The book is a collection of fourteen essays by Abel on Hawthorne's fiction. The essays were published over a span of about thirty-five years in various scholarly journals. The author has revised some of these essays considerably and has added seven chapters to give the book continuity and unity.
Darrel Abel was born in 1911 in Lost Nation, Iowa. As a young man, he took all the course offered through the University of Iowa's writing program, which would later be known as the Iowa Writers workshop. He earned his B.A. and M.A. degrees at Iowa, then went on to earn a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan. During his long teaching career, Abel was a Fulbright professor at Freilburg University for a year and taught 30 years at Purdue University. He edited American Literature: Critical Theory in the American Renaissance. He is the author of about fifty journal articles - mostly on Hawthorne, Poe, Melville, and Frost - as well as numerous reviews.