genre and a writer's role in his own works, with particular attention to the ways in which the three are intimately related.

The final section of this thesis contains three short stories with brief introductions that explore the treatment of boundaries in my own work. The pieces set their roots in memoir, but grew into fiction stories that allowed me greater freedom and depth as a writer. By including these pieces of my own work with the research-based thesis, I aim to illustrate how a close reading of Hawthorne's work and intentions has allowed me to understand and enhance my own writing.