A Different Perspective Essay

1342 words - 6 pages

When you assert that “The Gentle Boy” by Nathaniel Hawthorne is a “heart-wrenching story that presents an eloquent, sympathetic portrait of Quakers as they confront Puritan persecution in Colonial New England,” you are summarizing the story in an inaccurate manner. Although it may be true that within the short story there exists a sectarian tension between the religions, Catharine, the Quaker, is not idealized as a victim and Dorothy, the Puritan, is not portrayed as a persecutor. In actuality, Catharine is a wild, overzealous, and unpredictable woman who neglects her responsibilities as a mother. Dorothy, whom you would typecast as a narrow-minded Puritan persecutor, is an ideal mother, a ...view middle of the document...

Later on, once Dorothy has solidified her role as a mother in the life of Ilbrahim, takes him to house of worship. Hawthorne describes the kind dynamic that Dorothy creates with her husband and explains how they “set forth, each holding a hand of little Ilbrahim, like two parents linked together by the infant of their love. On their path through the leafless woods, they were overtaken by many person of their acquaintance, all of whom avoided them”(116). Hawthorne paints an almost “gauntlet” scene here as Dorothy and Tobias disregard the disapproving and hateful prejudice that other Puritans have against the Quaker boy. As they guide him to their own house of worship, they hold his hands and ensure that he is loved, something that Catharine did not provide her son. Hawthorne delineates Dorothy as the flawless and ideal mother when he describes “Her mild but saddened features, and neat, matronly attire, harmonized together, and were like a verse of fireside poetry. Her very aspect proved that she was blameless so far as could be in so, in respect to God and man”(122). In his kind and compassionate description, Hawthorne associates Dorothy with a multitude of attractive motherly traits, all of which Catharine lacks. Dorothy portrays a inviting and appealing scene, and Hawthorne uses “fireside poetry” to convey the low-key and mellow manner in which Dorothy directs her life. Dorothy is presented as a “matronly” figure whose essence and attire harmonize flawlessly, and she remains so innocent and pure, as to even be labeled as “blameless.”
Catharine, a devout Quaker and mother of Ilbrahim, vehemently conveys her passion and devotion to her religion throughout the story. She showcases her commitment when she delivers her venting rant in the church to the townspeople. Hawthorne explains how her language slowly contorted and describes her characteristics in a demeaning manner and illustrates how “She was naturally a woman of mighty passions, and hatred and revenge now wrapped themselves in the garb of piety; the character of her speech was changed, her images became distinct through wild, and her denunciations had an almost hellish bitterness”(119). Initially Hawthorne characterizes Catharine’s passionate side as a positive attribute, as she was naturally a woman of might passions” however, however he explains that now this animation is “wrapped in a garb of piety” and is simply harnessed to intensify her “hatred and revenge.” Catharine’s faith, instead of guiding her to keep her composure, simply provokes malign behavior. Hawthorne exudes the underlying wild side of Catharine and and targets the manner in which Catharine changes, which is almost a satanic, monster-like transformation that Catharine sustains, mentioning how her “speech changes,” her “images” become “distinct” and “wild,” and finally how she portrayed a “hellish bitterness” in her speech. Also, Hawthorne further contrasts both mothers in his uses of fire to describe both mothers, he...

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