What Was He Thinking?
What would you think of a man who left his family, moved over to the next street to watch their lives unfold, and then returned after twenty years as if nothing had happened? What could drive a man to such bizarre behavior? These are the issues that Nathaniel Hawthorne deals with in the story of Mr. Wakefield. The very idea that a man could possibly do such a thing makes the audience want to understand his intentions. It is hard for a modern audience to make sense of such a story because television shows and movies have made today’s society focus so much on easily apparent themes or morals. Hawthorne used this story to examine society’s motivations. In his short story “Wakefield,” it is necessary that Hawthorne uses the narrator as a tool to shed light on Mr. Wakefield’s motives as well as to emphasize the story’s theme, that an individual can only appreciate and understand his life by looking in on it from the outside.
In Hawthorne’s “Wakefield” the narrator’s thoughts and comments bring insight into the motivations of the character of the story. The story includes a long introduction in which the narrator, Hawthorne, describes how he heard the curious story of Mr. Wakefield. Hawthorne supplies his audience with a condensed version of the entire plot of the story. With this introduction, Hawthorne has already informed the audience of the story’s intriguing plot and this intensifies the audience’s desire to find out Mr. Wakefield’s motivations because they cannot comprehend why he would do such a thing. The audience will try to make sense of Mr. Wakefield’s actions, but they will not find a logical explanation. The story may seem unreal but the reader must take the story as it is and focus on the charact...
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..., would argue that Hawthorne was showing his modernism by writing about the strange habits of human nature. Others, such as Morsberger would argue that the story of Wakefield simply mirrors many of Hawthorne’s other works. I do not disagree with either viewpoint, but I feel that Hawthorne simply wanted to create an intriguing story that dealt with people’s motivations. I would argue that he wrote this story to examine a side of human nature that is often forgotten or intentionally left out of a large portion of literature. Hawthorne is able to place the reader within the mind of Mr. Wakefield through his unique approach to story-telling. The result is a fascinating look into the mind of a very interesting character. Hawthorne has done such a wonderful job of luring in the reader that it takes only a few minutes to read “Wakefield,” but you will never forget it.
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