Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

Richard Beale Davis, Nathalia Wright

Committee Members

Merritt H. Moore, Alwin Thaler, Luke Ebersole


For a long time readers of William Dean Howells have noted likeness of his fiction to that of Nathaniel Hawthorne. Although several recent articles and books have mentioned parallels between the two writers, no work has undertaken a complete study of these parallels, much less of their possible significance. The present work is a study of major qualities of the fiction of Hawthorne and Howells, the similarities in these qualities, the development of some of the older writer's methods and themes in the younger man's work, and the significance of this relationship as it illustrates a prominent nineteenth-century fictional trend--the tendency toward the middle way in technique and idea.

Because of the immensity of the corpus of Howells, only his longer fictional works will be considered, although attention will be given to Hawthorne's tales as well as novels. While fiction is the primary source for this investigation, pertinent excerpts from the criticism and personal notebooks of both writers will be included. The latter two sources are included only to afford a deeper understanding of fictional themes and to illuminate more clearly the aesthetic and ideological agreement of the two authors. There is no attempt to make a thorough investigation of Howells' enormous critical production in its bearing on every one of his and Hawthorne's fictional themes.

A major problem encountered has been selection, particularly in the case of Howells. Quite often several examples could be given where only one is used; thus selection of examples has been made with regard to their representative position in Howells' thought and for balance within the present study. As far as direct influence of Hawthorne on Howells is concerned, no elaborate claims are made. Certain evidences of influence are conspicuous, and these are pointed out. But it is impossible to limit precisely the influences on a mind like Howells', so captivated by multifarious literary and social interests of his own age as well as of the past. Of paramount concern in this study, therefore, is the affinity between the minds of Hawthorne and Howells as it is revealed in their fiction and as it coincides with a major characteristic of nineteenth-century American fiction.

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