Friday, August 21, 2009

The Hollow of the Three Hills

The Hollow of the Three Hills

This story, even shorter than the last, packs a powerful punch. My first reading impressed me with the vivid dreamscapes Hawthorne creates with such an economy of words. With 1749 words he conjures not only the setting of the story, but also three other fantastic scenes.

Thinking on this, I realized that Hawthorne didn't include any personal details. He achieves his economy by telling us only what we need to know about the characters and no more. We see an old crone, but we see nothing that would distinguish this crone from any other. We are presented with the torment of a cuckold, but beyond the husband's solemn voice...a manly and melodious voice it might once have been, we have no description of this man. No "red riding hood" or "goldie locks", this story has no physical detail we can fix on to visualize these people; the author leaves them wholly to our imagination. And somehow he gives all we need to see the story, to imagine the characters and feel their despair.

But it's only half a story. Hawthorne doesn't offer us anything but the wife's remorse. We don't know what might have prompted the anguished situation. Hawthorne seems to have no sympathy for the mother who had sinned against natural affection. Do I detect abandonment issues? His mother lived as a virtual recluse, was she emotionally unavailable to him?

Another possibility is that this isn't the wife/mother's story. Perhaps this is the story of the crone and her sweet hour's sport, in which case the younger woman's agony matters most and any excuses she might have offered in the past were not part of the present scene.

This phrase resonated for me: there were revilings and anathemas. Reminds me of Paul Simon's phrase, hints and allegations.

No comments:

Post a Comment