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Sights from a Steeple (From "Twice Told Tales")   By: (1804-1864)

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"Sights from a Steeple" is a captivating short story from the renowned author Nathaniel Hawthorne's collection "Twice Told Tales." Hawthorne, famously known for his exploration of the human psyche and complex moral dilemmas, once again exhibits his mastery in this thought-provoking narrative.

The story begins with the anonymous narrator, a fictional character based on Hawthorne himself, climbing to the top of a church steeple in his hometown. From this elevated vantage point, he gains a bird's-eye view of the bustling town below. This allows Hawthorne to highlight the duality of human existence, showcasing the stark contrast between the surface-level appearances and the hidden secrets of the townspeople.

As the narrator observes the various scenes unfolding beneath him, he offers astute and often ironic insights into human nature. Hawthorne's descriptive prose paints vivid images of the town's inhabitants - from the prosperous merchants to the poverty-stricken dwellers, all living just a stone's throw away from one another. Through the lens of the steeple, the author skillfully reveals the hypocrisy and moral ambiguity present in society.

One particularly striking scene described in the story is a glimpse into a courtroom, where justice is supposed to be served. Here, Hawthorne exposes the shortcomings of the justice system and the inability of society to differentiate between right and wrong. He deftly emphasizes the significance of individual perception, reminding readers that what one sees from a distance is often poles apart from what truly takes place behind closed doors.

Throughout "Sights from a Steeple," Hawthorne employs a blend of social commentary, psychological insight, and a touch of dark humor. The ambiguity of human motives and the often-unreliable nature of perceptions are recurring themes that resonate deeply within the narrative. The story serves as a reminder that what appears evident at first glance is merely a fragment of the greater truth.

Nathaniel Hawthorne's "Sights from a Steeple" is a poignant tale that questions human nature and challenges societal norms. Its well-crafted prose and clever observational style make it a thought-provoking read. This short story, like many others in "Twice Told Tales," solidifies Hawthorne's position as an eminent literary figure. Readers are sure to find themselves pondering the intricate complexities of human existence long after turning the final page.

First Page:



By Nathaniel Hawthorne

O! I have climbed high, and my reward is small. Here I stand, with wearied knees, earth, indeed, at a dizzy depth below, but heaven far, far beyond me still. O that I could soar up into the very zenith, where man never breathed, nor eagle ever flew, and where the ethereal azure melts away from the eye, and appears only a deepened shade of nothingness! And yet I shiver at that cold and solitary thought. What clouds are gathering in the golden west, with direful intent against the brightness and the warmth of this dimmer afternoon! They are ponderous air ships, black as death, and freighted with the tempest; and at intervals their thunder, the signal guns of that unearthly squadron, rolls distant along the deep of heaven. These nearer heaps of fleecy vapor methinks I could roll and toss upon them the whole day long! seem scattered here and there, for the repose of tired pilgrims through the sky. Perhaps for who can tell? beautiful spirits are disporting themselves there, and will bless my mortal eye with the brief appearance of their curly locks of golden light, and laughing faces, fair and faint as the people of a rosy dream. Or, where the floating mass so imperfectly obstructs the color of the firmament, a slender foot and fairy limb, resting too heavily upon the frail support, may be thrust through, and suddenly withdrawn, while longing fancy follows them in vain... Continue reading book >>

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