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Excerpt from "The Snow Image"

Excerpt from "The Snow Image"

After the father's insistence on bringing the living snow image into the presence of the fiery stove, which has melted her to nothing, Hawthorne "moralizes" upon the event and suggests that judgments, even those made with the best intentions, need to be made carefully as an "element of good to one may prove absolute mischief to another." This idea is consistent with Hawthorne's skepticism of those who, like Young Goodman Brown, operate out of a judgmental certainty and with his own reluctance to adopt any doctrinaire postures in his private life. It is helpful to compare this passage with Hawthorne's comments on abolitionists in "The Hall of Fantasy."

This, you will observe, was one of those rare cases, which yet will occasionally happen, where common-sense finds itself at fault. The remarkable story of the snow-image, though to that sagacious class of people to whom good Mr. Lindsey belongs it may seem but a childish affair is, nevertheless, capable of being moralized in various methods, greatly for their edification. One of its lessons, for instance, might be, that it behooves men, and especially men of benevolence, to consider well what they are about, and, before acting on their philanthropic purposes, to be quite sure that they comprehend the nature and all the relations of the business in hand. What has been established as an element of good to one being may prove absolute mischief to another; even as the warmth of the parlor was proper enough for children of flesh and blood, like Violet and Peony, -- though by no means very wholesome, even for them, but involved nothing short of annihilation to the unfortunate snow-image.

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