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The Celestial Railroad and Other Stories

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Overview

"The daydreams which edge toward nightmare; toward our desire to be pursued, cast out, demolished, damned" is how R.P. Blackmur describes the "mode" of the eighteen stories in the Signet Classic collection. By means of weird yet inescapably convincing fables Hawthorne explores the corroding desires of superior men and women. Thwarted in their pursuit of perfection, endeavoring to escape the reality of their existence, they fall prey to a sudden lust for the ideal and are unwittingly compelled to commit evils in the name of pride. Of the author's
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The Celestial Railroad and Other Stories

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Overview

"The daydreams which edge toward nightmare; toward our desire to be pursued, cast out, demolished, damned" is how R.P. Blackmur describes the "mode" of the eighteen stories in the Signet Classic collection. By means of weird yet inescapably convincing fables Hawthorne explores the corroding desires of superior men and women. Thwarted in their pursuit of perfection, endeavoring to escape the reality of their existence, they fall prey to a sudden lust for the ideal and are unwittingly compelled to commit evils in the name of pride. Of the author's insights into the Puritan's simultaneous need for fulfillment and self-destruction D. H. Lawrence wrote "That blue-eyed darling Nathaniel knew disagreeable disguise." Hawthorn's contemporary, Edgar Allan Poe, said of his writing that "Every word tells, and there is not a word which does not tell."
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What People Are Saying

From the Publisher
“He is an aesthetic solitary. His beautiful, light imagination is the wing that on the autumn evening just brushes the dusky window.”—Henry James
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780451504012
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 3/1/1968
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Product dimensions: 7.00 (w) x 5.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Nathaniel Hawthorne was born on July 4, 1804, in Salem, Massachusetts, the son and grandson of proud New England seafarers. He lived in genteel poverty with his widowed mother and two young sisters in a house filled with Puritan ideals and family pride in a prosperous past. His boyhood was, in most respects, pleasant and normal. In 1825 he was graduated from Bowdoin College, Brunswick, Maine, and he returned to Salem determined to become a writer of short stories. For the next twelve years he was plagued with unhappiness and self-doubts as he struggled to master his craft. He finally secured some small measure of success with the publication of his Twice-Told Tales (1837). His marriage to Sophia Peabody in 1842 was a happy one. The Scarlet Letter (1850), which brought him immediate recognition, was followed by The House of the Seven Gables (1851). After serving four years as the American Consul in Liverpool, England, he traveled in Italy; he returned home to Massachusetts in 1860. Depressed, weary of writing, and failing in health, he died on May 19, 1864, at Plymouth, New Hampshire.

Ross C. Murfin, professor of English at and former provost of Southern Methodist University, has also taught at the University of Virginia, Yale University, and the University of Miami, where he was Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.  He is the author of such books as Swinburne, Hardy, Lawrence and the Burden of Belief and The Poetry of D. H. Lawrence: Texts and Contexts.  He is coauthor, with Supryia Ray, of The Bedford Glossary of Critical and Literary Terms (second edition) and series editor of Bedford/St. Martin's popular Case Studies in Contemporary Criticism.

Biography

Nathaniel Hathorne, Jr., was born into an established New England puritan family on Independence Day, 1804, in Salem, Massachusetts. After the sudden death of his father, he and his mother and sisters moved in with his mother's family in Salem. Nathaniel's early education was informal; he was home-schooled by tutors until he enrolled in Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine.

Uninterested in conventional professions such as law, medicine, or the ministry, Nathaniel chose instead to rely "for support upon my pen." After graduation, he returned to his hometown, wrote short stories and sketches, and chanced the spelling of his surname to "Hawthorne." Hawthorne's coterie consisted of transcendentalist thinkers, including Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. Although he did not subscribe entirely to the group's philosophy, he lived for six months at Brook Farm, a cooperative living community the transcendentalists established in West Roxbury, Massachusetts.

On July 9, 1942, Hawthorne married a follower of Emerson, Sophia Peabody, with whom he had a daughter, Una, and a son, Julian. The couple purchased a mansion in Concord, Massachusetts, that previously had been occupied by author Louisa May Alcott. Frequently in financial difficulty, Hawthorne worked at the custom houses in Salem and Boston to support his family and his writing. His peaceful life was interrupted when his college friend, Franklin Pierce, now president of the United States, appointed him U.S. consul at Liverpool, England, where he served for four years.

The publication of The Scarlet Letter in 1850 changed the way society viewed Puritanism. Considered his masterpiece, the novel focuses on Hawthorne's recurrent themes of sin, guilt, and punishment. Some critics have attributed his sense of guilt to his ancestors' connection with the persecution of Quakers in seventeenth-century New England and their prominent role in the Salem witchcraft trials in the 1690s.

On May 19, 1864, Hawthorne died in Plymouth, New Hampshire, leaving behind several unfinished novels that were published posthumously. He is buried at Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord, Massachusetts.

Author biography from the Barnes & Noble Classics edition of The Scarlet Letter.

Good To Know

Hawthorne's birth name was actually Nathaniel Hathorne. It's rumored that he added a "w" to avoid being associated with his Puritan grandfather, Judge Hathorne -- who presided over the Salem Witch Trials.

Among Hawthorne's peers at Maine's Bowdoin College: author Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Franklin Pierce, who would later become the country's 14th president.

In its first week of publication, The Scarlet Letter sold 4,000 copies.

Hawthorne died on May 19, 1864, at the Pemigewasset House in Plymouth, New Hampshire. Ironically, former president Franklin Pierce had advised him to go there for his health.

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    1. Date of Birth:
      July 4, 1804
    2. Place of Birth:
      Salem, Massachusetts
    1. Date of Death:
      May 19, 1864
    2. Place of Death:
      Plymouth, New Hampshire
    1. Education:
      Bowdoin College, Brunswick, Maine, 1824

Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 3 of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 2, 2014

    Dawn

    You cant leave

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 12, 2000

    Interesting but Difficult

    This is a difficult story to comprehend, after reading it several times(each time gain more understanding)it finally connected. Hawthorne wrote very imaginative and creative stories about how humans strive for moral and religious prefection, and the ensuing tragedy it brings alone in pursuit of that unattainable goal. This short story is within the same spirit but with an interesting twist thats sure to surprise it's reader.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 10, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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