Hawthorne as truth-teller: an analysis of moralistic techniques in the tales and sketches
Zaitchik, Joseph Abraham
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Hawthorne was a moralist-fictionist, a literary artist who made effective use of a variety of moralistic techniques. The method or this study is to give careful examination both to a number of Hawthorne's tales and sketches and to the moralistic tone of his fiction as a whole. The Introduction briefly considers adverse criticism of nineteenth-century American didacticism and suggests that criticism has not given sufficient attention to moralistic analysis. In Chapter I the moralistic mise en scene in which Hawthorne produced his works is presented through the eyes of Ralph Waldo Emerson, critic of contemporary moralists and moralistic postures. Chapter II then discusses Hawthorne's fictional response to his preaching and his view of himself as moralist-fictionist. As moralist-fictionist, he may have made concessions to hie times, but it is clear that he believed that the moral sense must serve the artistic sense, and he was careful to assume a moralistic posture that would not disqualify him as a literary artist. As fictionist, he found it advisable to use techniques that could serve to defend him against the charge of ethical omniscience and personae that would dissociate him from the one-truth certainties of contemporary moralists. Chapter III then classifies those tales and sketches in whicn the moralist--the maker of the statement that is true or good or right--is not confronted by an opposing point of view. In these works the moralist makes his appearance in several forms: narrator alone, narrator aided by symbols, narrator aided by allegorical figures, fictional figure alone, fictional figure aided by narrator, narrator aided by fictional figure, and narrator and fictional figures in a moral chorus or a moral riddle. Representative tales of each moralistic point of view are analyzed and evaluated. Chapter IV then classifies those tales and sketches in which moral confrontation is operative, analyzes Hawthorne's antimoralists (the satanic pseudo-moralist, the pseudo-idealist, the comic materialist, the materialist antagonist, and the idealist immoralist), and closely examines representative tales and sketches. Much of the psychological interest in these works derives from the response of the fictional figures to the influence of the anti-moralists, and Hawthorne's technical device of ambiguity is often not a moralistic stance but a means of establishing a moralistic diste.nce between the author and his statement. The Epilogue then discusses the four major novels in terms of their moralistic structure and suggests rea.sons for Hawthorne's success in The Scarlet Letter and The House of the Seven Gables and his at least moralistic failure in The Blithedale Romance and The Marble Faun. The chapter also includes a general evaluation of Hawthorne as a writer who accepted the literary value of both psychological and moralistic exploration, a writer for whom the question "How should a man act?" was no less important than the question "How does a man act?"
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