July 1st, 2021

T.Byron K. 2013

Notes on Hawthorne & Dialectics

"The perennial Hawthornian antagonism between sickly desire and imperious guilt is critical in (his stories)", notes Fredrick Crews in the introduction to The Great Short Works of Hawthorne. We need to consider Hawthorne's peers, the predominant literary modes of thought included Emersonian transcendentalism, which established a direct link between the actions of the divine and man and Blakean dialectics which involves the concordance between good and evil, an existence of light and dark or prolific and devouring forces in a necessary co-relation- a sort of yin yang proposistion regarding the way the Universe operates. Certainly Hawthorn'e writing was influenced by these areas of literary concern. Yet it is the preoccupation with personal revelation and trial-the paradox of a sinfulness that we actually desire, that make Hawthorne's work so impressive. Loss of faith, the fall through myriad levels of sin, the continued struggle between the redemptive light and an all encompassing darkness-these are the areas that Hawthorne considered deeply through his writing. We must also briefly notice the connection between the later Surrealist movement in France, which used dreams as a foundation for poetry and stark prose and the dream scape that Hawthorne creates in Young Goodman Brown and other stories such as Ethan Brand and The Minister's Black Veil. Was the story a dream? The lines between reality and dreaming are mixed and blurred. The reality principle is challenged. Our existence is seen in terms of the dream realm. The imagined, vision,  is given credibility over the usual rationalistic logic that only accepts the earthly, tangible, temporal side of thinking. I think of what Socrates said about the dream state which was that we must exist in the dream realm and in our waking state of consciousness; therefore neither one is more valid.
September 1995
Revised
7/1/2021