From Margaret B. Moore's The Salem World of Nathaniel Hawthorne. University of Missouri Press, p. 22.
From Margaret B. Moore's The Salem World of Nathaniel Hawthorne. University
of Missouri Press, p. 22.
Much of Hawthorne's writing is informed by the oral traditions in
his family and of his town. The stories told at his own fireside in Salem recur
again and again in Hawthorne's writings, transmogrified and transformed by his
own imagination. Salem had its share of the vicissitudes of mankind--family
pride that led to tragedy, concealed wills, greed for property. All the seven
deadly sins could be found there. But, in addition, Salem carried its extra
burden of the fates of certain Quakers, of the hanging of the witches. It shared
with the country the knowledge that the Revolutionary War was really a civil
war, no matter what later historians were to say. Hawthorne recognized the tinge
of the marvelous, the presence of something other or somewhere other that hedged
daily life about. Sometimes these traditions and feelings strained credulity.
In reviewing John Greenleaf Whittier's The Superstitions of New England,
Hawthorne wrote about not only the legends but also the way in which the writer
should treat them: "The proper tone of these legends is, of course, that of
the fireside narrative. . . as simple as the babble of an old woman to her grandchild
as they sit in the smoky glow of a deep chimney-corner. Above all, the narrator
should have faith, for the time being" (CE 23:244).
Source: Moore, Margaret B. The Salem World of Nathaniel Hawthorne.
Columbia: U of Missouri P, 1998.