Excerpt from lecture, "Hawthorne and Melville" by David B. Kesterson
Excerpt from lecture, "Hawthorne and Melville" by David B. Kesterson, delivered in Salem, Massachusetts on September 23, 2000
Here David Kesterson comments upon the fact that it was Hawthorne's fascination with and exploration of the idea of evil that so captivated the younger Herman Melville. In Melville's comments, Kesterson captures Melville's idea that no "deeply thinking mind" is ever completely free from a consideration of evil.
"Then Melville moves to the subject that 'so fixes and fascinates' him-the blackness in Hawthorne. 'For spite of all the Indian-summer sunlight on the hither side of Hawthorne's soul, the other side-like the dark half of the physical sphere-is shrouded in a blackness, ten times black.' Pondering the source of this blackness, Melville postulates that 'this great power of blackness in him derives its force from its appeal to that Calvinistic sense of Innate Depravity and Original Sin, from whose visitations, in some shape or other, no deeply thinking mind is always and wholly free. For, in certain moods, no man can weigh this world without throwing in something, somehow like Original Sin, to strike the uneven balance.' It is this very blackness that 'furnishes the infinite obscure of his back-ground,--that back-ground, against which Shakespeare plays his grandest conceits, the things that have made for Shakespeare his loftiest but most circumscribed renown, as the profoundest of thinkers.' Melville goes on to compare Hawthorne to Shakespeare, saying, 'Shakespeare has been approached.'"