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Hawthorne and a Framework of Faith-Excerpt

Excerpt from "Mrs. Hutchinson"

Hawthorne's provocative representation of religious dissident Anne Hutchinson bears some remarkable similarities to Hester Prynne of The Scarlet Letter. His ambivalence toward Hester is mirrored in his admiration and censure of Mrs. Hutchinson, a figure who may have influenced him when he was composing The Scarlet Letter. In this passage from "Mrs. Hutchinson" Hawthorne imagines the trial of Anne Hutchinson by some of the leading religious figures of her time. While Hawthorne clearly admires Hutchinson’s spirit and intelligence, he deplores her tremendous pride and, one surmises, comes to agree with the judgment delivered upon her.

In the midst, and in the centre of all eves, we see the Woman. She stands loftily before her judges, with a determined brow, and, unknown to herself, there is a flash of carnal pride half hidden in her eye, as she surveys the many learned and famous men whom her doctrines have put in fear. They question her, and her answers are ready and acute; she reasons with them shrewdly, and brings scripture in support of every argument; the deepest controversialists of that scholastic day find here a woman, whom all their trained and sharpened intellects are inadequate to foil. But by the excitement of the contest, her heart is made to rise and swell within her, and she bursts forth into eloquence. She tells them of the long unquietness which she had endured in England, perceiving the corruption of the church, and yearning for a purer and more perfect light, and how, in a day of solitary prayer, that light was given; she claims for herself the peculiar power of distinguishing between the chosen of man and the Sealed of Heaven, and affirms that her gifted eye can see the glory round the foreheads of the Saints, sojourning in their mortal state. She declares herself commissioned to separate the true shepherds from the false, and denounces present and future judgments on the land, if she be disturbed in her celestial errand. Thus the accusations are proved from her own mouth. Her judges hesitate, and some speak faintly in her defence; but, with a few dissenting voices, sentence is pronounced, bidding her go out from among them, and trouble the land no more.




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