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Excerpt from "The Scarlet Letter as Pre-Text for Flannery O'Connor's 'Good Country People,'" by John Gatta.

Excerpt from "The Scarlet Letter as Pre-Text for Flannery O'Connor's 'Good Country People,'" by John Gatta in Hawthorne and Women Engendering and Expanding the Hawthorne Tradition Edited by John L. Idol Jr. and Melinda M. Ponder (courtesy of University of Massachusetts Press)

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).




Page citation: http://www.hawthorneinsalem.org/page/11789/


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