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The Marble Faun - Volume 1

Nathaniel Hawthorne

Book Overview: 

The Marble Faun is Hawthorne's most unusual romance. Writing on the eve of the American Civil War, Hawthorne set his story in a fantastical Italy. The romance mixes elements of a fable, pastoral, gothic novel, and travel guide. Hawthorne was inspired to write his romance when he saw the Faun of Praxiteles in a Roman sculpture gallery. The theme, characteristic of Hawthorne, is guilt and the Fall of Man. The four main characters are Miriam, a beautiful painter who is compared to Eve, Beatrice Cenci, Lady Macbeth, Judith, and Cleopatra, and is being pursued by a mysterious, threatening Model; Hilda, an innocent copyist who is compared to the Virgin Mary; Kenyon, a sculptor, who represents rationalist humanism; and Donatello, the Count of Monti Beni, who is compared to Adam, resembles the Faun of Praxiteles, and is probably only half human.

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .Ah! I did not mean you to see those drawings. They are ugly phantoms that stole out of my mind; not things that I created, but things that haunt me. See! here are some trifles that perhaps will please you better."

She gave him a portfolio, the sketches in which indicated a happier mood of mind, and one, it is to be hoped, more truly characteristic of the artist. Supposing neither of these classes of subject to show anything of her own individuality, Miriam had evidently a great scope of fancy, and a singular faculty of putting what looked like heart into her productions. The latter sketches were domestic and common scenes, so finely and subtilely idealized that they seemed such as we may see at any moment, and eye, where; while still there was the indefinable something added, or taken away, which makes all the difference between sordid life and an earthly paradise. The feeling and sympathy in all of them were deep and true. There was the scene, that comes once . . . Read More

Community Reviews

In middle school you were probably assigned some kind of descriptive composition. You know, the kind where you pick a Classroom Object -- a pencil, a wad of gum, your English teacher's unconvincing toupee -- and you write about it for a couple hundred words, sparing no meticulous detail. You turn...more

The Marble Faun is a gothic romance from the period when ‘romance’ meant ‘not as serious as a proper novel’. It’s a strange, moody tale with a lot of loose ends and uncertainty, which I think many modern readers would find difficult. However, I know I’m not the only one who enjoys that sort of th...more

The Marble Faun was an exhausting read, as emblematic perhaps as the weighty themes within the novel itself: an exploration of nature versus artifice, good versus evil, Old World Dogma versus New World Morality, Roman Catholicism versus New England Puritanism. Each thesis is explored closely, min...more

3.5

I recently reread The House of the Seven Gables, so I couldn’t help comparing it and The Marble Faun. In both novels Hawthorne makes full use of his settings with a strong, tactile sense of place, though the latter's, fittingly, is not claustrophobic as is the former's. I felt as if I were bac...more

Catching up with the classics # 15

3.5 stars

Σε μια Ρώμη όπου η πραγματικότητα και ο μύθος απέχουν ελάχιστα μεταξύ τους, και με έντονη γοτθική ατμόσφαιρα ο Hawthorne ξεναγεί τον αναγνώστη στα σημαντικότερα ιστορικά μνημεία της πόλης, ενώ παράλληλα παρουσιάζει μερικά από τα σημαντικότερα έργα τέχνης που βρίσκονται σε αυτή.

Ο συγγραφέας περιγ...more

Miriam is an artist, half Italian half English, with a dark, molten, Hebraic beauty. Donatello is the faun, an aristocrat in love with Miriam, made stupid and pathetic by Hawthorne because of his animalistic Italianness. Kenyon is an American sculptor, haplessly in love with the innocent, virgina...more

Nathaniel Hawthorne and his family lived for several years in Italy, and his experiences there inspired him to write The Marble Faun, or the Romance of Monte Beni. Published in 1860, it became his best selling novel, but few readers today have ever heard of it, much less read it. The book opens i...more

I loved this slow summer sojourn – a classic novel that unfolded gradually and beautifully. The Marble Faun is full of rich, atmospheric description that transports the reader instantly into the streets, the churches, the galleries, and the classical architecture of 19th-century Rome. Hawthorne i...more

What can I say? I love Hawthorne.
Ellie NYC

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