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Excerpts from Claudia Durst Johnson lecture, "Work and Money in Hawthorne's Fiction"

Excerpts from Claudia Durst Johnson lecture, "Work and Money in Hawthorne's Fiction"

Despite the observation Claudia Johnson makes that “Qualifications, contradictions and disjunctions intimate that Hawthorne has not been completely successful in idealizing the commercial, work ethic of his day, that he often seemed to favor,” she also presents us with an idea of how the world might look to Hawthorne if his idea of virtue were ever to truly take hold. There is in Hawthorne a vision of harmony growing from humility that attracts him even as he may understand that it is impossible in real life.
"Hawthorne's tales consistently affirm a divinely ordained socioeconomic scheme in which individuals submit themselves to the whole social unit, whether it be the family or the village. The individual and society are somehow soothed, quieted, when all within it are acting in accord with the doctrine of secular calling. One might say that chaos is kept at bay. In one impossible idyllic moment, when people are busy in their proper vocations, they can simulate a world where work is not a curse, but a blessing, a world in which the mundane and the heavenly are united and given meaning. Hawthorne's street scenes, comprised of villagers at their various callings, would, on the surface, seem to be images of the harmony and activity to be found in a system of commercial exchange. A good example can be found in 'Sights From a Steeple,' where the village wharf is alive with sailors, clerks, and merchants of all types. Of the town, the Paul Pry narrator writes, 'How various are the situations of the people covered by the roofs beneath me, and how diversified are the events at this moment befalling them!' (46). Similar scenes occur in 'Little Annie's Ramble,' 'The Procession of Life,' 'Ethan Brand,' 'Main Street,' 'The Village Uncle,' 'The Seven Vagabonds,' and other tales. Here citizens bring together their varied talents for a common cause. In 'The Haunted Mind,' 'Peter Goldthwaite's Treasure,' and the romance, The House of the Seven Gables, communal landscapes are sometimes correctives for egocentricity and isolation as, for example, when old Peter Goldthwaite, having been closed up in his house for days, suddenly opens a window onto the street: 'It is one great advantage of a gregarious mode of life, that each person rectifies his mind by other minds, and squares his conduct to that of his neighbours, so as seldom to be lost in eccentricity.'"

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