The Slippery Slope: An Analysis Of "Roger Malvin's Burial" By Nathaniel Hawthorne

1233 words - 5 pages

Nathaniel Hawthorne is one of the truly great American authors who understands exactly what goes on in the human mind. In "Roger Malvin's burial", Hawthorne composes a story where a simple broken promise leads to many moral repercussions and, eventually, climaxes at its redemption. The author touches on many psychological aspects of the victim's conscience which bring him to insanity. And the moral aspects as one lie leads to another to cover the initial one until the main character loses sight of what is right anymore. Hawthorne believes that all the answers for the character lies inside of himself, by composing this short story Hawthorne emphasizes what can go wrong, within a person's mind. In "Roger Malvin's Burial", Nathaniel Hawthorne illustrates the slippery slope of forsaking a promise by showing that lies lead to guilt, guilt breeds madness, and that madness evokes murder.Nathaniel Hawthorne demonstrates, through Reuben, that a simple broken promise can lead to a major burden upon the victim. However at the cause of Reuben's guilt there is an oath, an oath which is revealed early in the story, that as Reuben bound the bloody handkerchief "to the tree, he vowed, by the blood that stained it, that he would return, either to save his companion's life, or to lay his body in the grave" (600). It is this promise which causes the pain and misery in his life. But at this point in the story Reuben is still determined to rescue his companion. But later, as he lay in the hospital, Reuben feels "it impossible to acknowledge, that his selfish love of life had hurried him away, before [Dorcas'] father's fate was decided" (603). It is at this point that Reuben's fate is decided. It is this selfish act which starts Reuben down the slippery slope which only has one destination. And even though he knows deep down that he was wrong to lie about Roger's death, he still keeps his secret because of his "pride, the fear of losing [Dorcas'] affection, the dread of universal scorn, forbade him to rectify this falsehood" (603). When Reuben refuses to admit the truth, he starts to feel the build up of guilt which will ultimately lead up to an even greater burden. Hawthorne believes that pride is evil, and he employs this to show the reader that Reuben's pride is what leads him down a road which he can never turn back.In addition to Nathaniel Hawthorne illustrating the slippery slope of forsaking a promise by showing that lying leads to guilt, he also shows the slippery slope of forsaking a promise by demonstrating that guilt breeds madness. Not too soon after, Reuben then tries to lie to himself in order to cover up the massive guilt that has been passed on to him, but "concealment had imparted to a justifiable act, much of the secret effect of guilt; and Reuben, while reason told him that he had done right, experiencing in no small degree, the mental horrors, which punish the perpetrator of undiscovered crime" (603). Legally, Reuben has done nothing wrong, yet...

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