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From Salem Is My Dwelling Place by Edwin Haviland Miller, p. 115.

From Salem Is My Dwelling Place by Edwin Haviland Miller, p. 115.

Everything in this tale is displaced. When Leonard looks at Walter's body and sees the father, fratricide conceals parricide. The Indian killer of the father substitutes for the son in a scene of violence which expresses a universal filial wish. The Indian presumably wielded a tomahawk, and Leonard is about to cut the ice of the lake with a hatchet in order to get rid of Walter's body in "a chill and watery grave." When Walter lusts after Alice and then boasts that he has seduced her, he acts out the desire Leonard has repressed. Surely Alice herself substitutes for the dead mother, who because of the hidden incestuous longings of Leonard is not even referred to: desire for the mother and rivalry with the father must be kept from consciousness. Since, however, Leonard is his brother Walter as well as his father, Leonard's act confirms his oedipal desire and, in addition, his need to punish himself through destruction of his image. The narrator describes Leonard after his confession as "stung with remorse for the death of Walter Brome, and shuddering with a deeper sense of some unutterable crime, perpetrated, as he imagined, in madness or a dream."

In this tale, which is the most complex of the early works, as disjointed structurally as the psychological materials he presents and anticipatory of the Freudian exploration of dreams and symbolism, Hawthorne introduces most of the motifs upon which for the next thirty-five years he was to play variations. The pages of his writings are as stained as "the cold and blood-stained hearth" where the father lies scalped, a whistling wind waving his hair.

Source: Miller, Edwin Haviland. Salem Is My Dwelling Place: A Life of Nathaniel Hawthorne. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1991.


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