Hawthorne in Salem Search Hawthorne in Salem

Facebook Page

Excerpt from Main Street relating to Quakers

Excerpt from "Main Street" relating to Quakers

Hawthorne's fundamental respect for the Quakers and their "new idea" along with his scorn for the suspicion with which his ancestors regarded Quakers comes through clearly in this passage. 
Look now at the street, and observe a strange people entering it. Their garments are torn and disordered, their faces haggard, their figures emaciated; for they have made their way hither through pathless deserts, suffering hunger and hardship, with no other shelter than a hollow tree, the lair of a wild beast, or an Indian wigwam. Nor, in the most inhospitable and dangerous of such lodging-places, was there half the peril that awaits them in this thoroughfare of Christian men, with those secure dwellings and warm hearths on either side of it, and yonder meeting-house as the central object of the scene. These wanderers have received from Heaven a gift that, in all epochs of the world, has brought with it the penalties of mortal suffering and persecution, scorn, enmity, and death itself;--a gift that, thus terrible to its possessors, has ever been most hateful to all other men, since its very existence seems to threaten the overthrow of whatever else the toilsome ages have built up;--the gift of a new idea. You can discern it in them, illuminating their faces--their whole persons, indeed, however earthly and cloddish--with a light that inevitably shines through, and makes the startled community aware that these men are not as they themselves are; not brethren nor neighbors of their thought. Forthwith, it is as if an earthquake rumbled through the town, making its vibrations felt at every hearthstone, and especially causing the spire of the meeting-house to totter. The Quakers have come! We are in peril! See! they trample upon our wise and well-established laws in the person of our chief magistrate; for Governor Endicott is passing, now an aged man, and dignified with long habits of authority,--and not one of the irreverent vagabonds has moved his hat! Did you note the ominous frown of the white-bearded Puritan governor, as he turned himself about, and, in his anger, half uplifted the staff that has become a needful support to his old age? Here comes old Mr. Norris, our venerable minister. Will they doff their hats, and pay reverence to him? No: their hats stick fast to their ungracious heads, as if they grew there; and--impious varlets that they are, and worse than the heathen Indians!--they eye our reverend pastor with a peculiar scorn, distrust, unbelief, and utter denial of his sanctified pretensions, of which he himself immediately becomes conscious; the more bitterly conscious, as he never knew nor dreamed of the like before.

Page citation: http://www.hawthorneinsalem.org/page/10541/

About US Privacy Policy Copyright Credits Site Map Site Help