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The Main Ideas in the "Roger Malvin's Burial" by Nathaniel Hawthorne

In his quick story, “Roger Malvin’s Burial,” Nathaniel Hawthorne explores such fundamental themes as excellent, evil , sin, family members, pride, and penance. Nevertheless ,from the onset he warns us, “my tale is not of love”(Hawthorne 25). This is rather a tale of the depths of the human psyche and an explication upon the horrors of a tortured soul. Hawthorne makes use of the afflicted heart of Reuben Bourne as a medium to promulgate on the consequences of not following one’s personal conscience. For from his story we can surmise, as he makes it really apparent, that the retribution for not following one’s innate sense of right and incorrect is serious and to be suffered intensely. In addition, it is a sin that have to be expiated.

To begin to realize Hawthorne’s message, it is essential to examine his primary car, and main character, Reuben Bourne. Bourne is introduced to the reader as a lighthearted youth on the brink of becoming “born” into manhood. On his way residence from battle his genuine journey starts. What initially seems to be slightly ironic about this section is Hawthorne’s description of the surroundings, “The early sunbeams hovered cheerfully upon the tree tops”(18). This appears unexpected here because he goes on to describe the wounded nature of the soldiers. Nevertheless, this is a reflection of the moral state of Bourne, which at present is innocent and pure. As the story progresses Bourne, against his much better judgment, leaves Malvin to die alone in the forest. Here we obtain some additional insight into Bourne’s character. We know that he has a sweetheart at home, Malivn’s daughter, and we can see that intrinsically he desires to do what is proper by Malvin, “I will dig a grave here by the rock, in which is my weakness overcome me we will rest together”(18). In spite of this, he lets Malvin convince him that it would be far more affordable for him to leave. “Tarry not, for a folly like this, but hasten away, if not for your own sake , for hers who will else be desolate”(20). Here is exactly where Bourne’s internal strife is conceived, the moment he lets his intellectual reasoning over take his inherent sense of what is right. This is over come by his ” desire of existence and hope of happiness…”(22).

As he leaves the forest, it begins to represent isolation and despair. Here, isolation from oneself, despair at the death of Malvil. Hawthorne also continues his climate metaphor, “On the second day the clouds gathering densely over the sky, precluded the possibility if regulating his course by the position of the sun”(23). This is merely the beginning of a series of references to light and dark representing excellent and evil that will gauge for the reader the moral temperature of Bourne.

Upon reaching residence Bourne exacerbates his guilty sentiments by avoiding the truth of what happened to Roger Malvin. He does this out of “pride, fear of losing her (Dorcus, his enjoy), affection, the dread of universal scorn forbade him to rectify this falsehood”(25). This fear of isolation is paradoxical since by evading it he in the end creates it. The remorse he felt for leaving Malvin, even though justifiable, was the impetus for this concealment, which brought on him to suffer “the mental horrors which punish the perpetrator of an undiscovered crime”(25). After again Hawthorne employs light, which is manifested very good, as some thing unbearable to contrast the sinfulness of Bourne’s soul, “…tottering from his sick chamber to breathe the sunny air, skilled from each and every tongue the miserable and humiliating torture of unmerited praise”(25).

As Reuben continues his life he is an unhappy man consumed by his shame “he was finally a ruined man” (26). He now has a son, Cyrus, is it apparent from annotation in the text that this name is an allusion to the biblical Cyrus who would save Israel, although Reuben is an allusion to the biblical Joseph’s brother who left him to die though his heart told him to do otherwise (26). Cyrus also appears to embody all that was virtuous in Reuben, “whatever was great and happy in his personal nature had been transferred to his child..”(26). As soon as once more in the month of May possibly, eighteen years soon after Malvin’s death, a month of spring, of rebirth, and of new life, Reuben returns to the forest. The tremendous gravity of this encounter is foreshadowed by his intentions, “He was to throw sunlight into some deep recesses of the forest”(26). Reuben’s sunlight has faded, any great he had can now be found in his child. Once once again he returns to the place of isolation, which this time is not only representative of the isolation with himself but with his loved ones and with his neighborhood. This time the symbolism of death is not only relevant to Roger Malvin, but to Cyrus as well.

The pine that had been cheerful the initial May possibly are now described repeatedly as “gloomy” (28, 29), serving as a reminder of Reuben’s internal strife and how he has changed in these eighteen years past. The climax of the story happens when Malvin is “unable to penetrate the secret spot of his soul exactly where his motives lay hidden,” right here “he believed that a supernatural voice named him onward and that a supernatural power had obstructed his retreat”(29). Faced with cause versus intuition he chooses the latter, and in carrying out so, tends to make the irreparable error that will ultimately expiate his sin. He unwittingly sacrifices his only son, much in a biblical style, and through this he is redeemed. This is also apparent in the sapling, which Reuben stained with his blood years prior and is now grown powerful, even though like Reuben is dead at the top. By returning his innocence in the type of his son to the forest, and dying, as he was probably intended to do all these years ago, he has been saved.

Hawthorne utilizes a assortment of references, symbols, and tips to convey his message that the retribution for not following one’s innate sense of right and wrong is extreme and to be suffered intensely. By way of the development of the primary character, Reuben Bourne, Hawthorne tends to make apparent the harrowing impacts of going against the core of one’s being, the conscience. The torment of the human psyche is only the beginning of the sorrow. The value of peace, he shows us, is not a simple 1 to pay.

Performs Cited

Hawthorne, Nathaniel. “Roger Malvin’s Burial.” Ed. James McIntosh. Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Tales. Ontario: Norton, 1987.17-32
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