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Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short story “Ethan Brand” is what I thought my Edith Wharton story choices would be. It’s rather scary. Last year, I read his story “Feathertop” and thought it was very similar to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. “Ethan Brand” reminds me of Washington Irving. It’s a combination of “Rip Van Winkle” and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”.
Ethan Brand returns to the village of Graylock after a twenty year absence in which he conducts a spiritually sinister quest. His quest is legend among the townspeople and his return peaks everyone’s interest. The majority of the story is set at a lime-kiln in the middle of a dark night. A few of the locals inquire as to the result of Ethan’s search – did he find his answers?
After reading the story, the subtitle, “A Chapter From an Abortive Romance”, gives me chills but I couldn’t help but laugh a little. It reminded me of Jack Nicholson as The Joker in the Batman movie from the late 80’s when he asks “Did you ever dance with the devil in the pale moon light”?
As the morning takes over the darkness, the reader and the villagers of Graylock discover a grizzly ending.
Hawthorne almost teaches a lesson here; however, he settles for telling a good story.