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Hawthorne and a Framework of Faith/ POST AS LINK FROM Critical Commentary

Excerpt from Anthony Trollope's article "The Genius of Nathaniel Hawthorne," The North American Review. Volume 129, Issue 274, September 1879

British novelist Anthony Trollope finds a quiet drollery even in the darkest passages of Hawthorne's work and suggests that even our deepest sufferings are not so important as to elevate us above others. If Trollope is correct, this might be due to Hawthorne's modest unwillingness to exalt anything, even sin and its suffering, to a place where it might invite pride.

"But through all this intensity of suffering, through this black-ness of narrative, there is ever running a vein of drollery. As Hawthorne himself says, a lively sense of the humorous again stole in among the solemn phantoms of her thought. He is always laughing at something with his weird, mocking spirit. The very children when they see Hester in the streets are supposed to speak of her in this wise: Behold, verily, there is the woman of the scarlet letter. Come, therefore, and let us fling mud at her. Of some religious book he says, It must have been a work of vast ability in the somniferous school of literature. We must not always talk in the market-place of what happens to us in the forest, says even the sad mother to her child. Through it all there is a touch of burlesque, not as to the suffering of the sufferers, but as to the great question whether it signifies much in what way we suffer, whether by crushing sorrows or little stings. Who would not sooner be Prometheus than a yesterdays tipsy man with this mornings sick-headache? In this way Hawthorne seems to ridicule the very woes which he expends himself in depicting" (212-213).




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