While Nathaniel Hawthorne was not a member of any formal religious organization, religious thinking and religious imagery play a major role in his fiction. He was especially interested in the capacity of humans for evil. This capacity is perhaps what Herman Melville meant when he spoke of Hawthorne's "blackness." Hawthorne's Salem was rich with religious thinkers and steeped in the Puritan tradition. Hawthorne knew John Milton's Paradise Lost well
and is reported to have had heated discussions with his older sister about Milton's portrayal of Satan in that poem.