1. This activity was created by Dr. Doug Rowlett from Houston Community College
System, Southwest Campus, Stafford, TX.
In nineteenth-century Salem the frontier was a distant place only to be read
about by most inhabitants, and interactions with living Native Americans
were few and far removed. The occasional Native American visitor to Salem
had become by Hawthorne's time a quaint relic, more curiosity than threat
in most people's minds.
However, residents did read about them in the newspapers and in popular books
and articles and were certainly aware of their place in the history of New England,
and there were still a few people alive during Hawthorne's early years who could
recount old tales from previous generations about "Indian depredations." While
Hawthorne never wrote the kinds of Indian-centered tales that Fenimore Cooper
did, a close examination of his stories and novels will show he did make more
use of Native Americans than is at first apparent.
Read Hawthorne's "The
Seven Vagabonds" and consider his thematic treatment of "vagabondage,"
in particular the repulsion and attraction he feels with regard to the tension
between duty versus freedom. Hawthorne
said at age 33 that "Our Indian races having reared no monuments, like
the Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians, when they have disappeared from the earth
their history will appear a fable, and they misty phantoms." . In other
communications to his contemporaries, he discusses or alludes to his attitudes
toward duty and freedom . Can his ambiguous attitude toward duty versus freedom
be found in other short stories and novels (particularly The Scarlet Letter)?
What does his attitude say to you about the place of the artist in the world
and the conflict between his duties and responsibilities and the role of creativity
and spontaneity in his life? Finally, explain the last sentence of "The Seven
Vagabonds": "Finally, with a pensive shadow thrown across my mind, yet emulous
of the light philosophy of my late companions, I joined myself to the Penobscot
Indian, and set forth towards the distant city."