Monday, December 7, 2009

Roger Malvin's Burial

Read Roger Malvin's Burial here.

Whenever I read this story, I can't help but think that the first year must have been the worst for Reuben. I imagine Reuben lived in fear that someone saved Roger who might yet return after months of recovering in somebody's cabin and Reuben would have to explain that someone he said he buried was still alive.

I can imagine Dorcas at the end, "Oh for heaven's sake, I could have forgiven you the unburied bones, but this is too much."

It's a story about guilt, expiation of guilt, blood sacrifice, echoes of Abraham and Isaac. I like that Hawthorne rejects the possibility of supernatural influence in this passage: Unable to penetrate to the secret place of his soul where his motives lay hidden, he believed that a supernatural voice had called him onward, and that a supernatural power had obstructed his retreat. I can believe we are all inclined to attribute to a supernatural cause those motives we do not dare examine and own.

Here we have another story with a marriage as the centerpiece. After all, if Reuben did not marry the girl the lie would not have figured so prominently in his life. We see how this secret sin poisons married life for Reuben, though apparently Dorcas learns to overlook his moods and love him despite his demeanor.

This is a pithy story I will read again soon. Is it a warning that we can become so obsessed with our past transgressions that we can not properly attend to the present? Does sin require a blood sacrifice to expiate it? I think Dorcas would disagree. I think she would cry out for confession and repentance.

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