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


Page 97

her timid efforts to cheer her brother; but most of the time she is half hidden against the background. So with Clifford, who actually first appears in a darkened room which he has not been seen to enter and who continues to inhabit shadows. It is because of the particularly withered look of these older Pyncheons and of the house which becomes them that Phœbe shines, rather than because of any superlative vitality in herself. Externally the most natural of Hawthorne’s women, she proves upon analysis to be scarcely more than a winsome type of young girl deliberately introduced for the sake of contrast. The same purpose accounts for the daguerreotypist Holgrave, who in a rented gable of the old mansion nurses opinions which challenge the authority of the past here lying so heavily upon the present. What Phœbe has only the instincts of youth and Holgrave argues without activity. Their marriage at the end, while promising a renewal of energy for two decaying stocks, does not contradict the moral which Hawthorne had in mind—“the truth, namely, that the wrong-doing of one generation lives into the successive ones, and, divesting itself of every temporary advantage, becomes a pure and uncontrollable mischief.” Clifford by his unjust imprisonment has been broken in mind and body until even his former love of beauty has turned to a sporadic gluttony, and Hepzibah has wasted her whole life waiting in poverty for her brother’s release. Nothing now can recompense them for what they have lost; in them the moral sternly and veraciously shows its head. Elsewhere, however, the tragedy wears



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