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


Page 82

crisp little vignette of the trial. To the end of Hawthorne’s apprenticeship this was his historical method, perhaps best displayed in the vivid and diversified panorama of Salem, from its founding to the present, which he set forth in Main Street. He was not contented, however, to represent scenes for themselves, but sought assiduously for moments of drama, little episodes of controversy, clashes between the parties and ideas which divided old New England. In The Gentle Boy he exhibited the tragedy of the Quaker persecutions; in The Gray Champion the spirit of the Settlement flashing out against the aggressions of Governor Andros; in The Maypole of Merry Mount the conflict between the Pilgrims and the Merry Mounters, which Hawthorne deliberately symbolized. “The future complexion of New England was involved in this important quarrel. Should the grizzly saints establish their jurisdiction over the gay sinners, then would their spirits darken all the clime, and make it a land of clouded visages, of hard toil, of sermon and psalm forever. But should the banner staff of Merry Mount be fortunate, sunshine would break upon the hills, and flowers would beautify the forest, and late posterity do homage to the Maypole.” To compare a tale like The Canterbury Pilgrims, a simple though significant description of the meeting of certain persons going to join a Shaker community and certain others just leaving it, with Young Goodman Brown, the somber account of how a witches’ sabbath in the dark woods around early Salem tempted an honest man from his duty and his peace of mind, is to discover with what a poise Hawthorne stood at the center of his world and sent his imagination out on subtle errands



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