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Because it is highly imaginative, emphasizes strong emotions, and casts nature flowers, trees, animals, woods, sunlight, and dusk in a prominent role, the story falls within the genre of romanticism. The final version of the story was first published in in Twice-Told Tales , a collection of Hawthorne's short stories.
The action takes place on June 23 Midsummer Eve in the late s in the Massachusetts seaside village of Merry Mount. Merry Mount was in present-day Quincy, Mass. Historical Background: Merry Mount. A trader named Captain Wollaston first name unknown established the village of Merry Mount as Mount Wollaston in With him were thirty to forty other settlers—including another trader, Englishman Thomas Morton , who was also a lawyer.
But because they and other settlers could not abide the Puritans, they founded their own village, Mount Wollaston. Within a year, Captain Wollaston and some of the other settlers moved to Virginia. Morton stayed on with the remaining settlers and renamed the village Ma-re Mount. Ma-re is the hyphenated spelling of mare , the Latin word for sea.
In preparation for May Day celebrations May 1 , they brewed a barrel of beer and prepared a special song for the occasion. When May Day arrived, they carried a maypole to the place designated for its erection while playing drums and shooting pistols.
With the help of Indians, they raised the pole, a pine tree eighty feet tall with a pair of deer horns nailed near the top. The maypole could be seen from the sea and could serve as a landmark to guide people to the village. The colonists attached a poem to the pole to explain its purpose. Unable to tolerate the merrymaking at the village, which became known as Merry Mount, the Puritans raided the settlement, cut down the maypole, and exiled Morton to the Isles of Shoals, an archipelago of nine islands about six miles off the coast of New Hampshire.
Morton escaped to England, then returned to America only to provoke officials one more time. He was sent back to England but returned to America again.
This time he was imprisoned in Boston and later exiled to Maine. In Hawthorne's story, Morton is represented by an Anglican priest.
Historical Background: Puritanism. Puritanism began in England in the late Sixteenth Century when Protestant reformers attempted to purge the Church of England or Anglican Church of the elaborate ceremonies, rituals, and hierarchical structure it retained from the Roman Catholic Church after King Henry VIII established Anglicanism by acts of Parliament between and The Act of Supremacy, approved in , officially established the Church of England as an independent Protestant entity separate from the Roman Catholic Church.
However, the Church of England retained Catholic rituals such as the mass and prelates such as bishops. For the Puritans, the pure word of the Bible, presented in part through inspired preaching, took precedence over rituals while direct revelation from the Holy Spirit superseded reason. In January at a special conference at Hampton Court Palace near London, the king rejected most of the proposed Puritan reforms, but he did grant a Puritan request for a new translation of the Bible, which resulted in publication of the King James Version in Many disenchanted puritans left the country.
Those who remained behind joined with members of Parliament opposed to the crown's economic policies. Together they defeated the king's forces in the English Civil War.
With the king out of the way, the Puritans became a dominant faction in the new Commonwealth government headed by Oliver Cromwell. However, after Cromwell's death in , a movement to restore the monarchy began, and King Charles II was restored to the throne in Under the Clarendon Code, approved in , the Church of England expelled all Puritan ministers who refused to accept church tenets.
Many Puritans then emigrated to America and established their brand of religion in Massachusetts and other colonies. Edgar and Edith : Young couple who marry in a ceremony at the maypole. Endicott : Leader of the Puritans. Hawthorne based this character on a historical figure, John Endicott , administrator of a Massachusetts plantation.
Endicott also spelled Endecott later served several terms as governor and deputy governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Peter Palfrey : Endicott's assistant. Hawthorne based this character on a historical figure who migrated to America in Anglican Priest : Minister who presides at the wedding and incurs the wrath of the Puritans.
Hawthorne based this character on a historical figure, John Morton , a lawyer. They live a life of pleasure. Puritans : Hawthorne based the Puritans in the story on historical Massachusetts settlers. For information about them, see Historical Background: Puritanism , above.
Hawthorne wrote the following introduction to the story:. At sunset in the town of Merry Mount on June 23, Midsummer Eve, a maypole—a tall, slender pine tree—stands decorated with flowers, blossoms, and ribbons. At the top is a banner with the colors of the rainbow. Near the bottom is a wreath of roses. The maypole is a beautiful sight, contrasting markedly with the grotesque costumers of revelers holding hands around it.
One wears the antlered head of a deer; another, the head of a wolf; a third, the head of a goat. A fourth is in the guise of a bear. On his hind legs are pink stockings. Also within this circle is a real bear, its forepaws extended to human hands. One man wears the guise of an Indian hunter and another that of a hairy savage. Many revelers appear in the caps and bells of jesters.
There are young men and women in everyday clothing, but their faces reveal the same wild look of the others. Unseen Puritans who observe the scene at a distance compare the revelers to devils and lost souls that they believe roam the forests. In his right hand is a gilded staff signifying his high place among the revelers.
His left hand holds the fingers of a pretty maiden in colorful apparel. Roses are scattered at their feet.
Behind them stands an Anglican priest in clergyman's garb decorated with flowers. On his head is a wreath of vine leaves. A pipe, cithern, and viol then strike up a merry tune in a nearby thicket. Oddly, though, the young lady, Edith, appears sad.
The young man tells her that this is the best moment of their lives. That very thought—that the joy of the moment would soon be replaced with the humdrum routine of everyday life and all its cares and sorrows—had just crossed her mind, says Edith.
Moments later, Edgar and Edith pledge their vows in the marriage ceremony, and the masqueraders celebrate by dancing around the maypole until the sun sets. The narrator then flashes back to the time when the Merry Mount residents first settled their community.
They recruited followers, including minstrels, actors, and mummers. Young and old participated in the merriment. Among their activities were amusements they brought from England. Thus, at yuletide, they crowned a king of Christmas and appointed a lord of misrule to manage Christmas merrymaking, including feasts, theatrical entertainment, and masques.
They also built bonfires to dance around. Once every month, they danced around the maypole. Near Merry Mount lived a colony of Puritans. Early in the morning—even before sunrise—they gathered to say prayers. They spent the day working in forests or fields, keeping their weapons ready for intruding savages, then returned home for evening prayers. Anyone caught dancing was whipped or placed in stocks. The only music they allowed was the singing of hymns.
On festivals, there was no merriment; they simply fasted. There were times when these grim people passed into the vicinity of Merry Mount while the maypole colonists were masquerading, dancing around the pole, playing blind man's buff, or attempting to explain their merriment to an Indian. The Merry Mounters sometimes sang ballads or told stories for their grim visitors, juggled for them, or paraded around for them in their strange costumes.
On one occasion, they held a yawning contest. The Puritans merely stood by and frowned. It was as if for a moment a black cloud had descended over Merry Mount.
In time, the Puritans objected to the noisy merriment, and a feud developed between the two communities. Who would win? The narrator then flashes forward to the evening when the wedding celebration at the maypole ends. In the fading light, shadows emerge from the forest—armed Puritans in their traditional black garb. Only love can bring people together and make them happy. True, there will be trials and sorrows in life, as Edith realizes when she has vague feelings of uneasiness.
In fact, she and Edgar face a severe test immediately after the marriage ceremony, when Endicott threatens them. But instead of cowering before him, they stand together firmly bound in their love, each expressing a willingness to die for the other. Their courageous love softens Endicott, and he spares them.
In practicing their austere way of life, the Puritans go to the extreme, becoming sadistic spiritual policemen. False Goals. The Merry Mount colonists attempt to avoid the pain and suffering of life through the constant pursuit of pleasure. The Puritans attempt to avoid sin by denying themselves pleasure.
The May-Pole of Merry Mount
Many went on voyages to conquer empires, or participate in trade. Their livelihoods were disturbed by the growth of Puritanism, and so they came across the sea to settle at Merry Mount. The settlers of Merry Mount particularly venerated the Maypole, which they decorated with flowers in the summer and leaves in the autumn. Not far away, however, lived a settlement of Puritans, who were quick to strike down savages and were solemn in their processions. If a man in their group danced, he would be punished on the whipping post. One midsummer eve, the inhabitants of Merry Mount hold a festival to celebrate the joining of two youths, the Lord and Lady of the May. She tells her new husband that she believes that their jovial friends are only visions, and that their happiness is not real.
The Maypole of Merry Mount
Because it is highly imaginative, emphasizes strong emotions, and casts nature flowers, trees, animals, woods, sunlight, and dusk in a prominent role, the story falls within the genre of romanticism. The final version of the story was first published in in Twice-Told Tales , a collection of Hawthorne's short stories. The action takes place on June 23 Midsummer Eve in the late s in the Massachusetts seaside village of Merry Mount. Merry Mount was in present-day Quincy, Mass. Historical Background: Merry Mount. A trader named Captain Wollaston first name unknown established the village of Merry Mount as Mount Wollaston in
It was later included in Twice-Told Tales , a collection of Hawthorne's short stories, in The people of Merry Mount, whom Hawthorne calls the "crew of Comus ", celebrate the marriage of a youth and a maiden Edgar and Edith. They dance around a may-pole and are described as resembling forest creatures. Their festivities are interrupted by the arrival of John Endicott and his Puritan followers. Endicott cuts down the may-pole and orders that the people of Merry Mount be whipped. Stricken by the newlyweds, he spares them but orders they put on more conservative clothing.