Sunday, 30 August 2015

The Hollow of the Three Hills - Nathaniel Hawthorne. Self Discovery

Question: Discuss ways in which the story explores self discovery.

In 'The Hollow of the Three Hills', Hawthorne presents a "lady, graceful of form and fair of feature", "yet smitten with an untimely blight", meeting an old women in a setting that is not only mysterious, but through Hawthorne's placement of it in "strange old times", as supernatural and foreboding as well. Hence, it is this plot that revolves about this lady's decent into the Hollow to gain knowledge of the repercussions of her actions and that explores self-discovery.

Hawthorne's gradual change in description of the old women to "withered hag" and eventually "evil witch", strengthens the idea of the Hollow as a place of evil and death. The use of lore as the Hollow as "once a resort as a Power of Evil" and the physical setting of "masses of decaying wood" allow Hawthorne to highlight the lady's willingness to go to any lengths to find out what she desires to know. It should be pointed out that the ideas or knowledge she seeks is not necessarily that of furthering herself -self discovery, but rather that of knowledge pertaining to her loved ones. Consequently, it is the revelation of that knowledge in the form of visions that reveal a striking amount of the lady to the reader and indeed to the younger lady herself, thus through revisiting her actions and their repercussions,  the lady discovers something about herself.

 Additionally, Hawthorne presents the discovery in groups of threes and in three visions the lady learns of the repercussions of her sinfulness. The sin of "betraying the trusting fondness of her husband", her sins against her parents and ultimately, "leaving her child to die", are presented as visions after which the lady wishes to continue until she glimpses the fate of her child.

Throughout, Hawthorne foreshadows death, and the "doling of death bells" and "the funeral procession" of the lady's child prove to be the knowledge she dreads - for after the last vision, the lady "lifted not her head". Therefore, Hawthorne ambiguously crafts the revelation of this knowledge and her subsequent apparent death to indicate that either the knowledge itself, the burden of letting her child die, killed her or that the price to pay for attaining the knowledge through an evil and esoteric right is death.

Either way, Hawthorne presents a journey or a series of revelations of repercussions and subsequent self discovery overpowering the lady and the severity of the enlightenment contributing if not causing her death.

Example Essay: Rough mark (solid B)

Click here for an approach commenting on Suspense

The Hollow of the Three Hills - Nathaniel Hawthorne. Suspense

Essay Question: Comment on the ways Hawthorne develops suspense in The Hollow of the Three Hills.

Nathaniel Hawthorne's 'The Hollow of the Three Hills' develops suspense in the very opening line as the "strange old times" introduces the unknown. This unknown is strengthened by Hawthorne's introduction of the concept of reality and fantasy merging into one, a setting in which "madmen's reveries" were "amongst the actual circumstances of life"; Hawthorne's use of a world of the abnormal, or rather, the supernatural is thus built. This combination of setting in time and the need for the story to be completed in "one hour" create anticipation; the time running out therefore builds suspense.

Furthermore, the use of a "decaying" and desolate setting contributes to the mystery: as "no mortal could observe them" in this place. Hawthorne creates an ominous mood through the use of negative metaphors and images referring to death. "Brown grass" and a hollow devoid of growth not only contribute to this mood but foreshadow events to come. Therefore, the dark and desolate mood not only accentuate the mystery but through the foreshadowing of the setting itself, its significance creates suspense.

This significance is strengthened by the placement of the hollow between "three hills" and thus Hawthorne develops a symbolic pattern to liken the hollow to being bellow the Holy Trinity, Heaven. This association of religion is brought about by the supernatural nature of the events unfolding, the references to an ethereal and almost otherworldly setting. The combination of Heaven and the "Power of Evil" that is felt in the hollow indicate a place between heaven and hell: a place of judgement - a purgatory of sorts. The symbolic significance of the hollow as a place of judgement of sin creates an anticipation and thus suspense as a feeling of impending judgement is strengthened.

The very style in 'The Hollow of the Three Hills' develops a sense of confusion and a feeling of being overwhelmed. Hawthorne's dense and impeccably crafted short story present various metaphors in every line, with symbolic patterns that interweave, developing a story that overwhelms just as the lady is overwhelmed.

The presence of sounds associated to visions and these associated apparitions fading into the wind of the hollow create confusion -  brought about by the suggestive nature of the associations that thus continue an ephemeral feel. The antithesis of these sounds in close position to each other strengthens the state of confusion. Hawthorne effectively juxtaposes many images and sounds to extend this feeling of confusion and thus the very style of writing therefore develops suspense through the same confusion felt by both the character and the reader.

Example Essay: rough mark (B)

Click here for an approach on  Self Discovery and Death