Posted in Short Stories

Nathaniel Hawthorne: Roger Malvin’s Burial

Deal Me In 2020 – Week 43

The vow that the wounded youth had made, the blighted man had come to redeem. His sin was expiated – the curse was gone from him; and in the hour when he had shed blood dearer to him than his own, a prayer, the first for years, went up to Heaven from the lips of Reuben Bourne.

I’ve come to the end of my Nathaniel Hawthorne stories (at least the ones in the collection I have – I don’t think its complete) with “Roger Malvin’s Burial”. I’ve been looking forward to this one for a while but the Deal Me In fates decided to wait until the end.

The plot is fairly simple but what gives it an edge is the conversation and depth of feeling the story begins with and continues on until the end. While Reuben Bourne is racked by guilt for not doing right by his future father-in-law, Roger Malvin, and burying him after a bloody battle, I had to feel a little sympathy for him as his father-in-law encouraged him to leave him so that they wouldn’t both die. In fact the conversation between Reuben and Roger could be the entire story and I would still consider it great.

Reuben marries the daughter of his comrade but doesn’t tell her that he didn’t pay his final respects to her father. Reuben’s guilt turns him into a difficult man unable to live in their community to the point that they leave. After years of remorse, circumstances allow Reuben to gain redemption – but not after a great price has been paid.

If you are looking for great stories about sacrifice and redemption, look no further than this one.

This story is included in The Celestial Railroad and Other Stories by Nathaniel Hawthorne. I read it when I selected the Six of Clubs for Week 43 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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