This essay explores how Hawthorne’s exploration of Catholic sacramentals, documented in The French and Italian Notebooks, built upon his long-held interests in the intersections of sin, secrets, and confession. Hawthorne drew on these notebooks to construct the confessional scene in The Marble Faun, which reflects his speculation on how the performance of confession could impact a person’s identity. Using “The Custom-House” sketch in The Scarlet Letter to connect his American writings on confession with his European writings on confession, this essay demonstrates that Hawthorne’s writings served as his own performative acts of confession, though his obstructed observations of Catholic confessionals in Europe prevented Hawthorne from fulfilling the spiritual yearnings that he somewhat secretly confessed in his French and Italian Notebooks.

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