Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

In this story, Hawthorne’s main concern is with Reuben’s interior development. Interestingly, he provides little physical description of Reuben himself, or of anyone else in the story. Neither are Reuben’s farm or the settlement in which he lives presented in much detail. Only two elements of the story are described clearly: Reuben’s “interior landscape” and the landscape of the forest where Reuben and Malvin part.

As the story opens, sunbeams filter through the trees to awaken the two men. The narrator describes the setting clearly, both what it looks like and what it feels like. He focuses on the large piece of granite and on a “young and vigorous sapling” near the men. The granite will become Malvin’s symbolic gravestone, and the sapling will function symbolically in the story as a parallel to Reuben’s development.

The sapling stands over the two men as they argue about what Reuben should do. As he is finally leaving, Reuben stands atop the rock and ties one of his own bloody bandages to the highest branch of the sapling. This flag will not help rescuers find Malvin, for the spot is too well hidden. Reuben intends it only as a token of his pledge and promise.

Eighteen years later, when Reuben returns to the spot, the narrator again describes the setting in detail. The contrast is striking. Where the sunlight was “cheerful” before, the forest is unremittingly “dark and gloomy.” Is this the result of...

(The entire section is 406 words.)

Roger Malvin's Burial Bibliography

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Bell, Millicent, ed. Hawthorne and the Real: Bicentennial Essays. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 2005.

Bloom, Harold, ed. Hester Prynne. Philadelphia: Chelsea House, 2004.

Bunge, Nancy. Nathaniel Hawthorne: A Study of the Short Fiction. New York: Twayne, 1993.

Davis, Clark. Hawthorne’s Shyness: Ethics, Politics, and the Question of Engagement. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2005.

Mellow, James R. Nathaniel Hawthorne and His Times. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1980.

Miller, Edward Havilland. Salem Is My Dwelling Place: A Life of Nathaniel Hawthorne. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1991.

Millington, Richard H., ed. The Cambridge Companion to Nathaniel Hawthorne. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004.

Moore, Margaret B. The Salem World of Nathaniel Hawthorne. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1998.

Muirhead, Kimberly Free. Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter”: A Critical Resource Guide and Comprehensive Annotated Bibliography of Literary Criticism, 1950-2000. Lewiston, N.Y.: Edwin Mellen Press, 2004.

Newman, Lea Bertani Vozar. A Reader’s Guide to the Short Stories of Nathaniel Hawthorne. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1979.

Pennell, Melissa McFarland. Student Companion to Nathaniel Hawthorne. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1999.

Scharnhorst, Gary. The Critical Response to Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter.” New York: Greenwood Press, 1992.

Stoehr, Taylor. Hawthorne’s Mad Scientists. Hamden, Conn.: Archon Books, 1978.

Thompson, G. R. The Art of Authorial Presence: Hawthorne’s Provincial Tales. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1993.

Von Frank, Albert J., ed. Critical Essays on Hawthorne’s Short Stories. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1991.