Nathaniel Hawthorne: The Maypole of Merry Mount

Deal Me In 2019 – Week 25

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Had a wanderer, bewildered in the melancholy forest, heard their mirth, and stolen a half-affrighted glance, he might have fancied them the crew of Comus, some already transformed to brutes, some midway between man and beast, and the others rioting in the flow of tipsy jollity that foreran the change. But a band of Puritans, who watched the scene, invisible themselves, compared the masques to those devils and ruined souls with whom their superstition peopled the black wilderness.

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Maypole of Merry Mount” combines ancient story-telling with New World sensibilities which might describe much of Hawthorne’s work. This story has a sort of “Adam and Eve” feel with a twist.

Nathaniel Hawthorne

The Lord and Lady of May celebrate their wedding around the Maypole in Merry Mount where many such celebrations occur with costumes, fanfare, and laughter. Contrast this with the Puritans spying on them. The Puritan governor chastises them for their merry-making and encourages them out of the their “Eden”. It’s interesting to try to determine whether the Puritans stand in for Satan or for God in the “Adam and Eve” story.  I go with the former as the governor seems to use persuasion with the young couple instead of the force he uses with the rest of the colony. A persuasion similarly used by the serpent in Eden. The couple leaves Merry Mount along with the joy they knew there

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