John Erskine in Leading American Novelists says that “Roger Malvin’s Burial” is “the most powerful story, morally, of the Mosses from an Old Manse” (236). And what makes it so powerful? A very vital woman character by the name of Dorcas is key to the narrative-producing decision by Reuben to leave Roger to die alone. Dorcas is also key to the guilt preserved within the main character, Reuben, which leads to his growing into an irritable personality. Likewise she is key to the strong familial bond of love which is broken asunder by Reuben’s accidental killing of Cyrus, thus effecting a spiritual transformation or redemption of the protagonist.
Q. D. Leavis in “Hawthorne as Poet” asserts that in his tales “the un-Puritan virtue of tolerance” was “one of Hawthorne’s main positives” (32). Does Hawthorne exhibit an attitude of tolerance toward women in his tale, “Roger Malvin’s Burial”? She is free to leave her husband when his fortunes are declining, but, out of love for him and Cyrus, she remains and sees the transformation of Reuben. Alfred Kazin in the Introduction to Selected Short Stories of Nathaniel Hawthorne comments regarding the central idea in the author’s short stories: “In story after story the given element, the central and unifying element, is what moves and stirs within us, the mysterious springs of our every action, our “soul”(Kazin 14). The secret to understanding the role and concept of women in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s tale, “Roger Malvin’s Burial,” lies in the reader’s appreciation of Kazin’s statement above. The woman Dorcas, who sets a shining example for the reader, is virtuous in so many ways. Another literary critic, in “Hawthorne’s Use of...
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...Introduction. Selected Short Stories of Nathaniel Hawthorne. New York: Fawcett Premier, 1966.
Leavis, Q.D. “Hawthorne as Poet.” In Hawthorne – A Collection of Critical Essays, edited by A.N. Kaul. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1966.
McPherson, Hugo. “Hawthorne’s Use of Mythology.” In Readings on Nathaniel Hawthorne, edited by Clarice Swisher. San Diego, CA: Greenhaven Press, 1996.
Stewart, Randall. “Hawthorne’s Female Characters.” In Readings on Nathaniel Hawthorne, edited by Clarice Swisher. San Diego, CA: Greenhaven Press, 1996.
Swisher, Clarice. “Nathaniel Hawthorne: a Biography.” In Readings on Nathaniel Hawthorne, edited by Clarice Swisher. San Diego, CA: Greenhaven Press, 1996.
Williams, Stanley T. “Hawthorne’s Puritan Mind.” In Readings on Nathaniel Hawthorne, edited by Clarice Swisher. San Diego, CA: Greenhaven Press, 1996.
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