Roger Malvin’s Burial and History Essay

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“Roger Malvin’s Burial” and History


Q. D. Leavis states that Hawthorne had among his forbears a “witch-hanging judge and the Quaker-whipping Major” (30). This is a reference to one instance of historical allusion in Hawthorne’s short stories. This essay will explore a variety of historical incidences referred to in his short story, “Roger Malvin’s Burial.”

Clarice Swisher in “Nathaniel Hawthorne: a Biography” states the author’s deep historical ties:

William Hathorne was a colonial magistrate involved in the persecution of Quakers, another Protestant religious group. Hawthorne later described him as “grave, bearded, sable-cloaked, and steeple-crowned,” a hard, dark man. His son John Hathorne was well known as a Puritan
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“Roger Malvin’s Burial” opens with an explicit, lengthy reference to an historical battle between savage Indians and colonial frontiersmen:

One of the few incidents of Indian warfare naturally susceptible of the moonlight of romance was that expedition undertaken for the defense of the frontiers in the year 1725, which resulted in the well-remembered ``Lovell's Fight.'' Imagination, by casting certain circumstances judicially into the shade, may see much to admire in the heroism of a little band who gave battle to twice their number in the heart of the enemy's country. The open bravery displayed by both parties was in accordance with civilized ideas of valor; and chivalry itself might not blush to record the deeds of one or two individuals. The battle, though so fatal to those who fought, was not unfortunate in its consequences to the country; for it broke the strength of a tribe and conduced to the peace which subsisted during several ensuing years. History and tradition are unusually minute in their memorials of their affair; and the captain of a scouting party of frontier men has acquired as actual a military renown as many a victorious leader of thousands. Some of the incidents contained in the following pages will be recognized, notwithstanding the

substitution of fictitious names, by such as have heard, from old men's lips, the fate of the few combatants who were in…

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