Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Blithedale Romance

The Blithedale Romance

I am enjoying this book slowly. I love the sound of the words when he says he is a frosty bachelor and tries to summon nostalgia in the reader for the loveliest fire after a long drive in the snow. Every word so carefully chosen, pleasant and poignant.

I'm still thinking about The Threefold Destiny too, about how lucky one feels at the moment when all three areas of one's life - fame, fortune, and romance - coincide and appear on the rise.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Help with The Threefold Destiny

Someone asked.

Summary - local boy circles the globe in search of the grand flourishes he has imagined will reveal his even grander destinies for romance, treasure, and public influence. Upon his return, a man of thought and care, weary with world-wandering, and heavy with disappointed hopes, Ralph Cranfield encounters all three signs right there in his hometown. In fact, two of the signs he placed himself. So he went all the way around the world looking for what he had left behind.

This "Faery Legend" was first published in 1838, when Hawthorne was wooing Sophia Peabody. It could be Hawthorne was congratulating himself on finding his mate so close to home. Or perhaps he was exploring his response to pressure to go out and find his fortune. I find so many of these early stories wrestle with questions of marriage, destiny, and making one's way in the world.

But about the story...Why did Ralph leave? When struggling with Hawthorne, I always go back to the words. He begins describing the signs and destinies as, The first of these fatalities... Fatalities, of course, these things are fated to happen. But Connotations 101 reminds us to hear the finality of death in that phrase. Ostensibly Cranfield went in search of his destiny when in fact he was dodging it. Later we will learn he knew Faith was his beloved even before her faith was proven.

I do not like Ralph Cranfield, I wonder if I am not meant to. He arrogantly ignores his beloved when he meets her in the street, though I am sure every mother reading the story agrees he was right to present himself to his mother before anyone else. I would wish he lost something in the leaving, were my wishes of anyone's concern here.

I wonder about the whole "Hail the Conquering Hero" bit. What did Cranfield do to merit the local authorities' trust? How fortunate to have been away so long and then succeed in being in the right place at the right time, which is why it is a fairy tale I suppose. But still, Hawthorne worked in a bit of reality to soothe the skeptics on the other two aspects: Cranfield carved EFFODE in the tree and fashioned the brooch on Faith's bosom, planting his own seeds for the mystical deja vu later on. But this bit where he comes home and then next morning the town fathers knock on his door and hand him a job of some importance without any effort on his part, I do not understand how that fits.

Unless, the job is not a blessing. Is the charge of the local schoolchildren a role the selectmen were at a loss to fill, and was this unemployed prodigal son an answer to their prayers? Did they fulfill his dream or did he fulfill theirs?

I stray too far from the story I fear. In the end, I consider what I know of going away and coming home and believe we are to understand this story must be a fairy tale because you will never return to find things just as you left them, only better.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Moving on

I completed the Reader's Digest Edition of Twice-Told Tales from 1989. What was my favorite story? Maybe The Hollow of the Three Hills, I found that story nearly perfect. I also enjoyed the complete cycle of Legends of the Province House.

Marriage seems to have been a recurring theme. When I read the rest of Hawthorne's original Twice Told Tales I will consider whether this particular collection was chosen to highlight marriage was much on the mind of this bachelor.

Meanwhile, I am moving on to The Blithedale Romance.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Threefold Destiny

The Threefold Destiny

Remember that awkward speech Dorothy gives about "your own backyard" right before she clicks her heels in the original movie, The Wizard of Oz? I suppose none of us are surprised Hawthorne better articulated the concept, though his story is hardly more believable than Baum's.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Edward Fane's Rosebud

Edward Fane's Rosebud

Another look at the reunion of old sweethearts long after the bloom has left the rose, if I am permitted to belabor the metaphor. Reading this story adds a new layer to my interpretation of Citizen Kane.

The Bridal Knell was more supernatural than this tale. This could all be the befuddled meanderings of the widow's alcoholic internal monologue. I would be interested in seeing this performed in the first person.

Widow Toothaker, I found it hard to keep a straight face with that name, likely the author's intent.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Endicott and the Red Cross

Endicott and the Red Cross

Notable for introducing the "A" on which Hawthorne would later base his masterpiece, this story has a nice twist at the end when the narrator recognizes the roots of the American revolution in an early act against the crown. Hawthorne displays a begrudging respect for Endicott despite his distaste with the Puritan fathers' intolerance.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Shaker Bridal

The Shaker Bridal

Another story with a wedding theme.

The narrator does not have a high opinion of Shakers, whose members are generally below the ordinary standard of intelligence. Not pulling any punches there, Nat.

I learned of the Shakers during a visit to the Fruitlands museum back in high school. As I recall, the Shakers were credited with many innovations (clothespins come to mind) that belie the narrator's assessment of their faculties. I wonder what is at the heart of Hawthorne's disdain.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Chippings With a Chisel

Chippings With a Chisel

I was struck here with the passage about a tombstone for an Indian from Chabbiquidick. Of course, the reference to Chappaquiddick caught my eye as this is a place with only one association for most of us who lived in the late 20th century. But my mind circles round the ensuing exchange. The inanity of the sculptor asking "how can Cupid die when there are such pretty maidens in the Vineyard?" is matched by the youth's distraction from tombstones for a day. I feel I can hear the old man's frustration with this kid who keeps hanging around questioning everything. How can Cupid die when there are such pretty maidens in the Vineyard? He gestures toward the girls on the beach. How true. And then the youth is lost in reverie for the rest of the day.