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)

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