Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy Birthday, America (and Nathaniel Hawthorne)

   Happy 4th of July to everyone! I hope y'all are eating hot dogs and potato chips and watching a spectacular fireworks show. I (unfortunately) will be working late tonight, so no fireworks for me. Oh well.

   As you reflect upon the birth of our nation, you may also reflect upon the birth of one of America's most celebrated writers, Nathaniel Hawthorne, who would be 207 years old if he were alive today.  while I can appreciate and respect Mr. Hawthorne, I must admit, I am not a huge fan.  I read The Scarlet Letter in high school , but did not enjoy it as much as I probably should have.  Maybe this is because the book's symbolism was discussed beyond recognition, which is always a turn-off.

   However, I did find his family's involvement in the Salem witch trials interesting (one of his ancestors was a judge at the trials) and I did enjoy one of his short stories, The Minister's Black Veil.  It's about a Puritan minister, Mr. Hooper, who one day gives his congregation a sermon while wearing a black veil over his face.  The veil is meant to symbolize sins and the way they can never be hidden by God, but Mr. Hooper wears it his entire life, and this is unnerving and sobering for the townspeople.  His obsession with sin eventually causes him to lose his fiance,  and he lives much of the rest of his life in isolation.  Written during a very religiously conservative time in American history, The Minister's Black Veil serves as a very bold commentary on those who succumb to obsession, even if it is in the name of God.

   Anyway, so there's a little piece of American literary history for you!  And what better way to celebrate our country than with adultery and obsession? If you're interested in reading the story, it is included in most anthologies of his work, including the Norton Critical Edition.

   I hope you all have a safe and happy 4th of July! :)