Nathaniel Hawthorne, excerpt from Earths Holocaust
Nathaniel Hawthornes Earths Holocaust, an allegorical tale first published in Grahams Ladys and Gentlemans Magazine in March 1844, exposes how men and women look outside themselves for change and hence neglect the primary need to purge the heart. In the story, people gather to burn an accumulation of worn–out trumpery—all instruments of war, all printed literature (including Bibles), money and evidence of private property, and a vast variety of material goods—in an effort to rid the world of everything evil. Once the narrator realizes that anything with truth or value that has been thrown into the fire will survive—only what is evil can feel the action of the fire—he concludes, Surely the conflagration has been of inestimable utility. And yet this theory turns out not to be the case; the people do not realize that the evil in the world is of their own creation.
Excerpt from Earths Holocaust
Poh, poh, my good fellows! said a dark–complexioned personage, who now joined the group—his complexion was indeed fearfully dark; and his eyes glowed with a redder light than that of the bonfire—Be not so cast down, my dear friends; you shall see good days yet. There is one thing that these wiseacres have forgotten to throw into the fire, and without which all the rest of the conflagration is just nothing at all—yes; though they had burnt the earth itself to a cinder!
And what may that be? eagerly demanded the Last Murderer.
What, but the human heart itself! said the dark–visaged stranger, with a portentous grin. And, unless they hit upon some method of purifying that foul cavern, forth from it will re–issue all the shapes of wrong and misery—the same old shapes, or worse ones—which they have taken such a vast deal of trouble to consume to ashes. I have stood by, this live–long night, and laughed in my sleeve at the whole business. Oh, take my word for it, it will be the old world yet!
This brief conversation supplied me with a theme for lengthened thought. How sad a truth—if true it were—that Mans age–long endeavor for perfection had served only to render him the mockery of the Evil Principle, from the fatal circumstance of an error at the very root of the matter! The Heart—the Heart—there was the little, yet boundless sphere, wherein existed the original wrong, of which the crime and misery of this outward world were merely types. Purify that inner sphere; and the many shapes of evil that haunt the outward, and which now seem almost our only realities, will turn to shadowy phantoms, and vanish of their own accord. But, if we go no deeper than the Intellect, and strive, with merely that feeble instrument, to discern and rectify what is wrong, our whole accomplishment will be a dream; so unsubstantial, that it matters little whether the bonfire, which I have so faithfully described, were what we choose to call a real event, and a flame that would scorch the finger—or only a phosphoric radiance, and a parable of my own brain!
Credit: Excerpt from Earths Holocaust by Nathaniel Hawthorne, from Moses from an Old Manse, Volume X of the Centenary Edition of the Works of Nathaniel Hawthorne. Copyright 1974 by the Ohio State University Press. Reprinted by permission of the Ohio State University Press.
Responding to Nathaniel Hawthorne, excerpt from Earths Holocaust
Answer the following questions in your notebook—this will be collated so that you can print or e–mail your work when you are finished.
2. Goodman Brown speculates that, with the basin of water (or blood), the devil will dip his hand and prepare to lay the mark of baptism upon their foreheads, that they might be partakers of the mystery of sin, more conscious of the secret guilt of others, both in deed and thought, than they could now be of their own. The narrator continues: The husband cast one look at his pale wife, and Faith at him. What polluted wretches would the next glance show them to each other, shuddering alike at what they disclosed and what they saw! It is at this very moment that Brown commands his wife to look up to heaven, and resist the wicked one, and the scene ends. What do you think scares Brown more—his own sin or that of others? Why? Does he really escape being a polluted wretch, shuddering at the sin committed by others and himself? Why or why not?