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The Toll Gatherer's Day (From "Twice Told Tales")   By: (1804-1864)

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Nathaniel Hawthorne’s "The Toll Gatherer's Day" is a captivating short story that delves into the complexities of human morality and the price we pay for our choices. Originally published in his collection "Twice Told Tales," the narrative transports readers to a quaint New England town where an unlikely encounter with a toll gatherer leaves a lasting impression on the protagonist.

The story introduces us to the toll gatherer, an enigmatic figure who occupies a small booth on a desolate road. His sole purpose is to collect the cost of passing through the nearby turnpike. Although mundane at first glance, Hawthorne skillfully reveals the profound nature of this seemingly ordinary profession. The toll gatherer becomes a symbol of the toll our actions take on our conscience, serving as a metaphorical reminder of life's moral ramifications.

The protagonist, a young man named Vincent, experiences a transformative encounter with the toll gatherer that challenges his perception of himself and the world around him. As Vincent approaches the booth, he is confronted by the toll gatherer's piercing eyes which seem to delve into his soul. This brief interaction leaves Vincent unsettled, prompting him to embark on a journey of self-reflection and repentance.

Hawthorne’s masterful prose invites readers to contemplate the deeper implications of our everyday choices. The toll gatherer's presence becomes a reflection of our individual burdens and the consequences we must face. Through Vincent's introspection, the author cleverly explores themes of guilt, redemption, and the struggle between good and evil that resides within us all.

One remarkable aspect of Hawthorne's writing is his ability to infuse even the most ordinary settings with a sense of mystery and gravity. The toll booth, a seemingly unremarkable location, becomes a stage upon which profound moral dilemmas are played out. Hawthorne’s vivid descriptions transport readers into the scene, allowing us to feel Vincent's apprehension and to experience the weight of his moral choices.

While "The Toll Gatherer's Day" is relatively short, it is not without its complexities. Hawthorne tantalizes readers with unanswered questions, leaving space for interpretation and personal reflection. The story is a subtle reminder that the tolls we pay in life often extend beyond monetary spheres, serving as a poignant metaphor for the moral dilemmas we face daily.

In conclusion, "The Toll Gatherer's Day" is an exquisite tale that showcases Hawthorne's exceptional storytelling skills. By interweaving themes of morality and consequence, the author creates a narrative that invites readers to explore the depths of their own souls. Filled with vivid imagery and thought-provoking symbolism, this short story leaves a lasting impression, demonstrating why Hawthorne remains a truly timeless writer.

First Page:




By Nathaniel Hawthorne

Methinks, for a person whose instinct bids him rather to pore over the current of life, than to plunge into its tumultuous waves, no undesirable retreat were a toll house beside some thronged thoroughfare of the land. In youth, perhaps, it is good for the observer to run about the earth, to leave the track of his footsteps far and wide, to mingle himself with the action of numberless vicissitudes, and, finally, in some calm solitude, to feed a musing spirit on all that lie has seen and felt. But there are natures too indolent, or too sensitive, to endure the dust, the sunshine, or the rain, the turmoil of moral and physical elements, to which all the wayfarers of the world expose themselves. For such a mail, how pleasant a miracle, could life be made to roll its variegated length by the threshold of his own hermitage, and the great globe, as it were, perform its revolutions and shift its thousand scenes before his eyes without whirling him onward in its course. If any mortal be favored with a lot analogous to this, it is the toll gatherer. So, at least, have I often fancied, while lounging on a bench at the door of a small square edifice, which stands between shore and shore in the midst of a long bridge... Continue reading book >>

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