The Marble Faun (Oxford World's Classics)

The Marble Faun - Nathaniel Hawthorne, Susan Manning I loved Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter and The House of Seven Gables; I thought both had brilliant characters and writing. In the case of Hester Prynne of The Scarlet Letter, I loved her strength and abiding compassion. And in The House of Seven Gables I loved the old maid Hepzibah and her cousin Phoebe. I got through Blithedale Romance and found the character Zenobia fascinating at first, although disappointing in the end. I even got through Fanshawe, a none-too-good first novel Hawthorne disowned. But Fanshawe was little more than a hundred pages, and the other two novels two hundred odd pages--The Marble Faun is 402 pages, and by page 150, I was feeling it was going on forever. Mind you, I rather loved Miriam--rather rare to have a strong female Jewish character in 19th Century fiction. Perhaps Hawthorne took a page from Sir Walter Scott's Rebecca in Ivanhoe? For that matter it was refreshing to see two women artists who were living--and making a living--independently. But then Hawthorne rather reversed that strong depiction of women with passages like this: Hilda’s faculty of genuine admiration is one of the rarest to be found in human nature; and let us try to recompense her in kind by admiring her generous self-surrender, and her brave, humble magnanimity in choosing to be the handmaid of those old magicians, instead of a minor enchantress within a circle of her own. The handmaid of Raphael, whom she loved with a virgin’s love! Would it have been worth Hilda’s while to relinquish this office for the sake of giving the world a picture or two which it would call original; pretty fancies of snow and moonlight; the counterpart in picture of so many feminine achievements in literature! Riiight. That's how we should describe Hawthorne's distaff contemporaries Mary Shelley, Jane Austen, Louisa May Alcott, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Charlotte, Emily and Anne Bronte, Elizabeth Gaskell and George Eliot--as writers of pretty fancies of snow and moonlight who'd have done better to be handmaidens to their better halves. I heard that song before with Zenobia. And many of the descriptions of Rome and of the art is lovely--but what does it say that I found such digressions more interesting than the main narrative so transparently about a modern retelling of the Fall of Adam. And if how Hawthorne depicts Jews is commendable for his time, how he portrays Catholics is just abominable--even if understandable for his time. And worst of all is the "marble faun" of the story, Donatello. If ever a metaphor was overdone... So, yeah, count me as not a fan of this.