Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)


*Rome. Italy’s capital city, in which the novel’s opening and closing chapters are set. These chapters feature extensive descriptions of the tourist attractions prominent during Nathaniel Hawthorne’s 1858-1859 sojourn in Florence and Rome. As the center of both Western Christendom and an older pagan civilization, the locale helps to fuse together two of the major cultural elements of the novel. Roman history is deeply layered and provides the symbolic background against which to place the two Americans, who come from a New World culture that is thinner and less confident than that of Rome, but also one that is less encumbered by time and therefore freer of intellectual and emotional constraints.

*Capitol sculpture gallery

*Capitol sculpture gallery. Roman museum in which the novel opens with the two Americans and their two Italian friends exploring the collected art treasures. Among their discoveries is a marble faun that is believed to have been sculpted by the ancient Greek Praxiteles. The friends decide that the faun bears a striking resemblance to Donatello. With its ancient associations, the faun becomes the central symbol for the novel, one through which Hawthorne develops his clash of cultures and conflict among his characters.

*Roman catacombs

*Roman catacombs. Subterranean Roman burial and worship center of the early Christians that Miriam visits with her friends. There she encounters a mysterious figure who follows her throughout the early pages of the story. Symbolically, this figure suggests that she is dogged by her past, one...

(The entire section is 668 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Carton, Evan. The Marble Faun: Hawthorne’s Transformations. Boston: Twayne, 1992. Discusses biographical details that relate to The Marble Faun, indicates the importance of the admittedly flawed novel, and surveys the major literature that deals with the novel.

Herbert, T. Walter, Jr. “The Erotics of Purity: The Marble Faun and the Victorian Construction of Sexuality.” Representations 33 (Fall, 1991): 114-132. Reasons that purity is sometimes not admirable, as when Hilda arouses but frustrates Kenyon, is shocked by Miriam’s sensuality, and ignores the representative human being who is stained by knowledge.

Idol, John L. “‘A Linked Circle of Three’ Plus One: Nonverbal Communication in The Marble Faun.” Studies in the Novel 23 (April, 1991): 139-151. Analyzes the interactions among Hawthorne’s characters through body movements, facial expressions, and maintaining of physical distance. The author’s examples include Hilda’s avoidance of Miriam’s embrace, Miriam’s ocular order to Donatello to commit murder, and Kenyon’s sculpting Donatello’s sin-altered face.

Liebman, Sheldon W. “The Design of The Marble Faun.” New England Quarterly 40 (March, 1967): 61-78. Dismisses the conclusion of previous critics that the structural principle of The Marble Faun is the human “fall” and transformations. Describes the structural principle as residing in the carved sarcophagus, which is symbolic of everybody’s “dance, pilgrimage, and corpse.”

Stern, Milton R. Contexts for Hawthorne: “The Marble Faun” and the Politics of Openness and Closure in American Literature. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1991. Analyzes Hawthorne’s pull toward closure (as seen in his classical conservativism, preference for past and present, and aesthetic control and unity) and his push toward openness (as reflected by his romanticism, revolutionary tendencies, repudiation of the past, and preference for future expansionism).