The Marble Faun (Oxford World's Classics)

The Marble Faun (Oxford World's Classics) - Nathaniel Hawthorne, Susan Manning [These notes were made in 1983:]. I found this a very pleasant read, and with more substance than I anticipated from a preliminary brush through the first chapters. It was written in Italy, and abounds in that luxurious description of old artworks and older buildings which seems to overtake so many visitors to that country. In Hawthorne's case, it's done well, and linked in to the themes of the story. The old preoccupations - the effect of hidden sin - are all there, as the method of suggesting without actually giving us something supernatural (cf. the red A). The characters are far from realistic, tho' they are equally far from types. They are somehow abstracted - not a single quality personified (tho' Hilda comes close to being Purity) - but a number of qualities lumped together under a single name. The effect is curiously successful in places. Miriam's Dark Past is much insisted upon, and left unnecessarily dark (as tho' a mystery writer had no solution to his own mystery), but there's no doubt the atmosphere of brooding evil is well evoked; like its opposite, indeed, that mindless, sensual animal joy which Hawthorne links to pastoral Greece and prelapsarian Eden. (The coming of knowledge is a Fall indeed - Donatello pushes his enemy over a precipice!) The charm is somehow elusive, but it certainly exists.