What is the summary of "The Ambitious Guest" by Nathaniel Hawthorne?

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thetall eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Ambitious guest is a story about a young traveler who stops for the night and spends some time with a family that lived next to a mountain. As he gets talking with the family, he expresses his wishes to leave a mark on the world before he dies. The sound of rock falls startles the young man but he is reassured by the father of the family. The father informs him that they have a safe place in the event of a major rock fall. In their conversation the father expresses his humble wishes which are different from the more ambitious wishes of his guest. While in this state of calm, a major avalanche occurs and throws everyone into panic. They all run outside towards the safe place but all the family members including the young traveler meet their demise. The house is left undamaged and people who arrive at the scene disagree about the presence of the young traveler. In a fateful turn of events the young man’s wish of a grand legacy, his plans and dreams are utterly lost.

Woe for the high-souled youth, with his dream of Earthly Immortality! His name and person utterly unknown; his history, his way of life, his plans, a mystery never to be solved, his death and his existence equally a doubt! Whose was the agony of that death moment?

lhc eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This story begins cozily enough, with a family gathered around a fire, harsh winter weather raging outside, and the vibe of possible danger, as their cottage is perched below a mountain down which stones frequently slide, startling everyone.  A traveler coming through the area is keeping company with them, and the family, content enough on the outside, begins to reveal bits of pieces of discontent in their individual lives.  When the dangerous sounds of a landslide can be heard, the family and their guest rush outside to avoid the danger, but ironically enough running right into the danger, while their cottage remains intact. 

brandih eNotes educator| Certified Educator

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