Reposing in “Wakefield”
On the criticism of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s essays and short stories Edgar Alan Poe notes from an artistic view that Hawthorne predominantly leads with a main view of an entire story then “styles it repose“(Poe). This reposing prevails both literally and figuratively in “Wakefield” to give the summary of the story context and to present the theme of gaining a peace of mind. Hawthorne develops the reader’s tranquility and quietness as they interpret his story, packed with subdued voice and gentle diction. In this short story, Hawthorne begins with a paragraph summary of an absented man named Wakefield, exemplifying the key points and themes of the tale, alike to how Poe recollected. Immediately following, the author flips his ardent tone by remarking on the purpose of this story to a witness, “If the reader choose, let him do his own meditation..”(396). Hawthorne encourages the reader to identify with the main character and follow his meditative journey through solemn reading. Continuing, he describes the character as “never violent, sobered into a calm, habitual sentiment.”(396), which in Poe’s eyes could quite positively be a reflection of Hawthorne himself. Poe describes him as “restrained…by constitutional melancholy and indolence”(Poe), hinting that Nathaniel Hawthorne‘s work is the product of idleness. This theme of reposing is prevalent with Mrs. Wakefield as well as she imagines her husband as frozen and pale in his solitary coffin, or as his blessed spirit in Heaven “wear(ing) a quiet and crafty smile”(397) This short passage of the story exemplifies Poe’s mentioned repose figuratively as Wakefield’s wife can see him laid to rest in a literal and spiritual sense.
On the other hand, Hawthorne’s tale counterattacks Poe’s argument with a theme of Wakefield’s perseverance after too much idling “No– I will not sleep alone another night”(398), referring to the lack of matrimonial companion. His determination goes against Poe’s repose thesis and creates quite the opposite thesis that Hawthorne develops themes of perseverance, rather than indolence. The comparison of both texts written by Poe and Hawthorne demonstrate their relationship and critique of work.
To read more about the relations between dark romantics Edgar Alan Poe and Nathaniel Hawthorne see the link below:
- The Scarlet Letter Reflection
- Source Evaluation #1: PBS