Posted in Short Stories

Nathaniel Hawthorne: Egotism, or, The Bosom Serpent

Deal Me In 2020 – Week 42

…at his bosom, he felt the sickening motion of a thing alive, and the gnawing of that restless fang which seemed to gratify at once a physical appetite and a fiendish spite.

Nathaniel Hawthorne is a master at scary stories and “Egotism, or, The Bosom Serpent” shows off that mastery. Of the stories that Hawthorne wrote that might fall into the category of horror, I think this would be at the top of the list.

Roderick Elliston roams the dark streets of his village accusing people of their wrongdoing and suddenly they feel fangs biting into their chest. Elliston himself, though, has what the story could consider the greatest wrongdoing and as a result, he doesn’t just feel the bite but has the slithery beast as a part of him.

Hawthorne’s imagery of slithery scales, green eyes, sharp fangs more than makes up for the fact that in typical early 19th century fashion, he ends the story with a moral about Elliston’s misdeeds as a result of jealousy. A true horror genre might just keep to the scary mood and monsters but don’t rule this story out just because Hawthorne makes it sort of metaphorical.

This story is included in The Celestial Railroad and Other Stories by Nathaniel Hawthorne. I read it when I selected the Queen of Hearts for Week 42 of my Deal Me In 2020 short story project. Check out my Deal Me In 2020 list here. Deal Me In is hosted by Jay at Bibliophilopolis.

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