Nathaniel Hawthorne And Religion Annotated Bibliography


Religion features prominently as a theme in literature. In fact, some of the earliest works of literature are rooted in their religious and cultural traditions, including the ancient literatures of the Middle East and Mesopotamia. As the role of religion in society changed, so too did the role of religion in literature.

Modern literature, including work by Nathaniel Hawthorne, often offers scathing critiques of religion, whereas postmodern literature allows religion to play a more complex role in shaping individual identity.

Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlett Letter heavily criticizes the role of religion in a patriarchal society, whereas Yann Martel's Life of Pi presents religion more as a subjective phenomenon, revealing an important cultural shift from religion to spirituality.

In Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlett Letter, the author shows how religion becomes a tool of social oppression and political control.

A. Hawthorne shows that religious authorities are hypocritical, and especially fundamentalists, as the Puritans in the novel do not practice what they preach (Mills).

B. Hester...


In Yann Martel's Life of Pi, the author shows how religion is a psychological salve for people in times of stress.
A. Pi Patel's faith in God allows him to maintain strength and courage even when faced with seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

1. "Life of Pi attempts not to prove God's existence, but to justify belief in Him," (Stratton 6).

B. Religion requires the act of faith, which is more important than the doctrinal aspects of the religion.

1. "Religion arises from a perceptual strategy by which we contrive to alleviate our perpetual uncertainty -- or doubt, or disbelief," (Cole 33).

C. Belief in God and prayer are universal human impulses, which is why Pi believes all faiths are equally as valid.

1. In fact, Martel shows that faith and a "journey toward enlightenment" can be secular activities (Stewart 41)

V. Hawthorne does not address the connection between religion and personal spirituality, just as Yann Martel does not address the connection between religion and political oppression. Taken together, these two novels demonstrate how the art of literature can convey strikingly different facets of the same subject. These books show also how concepts of religion change over time, even within the same cultural context.

Annotated Bibliography

Cole, Stewart. "Believing in Tigers: Anthropomorphism and Incredulity in Yann Martel's Life of Pi." SCL. Vol 29, No. 2, 2004.

This article provides an astute analysis of the role of faith…

Sources Used in Documents:

This article offers some interesting background information on Yann Martel as an author, showing that the author's secular background proves that Life of Pi is making a clear statement about the difference between religion and spirituality. Religion is an outmoded social institution, whereas spirituality remains central to the human experience. The character of Pi illustrates the similarities between faith in God and faith in one's own ability to succeed, and through the motif of the journey also shows that "a journey toward enlightenment" can be stripped of any religious or even cultural context (Stephens 41).

Stratton, Florence. "Hollow at the core": Deconstructing Yann Martel's Life of Pi" SCI/ELC, Vol, 29, No. 2, 2004. Retrieved online:

This article critiques Yann Martel's novel by showing that the protagonist fails to actually show any growth, while also noting that the author takes a firm postmodern stance on the nature of truth or reality. The author points out that Life of Pi in part addresses the question of objective reality and whether a human being can even determine whether there is any objective reality, a core feature of postmodernism in general. This article offers a refreshing counterpoint to the other articles about Life of Pi.

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