In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s writings, he always has a point or lesson to be learned. He either opens a new doorway to see life differently, or he inspires the reader with a feeling of pride. Although he was not a stern, religious man, he shows the reader how to live a joyful, wholesome, and prideful life. In Hawthorne’s “The Maypole of Merry Mount”, he shows the reader how to balance between work and play; moreover, in “The Gray Companion”, he teaches the importance of taking pride in a country and community.
In Hawthorne’s “The Maypole of Merry Mount”, he tells the reader there is a way to incorporate fun with the responsibilities of adult life. The Maypole of Merry Mount is an unrealistic world, which the free-spirited people live. Hawthorne shows that this world cannot last forever. The lesson Hawthorne coveys is life is too easy if fun is all that exists. Life is about hardships and tribulations that all human beings must learn to work through. Hawthorne addresses this issue in the middle and end of the story. In the middle of the story, Hawthorne shows that nothing perfect can last forever when Edgar tells Edith, “‘Oh, Edith, this is our golden time! Tarnish it not by any pensive shadow of the mind; for it may be, that nothing of futurity will be brighter than the mere remembrance of what is now passing’” (175). In today’s world nothing too perfect can last forever remains relevant. Marriage between two people is a strong feeling of harmony and perfection; however, the couple will soon be tested of this love when life’s hardships begin to arrive. This is when true love is truly tested. Hawthorne creates a parallel to emphasize that nothing to joyful can last forever when Endicott, and his followers come through and ruin all the fun. Hawthorne shows how society can balance the time to play with the time to work when Endicott allows the married couple to remain in their society without punishment. He tells the married couple that the hardships they will come across will be their punishment. It seems like today, the hardest age for all human beings is the ages between twenty and thirty. Hawthorne’s theme of fun versus work is seen today when this age group battles between when the fun should stop in order to focus on the responsibilities society sets for adults. Merry Mount represents fun; however, Endicott represents life’s responsibilities. Hawthorne supports the joyful moments of life, but he uses Endicott to show the realistic facts of life. This is evident when Hawthorne writes, “As the moral gloom of the world overpowers all systematic gaiety, even so was their home of wild mirth made desolate amid the sad forest. They returned to it no more. But, as their flowery garland was wreathed of the brightest roses that had grown there, so, in the tie that united them, were intertwined all the purest and best of the early joys. They went heavenward, supporting each other along the difficult path which was their lot to tread, and never wasted one regretful thought on the vanities of Merry Mount” (183-84). While Hawthorne shows the balance between fun and responsibilities in “The Maypole of Merry Mount”, he also shows how one nation can come together in order to gain freedom and pride for New England.
In Hawthorne’s “The Gray Companion”, he shows how patriotism can help a community come together. Hawthorne’s main character, the gray companion, represents New England patriotism and their will to fight for freedom. In the beginning of the story, the New England people feared the English army. However, when the gray companion arrives, he takes a stand by himself against Sir Edmund Andros. When he stood up for the people, the rest of the community followed him and drove out England. The old man gave the people a since of pride, which gave them the power to rise above and stand for what they believed in. Hawthorne expresses this patriotism when he writes, “The people had been drawing nearer and nearer, and drinking the words of their companion, who spoke in accents long disguised, like the one unaccustomed to converse, except with the dead of many years ago. But his voice stirred their souls. They confronted the soldiers, not wholly without arms, and ready to convert the very stones of the street into deadly weapons.” (131). Today, Americans still have the same pride, and they come together as one, when the country is in danger. When someone or something jeopardizes this country’s freedom, the gray companion continues to bring patriotism back into the land. This is evident during the time of the 9/11 Attack. Because of the people’s pride in this land, they were able to come together to make the nation whole again. Hawthorne’s message stood out in the final paragraph in this story when he writes, “… he stood on the green, beside the meeting house, at Lexington, where now the obelisk of granite, with a slab of slate inlaid, commemorates the first fallen at the revolution. And when the fathers were toiling at the breast-work on Bunker’s Hill, all through the night, the old warrior walked his rounds” (132).
Life is not all about good times and joyful ceremonies, but it is not all chaos either. Hawthorne expresses this in both of his stories. Each tale is about a union of people, which work together in order to live in harmony. In “The Maypole of Merry Mount”, he shows the balance between fun and work. In “The Gray Companion” Hawthorne shows the reader life is about dilemmas that people sometimes can only face as a group. When the problems are resolved then we can enjoy the freedom to be happy. There are plenty of joys in life but to truly appreciate the joys, people must experience the hardships that life gives.
text copyright © 2006 by Jessica Brunelle