Tag Archives: Nathaniel Hawthorne

A House in the Uplands by Erskine Caldwell

a-house-in-the-uplandsMr. Caldwell certainly did not disappoint with A House in the Uplands and manages to reveal humanity in even a rather brutish and self-indulgent man.

The Dunbar family has been on the decline and their Georgia plantation has dwindled from 5,000 to a mere 200 acres.  Trying to maintain their once highly held social status has taken its toll and the Dunbar’s eldest male, Grady, chooses to ignore reality in a haze of alcohol, gambling and women.

Lucyanne, newly married to Grady is slowly opening her eyes to the reality of her wedded misery.  Her love for her husband has prevented her from heeding the many warning signs of what will come, but she eventually tries to escape her circumstance.  A rather wishy-washy and indecisive woman, she is not the most sympathetic of characters.

Mama Elsie, Grady’s overbearing mother is every bride’s worst nightmare.  She believes her son can do no wrong and that he was “tricked” into marriage by a less than suitable woman.  Her own marriage entrapment is revealed when she lets down her guard for a brief moment only to release her wrath, once again, upon her daughter-in-law.

The last of the Dunbar family men, Grady has fallen far and fallen hard and finds himself at an impasse.  A desperate attempt to remedy the situation has dire consequences, but at last reveals the man beneath the veil.

What a delight it would be to spend any time with Mr. Caldwell, although his temperament might require making that time a tad limited.  I’d hope to quickly discover his writing habits and perhaps bow out gracefully, pack up all his books and hit the road on an all Caldwell road trip to Georgia.

Quotes:

They did feel it, yet neither spoke of it; for often between ourselves and those nearest and dearest to us there exists a reserve which it is very hard to overcome.  

Simple, sincere people seldom speak much of their piety; it shows itself in acts, rather than in words, and has more influence than homilies or protestations.

Seldom, except in books, do the dying utter memorable words, see visions, or depart with beautified countenances; and those who have sped many parting souls know, that to most the end comes as naturally and simply as sleep.  

My rating for A House in the Uplands is a 10 out of 10.

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Next up, Philip Roth’s American Pastoralamerican-pastoral

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The House of the Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne

the-house-of-the-seven-gablesHawthorne manages to weave a tale flawlessly with nary a snarl to be found.  While it took me a bit to read through its pages, it was well worth it.

Several generation of the Pyncheon family’s dirty laundry is aired and it is far from sparkly clean.  An ill gained land ownership becomes the family’s curse and The House of the Seven Gables eventually reveals its history as it deteriorates from its original splendor.

The falsely accused Matthew Maule curses Colonel Pyncheon from the gallows where he has been found guilty of wizardry.  The land then taken from his family will serve as the foundation for the seven gabled house and will curse the Pyncheon’s family for generations.

Hepzibah Pyncheon lives in the crumbling home, alone and destitute and is forced to open a little shop in order to provide basic necessities for herself.  Her scowl does little for business, but her niece’s arrival manages to keep customers returning.

The mysterious boarder in the Pyncheon home, Mr. Holgrave is a daguerreotypist who is able to capture the true essence of his subjects, both the good and the evil.

Sunshine is brought into the Pyncheon home with the arrival of Phoebe Pyncheon.  Her presence sets in motion the unraveling and eventual rebuilding of the Pyncheon clan.

Clifford Pyncheon, brother to Hepzibah is a man broken and child like.  We slowly learn that the evil Judge Jaffrey Pyncheon stood silent when Clifford was falsely accused of killing his uncle.

Quotes:

In this republican country, amid the fluctuating waves of our social life, somebody is always at the drowning-point.  The tragedy is enacted with as continual a repetition as that of a popular drama on a holiday; and, nevertheless, is felt as deeply, perhaps, as when an hereditary noble sinks below his order.  

Miss Hepzibah Pyncheon sat in the oaken elbow-chair, with her hands over her face, giving way to that heavy down-sinking of the heart which most persons have experienced, when the image of hope itself seems ponderously moulded of lead, on the eve of an enterprise at once doubtful and momentous.  

I find nothing so singular in life, as that everything appears to lose it s substance, the instant one actually grapples with it.  

For, what other dungeon is so dark as one’s own heart!  What jailer so inexorable as ones’ self!  

It is a truth (and it would be a very sad one, but for the higher hopes which is suggests) that no great mistake, whether acted or endured, in our mortal sphere, is ever really set right.  

My rating for The House of the Seven Gables is a 9 out of 10.

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Next up, Erskine Caldwell’s A House in the Uplandsa-house-in-the-uplands

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The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

The Scarlet LetterRecollections of this well-known tale took me back to my junior high school days where I was fortunate to have a most excellent teacher whose inspiration remains with me today.

So a married gal in 1600’s Puritan Boston has a dalliance with an unnamed man and becomes pregnant.  She is imprisoned and emerges with her child with the scarlet letter “A” emblazoned upon her breast to face the townspeople.  She refuses to name her suitor and goes off to live in an abandoned cottage on the outskirts of town.

Hester Prynne, she who wears the scarlet letter, leads a selfless life, wearing drab gray dresses and covering her long hair beneath a cap.  She earns her way as a seamstress in order to provide for her daughter.  She has little communication with anyone aside from her sewing work and remains humble, living  reclusively.  I’d like to shake Hester by the shoulders and tell her she’s paid for her “crime” and then some.

The evil Roger Chillingworth seeks vengeance for being wronged, but does so under cover.  His name is not truly his own and he takes on the role of physician caring for a weak and sickly local reverend.  His true identity is known by only one and revealing it would be disastrous so the secret remains.  This guy gave me the willies.

Hester’s daughter, Pearl has great spirit and unlike her mother, boldly faces the stares and questions of the townsfolk with forthrightness.  Her uninhibited behavior unnerves her mother, yet does not deter her from her impulsiveness.  I wanted to run barefoot through the forest with this little imp.

I think perhaps a stroll deep in the woods would feel most apt with Mr. Hawthorne.  After some time in the outdoors, we could move indoors and I’d make every great effort to uncover this reclusive man’s writing methods.

My rating for The Scarlet Letter is a 7 out of 10.

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Next up, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein…Frankenstein

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