In a passage that strikingly places open hearted charity in direct opposition
to "observation from an insulated standpoint," John Gatta connects Hawthorne
himself with both of these contradictory impulses and so places him solidly
in the Christian tradition.
"She [Flannery O'Connor] cites an episode recounted by Hawthorne in Our
Old Home in which a 'fastidious gentleman' encounters a diseased, wretched-looking
child in a Liverpool workhouse. The child apparently want to be held, but
the gentleman is inhibited by 'that habit of observation from an insulated
standpoint which is said . . . to have the tendency of putting ice into the
blood.' After some internal struggle, however, the gentleman does take up
the 'loathsome' child in his arms; and thereby, concludes Hawthorne, he 'effected
more than he dreamed of toward his final salvation.' Seized by the explicit
reference to 'salvation,' O'Connor was intrigued to discover from the English
Notebooks that the gentleman described was none other than Hawthorne himself.
This 'fastidious, skeptical New Englander who feared the ice in his blood'
had effaced himself from the more public narrative. Yet for O'Connor his gesture
of the heart was indeed a sign of salvation, a word she understood in a more
orthodox Christian sense than Hawthorne may have intended" (276).