In Nathaniel Hawthorne's novel Wakefield, what sort of man is Wakefield? 

In Nathaniel Hawthorne's novel Wakefield, what sort of man is Wakefield?

 

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amarang9 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Hawthorne (the narrator) attempts to answer this question in the story. He says that Wakefield was not violent and that he had a tendency of inertia. That is, he "was likely to be the most constant, because a certain sluggishness would keep his heart at rest, wherever it might be placed." He was intellectual but used his mind for "lazy musings." And his thoughts "were seldom so energetic as to seize hold of words." So, he was a nonviolent, lazy, boring man in the middle of his life. Given that he tends to be lazy and unmotivated, this makes it strange for him to decided to leave the comfort, familiarity, and repetitive nature of his family and daily life. 

So, why did he interrupt his lazy routine to try something new? His wife had noted a "quiet selfishness" in him. She also noted a "strangeness." A lazy, selfish man decides to leave home in order to see how his wife will get along without him. The narrator adds that there is a kind of vanity to this. "A morbid vanity, therefore, lies nearest the bottom of the affair." In other words, although Wakefield seems to leave on a whim, he does want to see how his absence has affected his wife. One might pity Wakefield as he (Wakefield) realizes how the world gets along fine without him. But his absence does take a toll on his wife. And his selfish project of self-banishment should be criticized for this. His experiment is selfish. Watching his wife learn to deal with his absence does not affect him enough to return. He seems to lack sympathy and a genuine concern for his wife and others. 

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Wakefield

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