Bradford Vs. Hawthorne


In the epigraph to his 1832 short story, “The May-Pole of Merry Mount,” Nathaniel Hawthorne             characterizes his fictional retelling of the Puritan raid on Merry Mount colony “a philosophic romance” (p. 678). On first glance, we might see in this phrase somewhat of a contradiction in terms, inasmuch as the discourse of philosophy (i.e. rationality/truth) is often opposed to realm of the romantic              (imagination/fiction). However, Hawthorne likely used this phrase to signal to his readers that his.         fictionalization of a real historical event was intended to ask his audience deep, thought-provoking    questions about America’s colonial past, the legacy of puritanism, and the forgotten impact of Merry Mount’s destruction. In some ways, Hawthorne’s use of fiction here as  “philosophic romance” is akin to the modern genre of science fiction, insofar as both use literary fiction to ask philosophical             questions about humanity and the future. 

Given this, I want you to use this first week’s discussion forum to think about why, precisely,               Hawthorne might have interested in this historical event, the raid on and destruction of Merry Mount Colony, which is chronicled in William Bradford memoir, Of Plymouth Plantation. What historical          significance does Hawthorne seem to place on this event? Does he sympathize with the Merry Mount colonists in ways that Bradford did not? What crucial changes does he make to the historical account that Bradford relays? How might these changes be important? Finally, consider the ambiguity of the.  story’s conclusion. Do you read the story’s last paragraph as a happy optimistic ending or rather one signaling the negative historical impact Puritan culture had on American culture more broadly (i.e. “as  the moral gloom of the world overpowers all systematic gaiety,” p. 685)? 

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