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In his book The Province of Piety: Moral History in Hawthorne's Early Tales, Michael Colacurcio suggests the real office to be fulfilled by Old Esther Dudley as a historian of the colonial past.

"The stories she is allowed to tell the children of the rebels, however, involve other and more serious considerations. Here is where her real power as historian lies, and it appears that in this domain her power is greater than her tolerant neighbors quite realize. It is not, in any obvious sense, a "political" power. No amount of faith or imagination on her part can ever effect the return of a royal governor. In the last analysis her 'Hope' is only 'Memory in disguise,' and she herself seems half-aware of that fact. Furthermore, unlike the Tory historians Hawthorne could have known, she does not even seem to have a moral or a constitutional case to prove. Still, as she works her fictional spell on her childish visitors at the Province House, a generation even newer than Hancock's seems to be slipping back into the past again" (461)
"What the children receive from Esther Dudley is, all simply, a lively and personal sense of the way the most "British" segment of the American past really was, quite without regard to the question of whether that past will, in any form, 'return in triumph.' . . . Esther's history is no less valid and true and ultimately usable simply because it does not validate any future" (462-63). (courtesy of Dr. Michael J. Colacurcio)




Page citation: http://www.hawthorneinsalem.org/page/10533/


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