I like them well enough, but they fall far short of what he accomplishes in, for instance, The Scarlet Letter, or The Marble Faun. This dark romanticism , this rich gothic traditon, is so much better handled by someone like Edgar Allan Poe, or even Washington Irving. In Hawthorne's shorter fiction, he is borderline dogmatic, giving the lie to his rebellion against Puritanism.
Methinks the gent doth sometimes protest too much. There is a sense that too much injustice rained down on him in life and it is reflected in his works. Rather than being able to transmute his misfortunes, in the written word, he beats repeatedly on the same drum: life is not fair, your fellow man will let you down, your family will let you down; more importantly, religion will let you down and then make of fool of you. These themes creep continually in his short stories under various guises. Young Goodman Brown, for instance, is teased by Faith both the figurative and literal one but is disappointed to find no solace through his own faithlessness, an interesting, thought-provoking paradox which he truncates.
This could have made a powerful longer fiction, but instead is compressed into a mouthful of anti-Puritanical pabulum. Mrs Bullfrog shows that love is only skin deep, and currency-conscious. Rappaccini's daughter is "poisoned" by her father's dogma; she, in turn, poisons her would-be lover with the same toxin; and only after true love creeps stealthily into her poisonous soul does she admit to having been weak in subscribing to her father's venom. She drinks the "antidote" and saves her lover, but not herself. In The Birthmark, Hawthorne scrubs frantically, if figuratively, after the original sin, trying to eradicate The Mark which offends him.
It is interesting that the offending mark lies on his wife's cheek, thus raising the issue of religion's hypocrisy: it is easier to seek out the speck in another's eye, than to cast out the beam in his own. This latter story is probably the most satisfying of the collection; even so, one feels there is so much more that Hawthorne wanted to say. Hawthorne's guilt is a theme which runs through all of his works. He attempts to apologize or atone for foregathers' sins, obsessively trying to water down the blood that runs in him. A descendant of John Hathorne, one of the original judges who presided over the Salem Witch Trials and who was the only one who didn't repent his participation Nathaniel was appalled by his ancestor's behaviour and tried unsuccessfully throughout his life to eradicate this stain.
Still, he found that nothing washed out Cain's blood. Danger is nothing to me; for life, while this hateful mark makes me the object of your horror and disgust -- life is a burden which I would fling down with joy. Either remove this dreadful hand, or take my wretched life! You have deep science. All the world bears witness of it. You have achieved great wonders. Cannot you remove this little, little mark, which I cover with the tips of two small fingers?
Is this beyond your power, for the sake of your own peace, and to save your poor wife from madness? He did himself and his readers a great disservice when he abbreviated his works, for here was a mind greater than Melville's had he given himself permission to be alive, without guilt. Neither science logic nor transcendentalism which Hawthorne subscribed to for a time could ever erase the mark of Cain that he carried. These little stories seem to be a training manual for his larger works: with his training wheels on, he would revisit the same pathways, trying to find his way, and his strength.
They are not so much stand-alone literature as they are a series of drills, or exercises performed to perfect his art. View all 6 comments. Nov 30, Bill Kerwin rated it it was amazing Shelves: dark-romanticism , short-stories , allegory , 19th-c-amer. I found some of these narratives to be difficult, others baffling—I remember reading somewhere that Hawthorne, years later, was puzzled by the meaning of some of them himself—but there is something about their ornate style, the rarified nature of the personifications, that speaks of something new in Hawthorne.
Read it. It is one of the classics of American literature, more essential—and odder—than you might think. Oct 10, Michelle rated it it was amazing. Absolutely beautiful writing. Hawthorne's prose is untouchable. It's a joy to read even when the stories lag. Although that seldom happens. The first edition was published in with 23 stories, and later expanded to 26 stories in This edition reprints 11 of them. Most of the stories are allegorical and depict some of the darker aspects of human nature. My brief comments about each story follow.
Aug 18, Mark rated it really liked it. An early collection of tales. Some of the subtle, almost subliminal problems Hawthorne has with female sexuality for instance, as metaphorically developed in Rappaccini's Daughter and The Birthmark are interesting for the light they throw on Hawthorne's attitude toward women, and The Artist of the Beautiful marks an early example of the theme of heart over head that Hawthorne will continue throughout his writing life.
As tales, these pieces often don't follow traditional dramatic arcs, which c An early collection of tales. As tales, these pieces often don't follow traditional dramatic arcs, which can be frustrating, but Hawthorne is always more interested in character than plot, so one must simply give up any expectation of high drama and enjoy the sometimes surprising revelations that come from his focus on atmospheric details.
Oh yeah, I suppose it goes without saying: allegories galore! Aug 20, Benjamin Marr rated it really liked it. There's something about Nathaniel Hawthorne's writing. I listened to a librivox recording of this book years ago. It was narrated by Bob Neufeld and his voice is just perfect for these stories. Even if I didn't really understand some of these stories, Hawthorne has a style of writing that is just comforting to listen to.
One story involved just a description of a fireplace. His prose is simply beautiful.
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Nov 10, Nikki rated it it was ok Shelves: short-stories-novellas. There's something a bit more alive about Hawthorne's prose than Poe's, I think, but once you've read a couple of stories, they all seem to sound the same. I got to the point where I was skimming in self-defence. Jun 01, Rand added it Shelves: good-story-round-characters , fun-with-form , my-me-sis , historical-fiction , time , shorts , allusive , ecosophy , fable , favorites. When a book's ear follows H and its heart grows a thorn it becomes a hearth.
When proses coil around its framework it becomes as these Mosses. Sep 25, Jefferson rated it really liked it Shelves: classics , fantasy. Hawthorne's imagination, insight into human nature, elegant and clear style, quiet humor, lack of sentimentality, empathy with human sin and suffering, and range of genres are all impressive. His pieces here include overt allegories, fanciful dreams, vivid sketches, explorations of the artistic spirit, investigations of "the gloomy mysteries of the human heart," proto science fiction, psychological horror, and so on.
Mosses From an Old Manse and Other Stories by Hawthorne, Nathaniel
His heroes range from mad scientists and obsessed artists to self-alienated men and sensitive first person narrators. The worst sin for Hawthorne is that of cutting one's self off from human emotions and community, due to intellectual pride or scientific curiosity or writerly observation. His writing is often marked by ambiguous qualilfications about what is real or imagined: "And then there was an audible hiss, but whether it came from the apparent lunatic's own lips, or was the real hiss of a serpent, might admit of discussion. At all events, it made Herkimer shudder to his heart's core.
In the first piece, "The Old Manse" , Hawthorne takes us on a tour of the house wherein he and his wife lived for three years in Concord, concluding with a deferential invitation to the reader to read the stories mosses that were inspired by the Old Manse or written in it or otherwise related to it. In "The Birth-mark" a scientific genius named Aylmer works obsessively with his Igor-like assistant Aminadab to remove the hand-shaped birthmark from the cheek of his otherwise perfectly beautiful wife Georgiana.
In "Rappaccini's Daughter , the famous Doctor experiments on his daughter Beatrice and a young man named Giovanni with poison, plants, and love. Which man is real? In "Feathertop" , after an ironical witch called Mother Rigby makes a scarecrow with a pumpkin head and sends him out into society, the fellow demonstrates his humanity by realizing his lack of it. The narrator follows "The New Adam and Eve" on their first day on an earth that has just been cleansed of humanity as they visit a dry goods store, a church, a court, a prison, a mansion, a bank, a library, and a cemetery, never quite believing that they are related to their bizarre and flawed ancestors.
In "Egotism; or the Bosom Serpent" a snake is gnawing away at Roderick Elliston from the inside out. Is it imaginary or actual? As he says, there is enough "poisonous stuff in every man's heart" to give everyone their own snake. The narrator of "Passages from a Relinquished Work" recounts how he came to be a story teller: an orphan raised by a puritanical parson nicknamed Thumpcushion, he escaped his hometown to become a pilgrim without destination, wandering while preparing to find the sunshine in a raindrop and the skill in art necessary to be successful, becoming at first a popular entertainer relying on buffoonery, in the end a bitter moralizer.
The narrator of "The Old Apple-Dealer" , "a lover of the moral picturesque," describes a weathered old man who sells meticulously arranged apples, gingerbread, and candies, finally hitting on the sublime contrast between the contemporary steam engine so full of life and the anachronistic apple-dealer so attenuated. My favorite of the stories is "The Artist of the Beautiful" , wherein Owen Warland is an impractical watchmaker "doomed to unutility," devoting his life to "the creation of the beautiful," giving "the spirit of beauty form and motion.
It's a strange, devastating, beautiful, and perfect tale. Jan 15, Kathy Kattenburg rated it it was amazing Shelves: literature , fiction , short-fiction. According to the Introduction in this edition, Herman Melville dubbed Nathaniel Hawthorne "the American Shakespeare," and after reading this second of his collections of essays and short fiction, that seemingly startling comparison makes sense.
Hawthorne's elegant -- at times approaching majestic -- writing, the breadth and depth of his literary vision, and his insights into the human condition, do feel Shakespearean. Oct 29, Jeff J. A collection of short stories from Nathaniel Hawthorne, most with a horror theme. Jul 17, Mark rated it it was amazing. One of the best short story collections I have ever read. Humor, Transcendentalism, History, Philosophy, and the supernatural all rolled into an incredibly readable ball. What can one say about Hawthorne? If you enjoy his work, Mosses is a must-read.
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Mosses from an Old Manse and Other Stories
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