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Mosses from an Old Manse and other stories Kindle Edition
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Some may argue that an incomplete version of a book deserves one star. I felt, however, that giving a low rating to this book because it does not include all the stories might be construed as a negative judgment on Hawthorne's work. In addition, one must keep in mind that reviews often appear under different editions of a particular book. I decided to subtract one star to indicate that the work is incomplete, and after that to focus on what *is* included, as opposed to what is missing. My point, in short: what you get in this book is excellent, even if you should be aware that there are some texts missing. Another thing to be aware of is the misleading title: _Mosses from an Old Manse and Other Stories_. Hawthorne never wrote a story titled "Mosses from an Old Manse." That is simply the title of the collection, which begins with a descriptive/poetic preface titled simply "The Old Manse," a text that is ironically not included in this free version. A more accurate title, then, would be _Selections from Mosses from an Old Manse_.
What is included here? Hawthorne's fiction can be divided roughly into two groups: tales and sketches. The vast majority of the texts included here are tales, by which I mean that they tend to focus on plot. Most of what is missing in this version of the book are the sketches, that is, texts in which plot is not the main element and which tend to be descriptive in nature. I will comment briefly on the texts included:
* The Birth-Mark: A scientist wants to remove a birthmark from his wife's cheek. This often-anthologized tale deals with the (male) obsession with (female) purity, especially in relation to physical appearance.
* Young Goodman Brown: A young man meets one of literature's oldest characters in the woods. The conversation that ensues teaches the young man some things about the apparently virtuous community he belongs to. Hawthorne's most famous and most studied tale.
* Rappaccini's Daughter: This longer tale, a novella, concerns a student who meets a lovely young woman in a scientist's garden in Italy. There are echoes here of the story of the Garden of Eden. An interesting take of the traditional love story.
* Mrs. Bullfrog: A satire on marriage and the motives that people have for marrying. A great example of Hawthorne's humorous style.
* The Celestial Railroad: A satire that adapts John Bunyan's _The Pilgrim's Progress_ to Hawthorne's time, so that people make their pilgrimage by railroad. Also an example of Hawthorne's humor, this text is more of a sketch.
* The Procession of Life: A meditation, or sermon, on the road towards eternity. The style is reminiscent of the transcendentalists, especially of Emerson. Like "The Celestial Railroad," it may be catalogued as a sketch, as there is no plot to speak of.
* Feathertop: Subtitled "A Moralized Legend," this tale was not included in the original edition of _Mosses_, but was added to the second edition. In it, a witch gives life to a scarecrow and sends him out into society. The story challenges the real/fake dichotomy.
* Egotism; or, The Bosom-Serpent: The terrifying story of a man who is convinced that there is a snake living in his chest. Connecting with others is offered as a way to leave the prison of one's ego.
* Drowne's Wooden Image: An artist creates a beautiful wooden figurehead for a captain. One day, the captain is seen walking around the town with a foreign-looking lady that is the spitting image of the figurehead. Has the work of art come to life? One of my personal favorites from the collection, because of the way it approaches the fantastic.
* Roger Malvin's Burial: A man leaves behind his wounded father-in-law, at the latter's request. He marries his fiancée, has a son, and goes on with his life, but he cannot stop feeling guilty. An unforgettable meditation on how the past is ever present, a theme that Faulkner would develop extensively.
* The Artist of the Beautiful: An artist creates a mechanic butterfly. His artistic/spiritual temperament is contrasted to his rival's practical/material nature, as both are attracted to the same young woman.
What is missing? The preface (titled "The Old Manse") plus 14 texts, all of which I would label as sketches, not tales. So, if narrative and plot (as opposed to description and meditation) are your preference, this incomplete version of the book will satisfy you. If you enjoy the two sketches included here, you may want to explore the missing pieces. One word about the sketches, though: while most of us tend to prefer plot because it's what we're used to, Hawthorne's more descriptive and poetic pieces are beautiful and moving. They may be an acquired taste, but I recommend giving them a try.
To me, this incomplete version of _Mosses_ served as a sample of Hawthorne's stories. Does it include the best of _Mosses_? For the most part, yes, though as soon as I was done reading it, I looked for the complete version of Hawthorne's collection, and was glad that I did. To keep things in perspective, let me repeat that this version is free. Even if it is incomplete, no money is wasted, and one is getting some of the greatest pieces in _Mosses_, and at least three of Hawthorne's most famous short stories.
Hawthorne published three collections of short stories for adults (plus two for children). The other two collections for adults, _Twice-Told Tales_ (1837) and _The Snow-Image, and Other Twice-Told Tales_ (1852), are also available for free, but be advised: the former is complete, while the latter is not.
My next book by Hawthorne will be either _Twice-Told Tales_ or _The House of the Seven Gables_.
Thanks for reading, and enjoy the book!
The stories include: The Birthmark, Young Goodman Brown, Rappaccini Daughter, Mrs. Bullfrog, The Celestial Railroad, The Procession of Life Feathertop, and others. All are good and unusual.
In The Birthmark, for example, a scientist decides to remove a birthmark from the face of his beautiful wife, a mark that he used to think added to her beauty, but now disgusts him. His wife also begins to dislike the mark. In Young Goodman, to cite another example, a man living in Salem during the days of the witch trials there meets the devil.