The Conscience in Roger Malvin's Burial by Nathaniel Hawthorne Essay

The Conscience in Roger Malvin's Burial by Nathaniel Hawthorne Essay

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The Conscience in Roger Malvin's Burial by Nathaniel Hawthorne


Nathaniel Hawthorne creates an intricate and amazing dialog within the short story "Roger Malvin's Burial". Reuben Bourne and Roger Malvin, presented with a particular dilemma, are forced to battle each other, as might two lawyers in a courtroom. Here however, the two sides are not against each other, moreover their verbal war rages on in pursuit of what would be best for all others involved. Reuben ignorantly fears that he will choose his best course of action out of selfishness. That being an ignorant fear because Reuben has no other choice but to act out of selfishness. His conscience, not understanding this and failing to grasp that what he did was not wrong, ultimately leads to more death than just that of Roger Malvin.
With Reuben seriously wounded, Roger spends all night awake, in pain and realizing his own wound will prove to be fatal. He no doubt contemplates the wisest plan of action throughout the night, and thus tells Reuben when the boy wakes, "This rock, beneath which we sit, will serve for an old hunter's grave-stone. …The Indian bullet was deadlier than I thought." And thus the verbal chess game began.
The argument is a noble one. Both combatants wish to do right by the other, and while Reuben insist that he does not want to act out of selfishness, Roger persist that the honorable course is to do as a man must sometimes, and take the bad over the worse. To leave Roger Malvin alone to die in the woods is bad, all can agree on that. But the crux of the argument lies in what happens if Roger Malvin is not left alone to die. -He still dies, and Rueben dies, and Dorcas is left without her father or eventual husband. Roger understa...


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...oresight to see just how much Reuben's conscience would smother and kill everything around it? Clearly, Reuben has fallen very short of his potential, and for that reason, he may well have been better off had he stayed with Roger. Roger tried to give Reuben the gift of life, yet Reuben made that gesture a mute point by living his life while only thinking about death.
And when the story comes to its dismal close, Reuben ultimately discovers that Roger Malvin did not die alone in those woods. Reuben is there with him; if not his body, then all the rest of him, all that matters…his conscience always debating, his mind always wondering, his heart always broken, his love always tainted, his honor and self respect forever blemished (more-so in the fact that no one ever knew). And ultimately, even Reuben Bourne's only son lies dead under that "noble tomb-stone".

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