The sin of pride and its consequences in Hawthorne's major romances

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1970

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Even a cursory reading of Nathaniel Hawthorne's tales and novels betrays his almost exclusive concern with sin and its consequences upon human beings. A closer analysis, however, reveals that his attention is primarily focused upon the sin of pride and that the consequences-damnation or salvation, in both the religious and ethical sense-depend upon recognition of this fundamental sin. Those of Hawthorne's characters who fail to achieve anagnorisis, or recognition, become narrow-minded and inflexible, isolating themselves completely from their fellow men. Such isolation from the sympathetic chain of humanity and rejection of the human condition is abnormal and self-destructive. For his own well-being and salvation, the individual must resume his proper place in the mainstream of life. The process of return for Hawthorne's alienated characters is always the same: recognition of pride, repentance, humble acceptance of man's dual nature, all of which are morally and psychologically redemptive. [...]

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