Reading Fiction, Poetry and Drama. McGraw Hill,
In an era before international copyright protections, Hawthorne first published the book while he was living in England so that it could secure a British copyright before its U.
This protected it from piracy and ensured that Hawthorne would see profits on both sides of the Atlantic. Much as I dislike reducing literary works to such economic determinations, I begin my account of The Marble Faun with these facts for two reasons.
The action wavers between the streets of Rome, whose literal features the author perpetually sketches, and a vague realm of fancy, in which quite a different verisimilitude prevails. The story straggles and wanders, is dropped and taken up again, and towards the close lapses into an almost fatal vagueness.
The Marble Faun is about four characters who meet in Rome; we spend a year in their lives, a year wherein a murder brings them to a crisis. Three of the characters are artists: As James observes, he belongs to a different level of reality than the other characters; they are recognizable social and historical types in a contemporary landscape, while he is an allegorical figure for the happy, pastoral, Arcadian, and above all innocently natural aspect or inheritance of humankind.
Donatello has contracted a love and devotion to the mysterious Miriam—who often refers darkly to some sin in her past, who paints pictures of and finds herself compared to images of murderous if victimized women Jael, Judith, Cleopatra, Beatrice Cenciand who is stalked by a mad monk she met in the Roman catacombs.
When his fidelity to Miriam leads Donatello to murder this monk, an act witnessed by Hilda, our heroes enter a realm of paranoia and guilt. Hilda breaks her close, almost sororal relation to Miriam, while Donatello retreats to his ancestral tower in the countryside, and Kenyon goes to visit him there.
On the moral of the story, Hilda and Kenyon differ. At first, Hilda seems as if she will serve as some other, newer archetype: She demonstrates an attraction to Catholicism throughout the novel, even living in a dove-circled tower where she maintains a traditional shrine to the Virgin Mary; moreover, her single life as an artist in Rome moves the narrator to reflect on social changes portended by what was not yet called feminism: This young American girl was an example of the freedom of life which it is possible for a female artist to enjoy at Rome.
She dwelt in her tower, as free to descend into the corrupted atmosphere of the city beneath, as one of her companion doves to fly downward into the street;—all alone, perfectly independent, under her own sole guardianship, unless watched over by the Virgin, whose shrine she tended; doing what she liked without a suspicion or a shadow upon the snowy whiteness of her fame.
The customs of artist life bestow such liberty upon the sex, which is elsewhere restricted within so much narrower limits; and it is perhaps an indication that, whenever we admit women to a wider scope of pursuits and professions, we must also remove the shackles of our present conventional rules, which would then become an insufferable restraint on either maid or wife.
And she is an artistic genius of a type: Yet this is a feminized genius: William Wetmore Story, Cleopatra, via Hilda ends the novel a kind of morally absolute bigot, with a preference in her distress for the pious simplicity of an art below the aesthetic level of the Old Masters.
She refuses to countenance any ambiguity in the story of Donatello. She becomes, very nearly in so many words, the proverbial angel in the house: Hawthorne was perhaps not a feminist, but neither was he a fool.
Like all great artists, he was of his time and out of it. Surely some part of him was as horrified as Hilda and Kenyon by the corruptions of the Old World, and as insensible as they are to the corruptions of the New. Il Sodoma, Flagellation of Christ, c.
So, like all great artists, he differed not only from his world, but from himself. Hilda possesses this power briefly, but surrenders it—out of cowardice, we may be invited to think—after her first encounter with sin.
She bows to Puritanical certitude instead of artistic amplitude; and her type lives on today in the seemingly indefatigable ranks of those who expect from art a therapeutic session, a moral sermon, a positive representation, or a literal account of the way things ought to be.
On this reading of events, evil is necessary, even beneficial, a goad and stimulant to the good, without which we slide into moral sloth and, presumably, aesthetic torpor: Is sin, then,—which we deem such a dreadful blackness in the universe,—is it, like sorrow, merely an element of human education, through which we struggle to a higher and purer state than we could otherwise have attained?
Did Adam fall, that we might ultimately rise to a far loftier paradise than his? And how it annuls and obliterates whatever precepts of Heaven are written deepest within us?
You have shocked me beyond words! Is it a fortunate fall that The Marble Faun is such a mixed achievement? Its generic instability does not bother me—I am almost always ready to praise classic or contemporary experiments, not so much in mingling genres, but in combining incongruous modes of representation.
If this practice has become routinized with the contemporary institutionalization of magical realism, it still reflects, I think, our actual experience of a world consisting of many emotions, many places, many agencies, many orders of experience, and many ways of life.
The novel resembles those domiciles it sometimes describes—a hovel built out of stone and marble scavenged from ruins. Rome, as it now exists, has grown up under the Popes, and seems like nothing but a heap of broken rubbish, thrown into the great chasm between our own days and the Empire, merely to fill it up; and, for the better part of two thousand years, its annals of obscure policies, and wars, and continually recurring misfortunes, seem also but broken rubbish, as compared with its classic history.
If we consider the present city as at all connected with the famous one of old, it is only because we find it built over its grave. A depth of thirty feet of soil has covered up the Rome of ancient days, so that it lies like the dead corpse of a giant, decaying for centuries, with no survivor mighty enough even to bury it, until the dust of all those years has gathered slowly over its recumbent form and made a casual sepulchre.
But at other times, it is haughty middle-class disgust, often verging on crude racism, unseemly in itself. Consider, for instance, this quarrel between the sculptor Kenyon and the painter Miriam:A summary of Themes in Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter.
Learn exactly what happened in this chapter, scene, or section of The Scarlet Letter and what it means. Perfect for acing essays, tests, and quizzes, as well as for writing lesson plans. The role evil, guilt, and hallucination play in the two short stories - Young Goodman Brown by Nathaniel Hawthorne and The Tell-Tale Heart by Edgar Allan Poe.
Reviewer Leo Marx [NYR, February 14] calls Philip Young’s Hawthorne’s Secret: An Untold Tale a “bold, original, if narrow and some-what hoked-up piece of work.” It is indeed bold, narrow, and hoked-up, but it is scarcely original. It is not “the first to offer a plausible answer” to.
Young Goodman Brown makes reference to many generations of the Brown family, both Goodman Brown’s ancestors and his descendants. Goodman Brown must choose whether to follow his ancestors’ example, for better or for worse, or whether to make his own .
Problem of Guilt -a character's sense of guilt forced by the puritanical heritage or by society; also guilt vs. innocence. 4. Pride - Hawthorne treats pride as evil.
Abstract "The story of the fall of man!" One can easily tell that The Fall is the main topic in The Marble plombier-nemours.comrne, in this romance, is asking whether man's fall in the Garden of Eden was for man's betterment or not.