In Nathaniel Hawthorne's The May-Pole of Merry Mount, how does the quotation, "They went heavenward, supporting each other along the difficult path which it was their lot to tread...", fit within...

In Nathaniel Hawthorne's The May-Pole of Merry Mount, how does the quotation, "They went heavenward, supporting each other along the difficult path which it was their lot to tread...", fit within the work/importance to the text and what is the larger significance of Hawthorne's composition? Be specific if at all possible, Thank you!

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In Hawthorne's allegorical story, New England is composed of two groups of settlers, the residents of Mary Mount and the Puritans. In this new land, "[J]ollity and gloom were contending for an empire." The narrator describes the merry-makers as "Gothic monsters" dressed as various animals and accompanied by a real bear. They are all gathered around their Maypole for the wedding of "two of the airiest forms." But, as the bride and groom face each other in their love, Edgar notices a sadness in the eyes of his beloved bride. She explains that she fears that the presence of their friends is only visionary because their mirth is unreal. 

No sooner had their hearts glowed with real passion than they were sensible of something vague and unsubstantial in their former pleasures, and felt a dreary presentiment of inevitable change. From the moment that they truly loved, they had subjected themselves to earth's doom of care and sorrow, and troubled joy, and had no more a home at Merry Mount. 

Edgar and Edith realize in their genuine love for one another that the happiness of their friends is visionary; mirth is not happiness. With this new awareness, Edgar and Edith can no longer live with the people, many of whom wear foolscaps, for they have perceived the masques cover "erring thought" and "perverted Wisdom" and can no longer be happy living in Merry Mount. So, their love makes them aware of the “doom of care and sorrow" which they must bear in order to attain happiness since happiness can only be measured by how much one has known sorrow.

When the Puritans and their gloom arrive, the young couple know that they must accompany this group and share sorrow in order to truly know happiness: 

They went heavenward, supporting each other along the difficult path which it was their lot to tread, and never wasted one regretful thought on the vanities of Merry Mount.

To know happiness, one must have first known tribulation since both are in the nature of man. It is mere vanity to think that life can be lived authentically otherwise.

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