In a passage remarkable for what it reveals about the loneliness of one devoted
to artistic or intellectual pursuits, Hawthorne groups poets, prophets, reformers,
and criminals. Hester Prynne of The Scarlet Letter comes immediately to
mind as well as numerous other characters from his stories and novels, individuals
blessed and tortured with imagination or aspirations that take them out of the
mass of mankind.
And then the thought stole into his mind, that this young girl possessed the gift to comprehend him, better than all the world beside. And what a help and strength would it be to him, in his lonely toil, if he could gain the sympathy of the only being whom he loved! To persons whose pursuits are insulated from the common business of life--who are either in advance of mankind, or apart from it--there often comes a sensation of moral cold, that makes the spirit shiver, as if it had reached the frozen solitudes around the pole. What the prophet, the poet, the reformer, the criminal, or any other man, with human yearnings, but separated from the multitude by a peculiar lot, might feel, poor Owen Warland felt.