By Eugene Hudson Long, R. G. Collmer
Covers a various diversity of pursuits in American literature.
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Additional resources for American bypaths: essays in honor of E. Hudson Long
Other stories share something with Hawthorne's account of Johnson's penance at Uttoxeter, although not to the same degree as those already discussed. In "The White Old Maid" a young woman kills the man she loves because he loves her sister instead. The proud sister, the unacknowledged murderer, begs forgiveness but is told, " 'Go, and live many years, and then return, and tell me of thy life. He, too, will be here! Then, if thou tellest of sufferings more than death, we will both forgive thee' " (IX, 371).
Only when, as an old man himself, expressing his "deep repentance and humiliation of heart'' by standing at noon-day on ''the very spot" (significantly "near the corner of the ivy-mantled church") where his father's bookstall had been, is he able to be forgiven (VI, 248). The themes of pride, guilt, and expiation are reinforced by the framing story. Edward, who is confined to a darkened chamber because of bandaged eyes, has become despotic in his demands that everybody contribute to his comfort and amusement.
He regretted, deeply and bitterly, the moral cowardice that had restrained his words, when he was about to disclose the truth to Dorcas; but pride, the fear of losing her affection, the dread of universal scorn, forbade him to rectify this falsehood. [X, 34849] Even though his common sense tells him that there was nothing he could have done about Roger, the "concealment had imparted to a justifiable act, much of the secret effect of guilt" and it becomes "like a serpent, gnawing into his heart" (X, 349, 350).