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Carl Van Doren (1885–1950).  The American Novel.  1921.


Page 104

  Though set in an environment so amply pagan and Catholic, The Marble Faun is in some respects the most Puritan of all Hawthorne’s romances. He who under the gray skies of New England had created Hester and Zenobia, when he came to a world in which they and their kind might have grown to their intended stature, seems to have turned partially back to an austerer code. Among the children of the Renaissance he missed that sense of sin which in his native province had been as regularly present as sea and hills. Genial as were the pagan survivals in this many-stranded city, cheerful as were the Roman Christians, light-hearted as were the artists, Hawthorne’s imagination would not expand unreservedly. It asked itself what would happen if sin and conscience should invade these charming precincts. Once more pagan than the Puritans, he was now more Puritan than the pagans. He would not let even Donatello play forever, believing that as generous youth died out of the faun he would “become sensual, addicted to gross pleasures, heavy, unsympathizing, and insulated within the narrow limits of a surly selfishness.” There is more than Puritanism in such a prophecy. There is more than Puritanism in the speculation of Kenyon, which shocks Hilda but which touches the theme very sharply: “Sin has educated Donatello, and elevated him. Is sin, then,… like sorrow, merely an element of human education, through which we struggle to a higher and purer state than we could otherwise have attained?” This is almost as much as to wonder whether experience itself, evil as well as good, does not civilize us, as it civilized Donatello. Hawthorne’s language is the language of sin and conscience



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