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自考《英美文学选读》(美)浪漫主义时期(3)

2006-12-31 11:34   【 】【我要纠错

  III. Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-l864)

  Imbued with an inquiring imagination, an intense1y meditative mind, and unceasing interest in the "interior of the heart" of man's being, Nathaniel Hawthorne remains one of the most interesting, yet most ambiva1ent writers in the American literary history.

  一。一般识记

  Hawthorne's life and writing career

  His life story is tota1ly without the exciting events which characterize the lives of so many American writers. He was born on the Fourth of July, l804 in Salem, Massachusetts, into a prominent Puritan family. His first American ancestor, William Hawthorne, as a magistrate of the Bay Colony, was active in the 1650's in persecution of the Quakers, while William's son, John, was a judge at the Salem witchcraft trials. However, the 17th century prominence of his family dec1ined during the century that followed. Nathaniel's father, a sea captain, died of yellow fever in 1808 leaving at Salem a widow and three children in genteel poverty. With the financial support from his more prosperous maternal relations, Hawthorne passed a serene childhood in spite of his father's death and spent his adolescence reading some books of those literary master minds, especially Bunyan, Spenser and Shakespeare, which were essential for his formation as a writer. From 1821 to 1825, he attended Bowdoin Co1lege in Maine, where the decision to devote himself to writing was gradually taking shape and finally put into practice during those years when he was living with his mother in Salem. The solitary years proved to be fruitful, for in 1837, he published Twice-Told Tales, a collection of short stories which attracted critical attention.

  After 1837, a series of salient events of Hawthorne's life happened that mattered a lot to his literary imagination and creation. He met Sophia Peabody, whom he married later and with whom he had three children: he worked in the United States Custom House in Boston and later in Salem, which definitely provided some authentic materials for his long works; he also stayed for some time at Concord and Lenox, where he met the principal literary figures of the time, Emerson and Thoreau and Melville. He was affected by the former's transcendentalist theory and struck up a very intimate relationship with the latter, and all the three people had played an indispensable role in Hawthorne's literary career.

  二。识记

  Hawthorne's major works

  Hawthorne wrote and published many good works, which have doubtlessly become part of the American literary heritage. Among them, the tales collected in Moses from an Old Manse (1846) and The Snow-Image and Other Twice-Told Tales (1851) best demonstrate Hawthorn's early obsession with the moral and psychological consequences of pride, selfishness, and secret guilt that manifest themselves in human beings; The Scarlet Letter (1850), always regarded as the best of his works, tells a simple but very moving story in which four people living in a Puritan community are invo1ved in and affected by the sin of adultery in different ways; The House of the Seven Gables (1851 ) was based on the tradition of a curse pronounced on the author's family when his great-grandfather was a judge in the Salem witchcraft trials; The Blithedale Romance (l852) is a novel he wrote to reveal his own experiences on the Brook Farm and his own methods as a psychological novelist. The Marble Faun (1860) is a romance set in Italy, concerned about the dark aberrations of the human spirit.

  三。领会

  1. Hawthorne's thematic concerns

  (1) his "black" vision of life and human beings: his concern with human sin and evil

  Hawthorne's literary world is a most disturbed, tormented and problematical one mostly because of his "black" vision of life and human beings. He rejected the Transcendentalists' transparent optimism about the potentialities of human nature. Instead he looked more deeply and perhaps more honestly into life, finding in it much suffering and conflict but also finding the redeeming power of love. According to Hawthorne, "There is evil in every human heart, which may remain latent, perhaps, through the whole life; but circumstances may rouse it to activity." A piece of literary work should "show how we are all wronged and wrongers, and avenge one another." So in almost every book he wrote, Hawthorne discusses sin and evil. In "Young Goodman Brown," he sets out to prove that everyone possesses some evil secret. Its hero, a naive young man who accepts both societies in general and his fellow men as individuals worth his regard, is confronted with the vision of human evil in one terrible night, and becomes thereafter distrustful and doubtful. "The Minister's B1ack Veil" goes further to suggest that everyone tries to hold the evil secret from one another in the way the minister tries to convince his people with his black vei1." The Birthmark" drives home symbolically Hawthorne's point that evi1 is man's birthmark, something he is born with.

  One source of evil that Hawthorne is concerned most is over-reaching intellect, which usually refers to someone, who is too proud, too sure of himself. The tension between the head and the heart constitutes one of the dramatic moments when the evil of "overreaching intellect" would be fully revealed. Hawthorne's intellectuals are usually villains, dreadful because they are devoid of warmth and feeling. What's more, they tend to go beyond and violate the natural order by doing something impossible and reaching the ultimate truth, without a sober mind about their own limitations as human beings. Chillingworth, Dr. Rappaccini in "Rappaccini's Daughter" are but a few specimens of Hawthorne's chilling, cold-blooded human animals.

  (2)Hawthorne's view of Puritanism:

  Hawthorne's view of man and human history originates, to a great extent, in Puritanism. He was not a Puritan himself, but he had Puritan ancestors who p1ayed an important role in his life and works. He believed that "the wrong doing of one generation lives into the successive ones," and often wondered if he might have inherited some of their guilt. This sensibility 1ed to his understanding of evil being at the very core of human life, which is typical of the Calvinistic belief that human beings are basically depraved and corrupted, hence, they should obey God to atone for their sins.

  In many of Hawthorne's stories and novels, the Puritan concept of life is condemned, or the Puritan Past is shown in an almost totally negative light, especially in his The House Of the Seven Gables and The Scarlet Letter. Hawthorne is attracted in every way to the Puritan world, even though he condemns its less humane manifestations. On the one hand, it provides him with a subject, He inherited the Puritan tradition of moral earnestness, and he was deeply concerned with the concepts of original sin and guilt and the claims of law and conscience; and on the other, with the Puritan world or society as a historical background, he discusses some of the most important issues that concern the moral life of man and human history.

  (3) his masterpiece The Scarlet Letter

  Hawthorne's remarkable sense of the Puritan past, his understanding of the co1onial history in New England, his apparent preoccupation with the moral issues of sin and guilt, and his keen psychological analysis of people are brought to full display in his masterpiece The Scarlet Letter.

  (a) the story: The main character of The Scarlet Letter is Hester Prynne, a young married woman who has borne an illegitimate child while living away from her husband in a village in Puritan New England .The husband ,Roger Chillingworth, arrives in New England to find his wife pilloried and made to wear the scarlet letter A(meaning adulteress) on her dress as a punishment for her illicit affair and for her refusal to reveal the name of the child's father. Chillingworth becomes obsessed with finding the identity of his wife's former lover. He learns that Hester's lover is a saintly young minister, Arther Dimmesdale and Chillingworth then proceeds to revenge himself by mentally tormenting the guilt-stricken young man. Hester herself is revealed to be a compassioned and splendidly self-reliant heroine who is never truly repentant for the act of adultery committed with the minister; she feels that their act was consecrated by their deep love for each other .In the end Chillingworths morally degraded by his monomaniac pursuit of revenge, and Dimmesdale is broken by his own sense of guilt and publicly confess his adultery before dying in Hester's arm. Only Hester can face the future optimistically, as she plans to ensure the future of her beloved little girl by taking her to Europe.

  (b) theme: This novel, together with some other of Hawthorne's work, assumes the universality of guilt and explores the complexities and ambiguities of man's choices. It is marked by a depth of psychological and moral insight seldom equaled and never surpassed by any American writer.

  In this particular nove1, Hawthorne does not intend to tell a love story nor a story of sin, but focuses his attention on the moral, emotional, and psychological effects or consequences of the sin on the people in general and those main characters in particular, so as to show us the tension between society and individuals. " To Hawthorne, everybody is potentially a sinner, and great moral courage is therefore indispensable for the improvement of human nature, as is shown in the The Scarlet Letter.

  (c)The structure and the form of his writings are always carefully worked out to cater for the thematic concern. He was a skillful craftsman with an impressive sense of form. Hawthorne was also the master of a classic literary style that is remarkable for its directness, its clarity, its firmness and its sureness of idiom.

  (d) With his specia1 interest in the psychologica1 aspect of human beings, there isn't much action, or physical movement going on in his works and he is good at exploring the complexity of human psychology. So his drama is Thought, full of mental activities. Thought propels action and grows organically out of the interaction of the characters, as we can find in The Scarlet Letter.

  (e)Hawthorne is a master of symbolism, which he took from the Puritan tradition and bequeathed to American literature in a revivified form. The symbo1 can be found everywhere in his writing, and his masterpiece provides the most conclusive proof. The scarlet letter "A" is the central symbol of The Scarlet Letter, with which Hawthorne proves himself to be one of the best symbolists. As a key to the whole novel, the letter A takes on different layers of symbolic meanings as the plot develops. At the beginning of the novel Hester was discovered to have committed adultery and was punished to wear a scarlet letter "A" made of cloth at her bosom and the letter symbolized her sin-"adultery". Then when Hester became gradually accepted by the community through her honesty and hard work, it stands for Hester's intelligence and hard work-"able". At the end of the novel the symbol has evolved to represent the high virtues of Hester-"angelic". So the letter changes from a symbol of sin to a symbol of ability and at last of the high human virtue. By using Pearl as a thematic symbo1, Hawthorne emphasizes the consequence the sin of adultery has brought to the community and people living in that community.

  (f)The scarlet letter A is ambiguous. People come up with different interpretations and they do not know which one is definite. So, ambiguity is one of the salient characteristics of Hawthorne's art.

  2.Hawthorne's writing style

  As a man of literary craftsmanship, Hawthorne is extraordinary in that

  (1)The structure and the form of his writings are always carefully worked out to cater for the thematic concern.

  (2) With his specia1 interest in the psychologica1 aspect of human beings, there isn't much action, or physical movement going on in his works and he is good at exploring the complexity of human psychology. So his drama is Thought, full of mental activities. Thought propels action and grows organically out of the interaction of the characters, as we can find in The Scarlet Letter.

  (3) Hawthorne is also a great allegorist and almost every story can be read allegorically, as is the case in "Young Goodman Brown." A1legory is used to ho1d fast against the crushing blows of reality. Its hero, a naive young man who accepts both society in general and his fellow men as individuals worth his regard, is confronted with the vision of human evil in one terrible night, and becomes thereafter distrustful and doubtful. Allegorically, our protagonist, becomes an Everyman named Brown, a "young man" who will be aged in one night by an adventure that makes everyone in this world a fallen idol.

  (4)Hawthorne is a master of symbolism, which he took from the Puritan tradition and bequeathed to American literature in a revivified form. The symbol serves as a weapon to attack and penetrate reality. The symbo1 can be found everywhere in his writing.

  a) His masterpiece provides the most conclusive proof. The scarlet letter "A" is the central symbol of The Scarlet Letter. With which Hawthorne proves himself to be one of the best symbolists. As a key to the whole novel, the letter A takes on different layers of symbolic meanings as the plot develops. At the beginning of the novel Hester was discovered to have committed adultery and was punished to wear a scarlet letter "A" made of cloth at her bosom and the letter symbolized her sin-"adultery". Then when Hester became gradually accepted by the community through her honesty and hard work, it stands for Hester's intelligence and hard work-"able". At the end of the novel the symbol has evolved to represent the high virtues of Hester-"angelic". So the letter changes from a symbol of sin to a symbol of ability and at last of the high human virtue. By using Pearl as a thematic symbo1, Hawthorne emphasizes the consequence the sin of adultery has brought to the community and people living in that community.

  b) In "Young Goodman Brown", by using the black forest as a thematic symbol, Hawthirne emphasizes the consequences of sin on the community and people living in that community. The other symbols are the name of his wife "Faith", the pink ribbon of her cap, the black mass of cloud, the blazing pines, the rock, etc.

  With the use of allegory and symbolism, his fictional characters' actions and dilemmas fairly obviously express larger generalizations about the problems of human existence.

  (5) The scarlet letter A is ambiguous. People come up with different interpretations and they do not know which one is definite. So, ambiguity is one of the salient characteristics of Hawthorne's art.

  四。应用

  Selected Reading:

  Young Goodman Brown

  1.The story:

  Goodman Brown, a Puritan who lives in the village of Salem, leaves his wife Faith who pleads him not to go, to attend a witches' Sabbath in the woods. A satanic figure leads the credulous protagonist to a witches' Sabbath. There, he astonishingly finds lots of prominent people of the village and the church. When he is about to be confirmed into the group, he finds his wife Faith is also there beside him. He immediately cries out" look up to Heaven and resist the wicked one," only to find he is alone in the forest. He returns to his home, but since then lives a dismal and gloomy life because he is never able to believe in goodness or piety again.

  2.The theme, allegory, symbolism and language features of the selected reading

  (1)allegorical theme: "Young Goodman Brown" is one of Hawthorne's most profound tales. The story illustrates Hawthorne's allegorical theme of human evil. In the manner of its concern with guilt and evil, it exemplifies what Milville called the" power of blackness" in Hawthorne's work. In "Young Goodman Brown," he sets out to prove that everyone possesses some evil secret. "Evil is the nature of mankind." Its hero, a naive young man who accepts both society in general and his fellow men as individuals worth his regard, is confronted with the vision of human evil in one terrible night, and becomes thereafter distrustful and doubtful.

  (2)allegory:Hawthorne is a great allegorist and almost every story can be read allegorically, as is the case in "Young Goodman Brown." A1legory is used to ho1d fast against the crushing blows of reality. Its hero, a naive young man who accepts both society in general and his fellow men as individuals worth his regard, is confronted with the vision of human evil in one terrible night, and becomes thereafter distrustful and doubtful. Allegorically, our protagonist, becomes an Everyman named Brown, a "young man" who will be aged in one night by an adventure that makes everyone in this world a fallen idol.

  (3)ambivalence of Hawthorne's art :The story is manipulated in such a way that we as readers feel that Hawthorne poses the question of Good and Evil in man but withholds his answer, and he does not permit himself to determine whether the events of the night of trial are real or the mere figment of a dream.

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