Pre-Civil War American Literature Final Project

This is the LITR220 Pre-Civil War American Literature final writing project that I’ve just turned in. It was a lot of fun writing this and in attempting to mirror Nathaniel Hawthorne’s writing style while also incorporating a little of my own. Actually, it has been the most fun final project to date. I hope you all get something out of it.

Instructions for selected project: Prose Mash Up: From a work we’ve read in this class, write a story from a different point of view. You may take an entire story’s plot and write a version as someone else would tell it. You may have to edit the piece down to a workable length. Your project should be 1,000 to 1,500 words in length with proper use of quotations and citations. For example, since we know Death is the narrator in “The Masque of the Red Death,” how would the story have been different from, say, the Prince’s point of view?

Selected reading: The Ambitious Guest by Nathaniel Hawthorne. You can read it here.

Richard Davis

Debra Olson


Final Literature Project — Prose Mash Up

ONE SEPTEMBER NIGHT two gentlemen, one older than the other, but both equally rugged from their many years of hard labor, yet also equally filled with cheer, travelled through the Notch of the White Hills toward the valley of Saco from Ethan Crawford’s. They meant to have arrived earlier in the evening, but had taken much too leisurely a time with frank-hearted conversation and an abundance of friendliness and, generally, a genuine enjoyment of each others company. At that moment, with a settled sun, a terrible wind had set upon them as though the hills themselves hoped to send the two into their graves by removing the very breath from their lungs. Since it hit them squarely in the back it accomplished only to hurry them along a bit. Though it could, indeed, remove some of their physical warmth, it could do nothing to quench the warmth that burned within them.

“The mountain surely is threatening to kill us tonight is it not, old friend?” asked the younger.

“Ah, certainly a valiant effort tonight! But let death come if it will, because we have built our monument. Death can take nothing from us,” replied the old man meaning every word of it. He had lived an honest life even if it had no particular direction. Perhaps folks will soon forget how he made his living, but surely not his manner of living. They would remember that there once lived a man who was much loved by those who knew him, and who encouraged all those who shook his hand. He was such a man.

“Even so, this is some dreadful weather even for the Notch. Do you suppose the tavern keeper is still up that we may warm ourselves by his fire?”

“The tavern keeper?” asked the old man. Without waiting for a reply he continues, “Is it really the unnaturally roaring fire of the good tavern that draws you to that cottage? Or is it the sly gaze and slight smile of his eldest daughter you wish to warm you?” he uttered in simple jest.

“You laugh at me? Think my love is too un-ambitious?” said the young man. Were his cheeks not reddened by the cold already, there may have been seen a trace of a blush upon them.

“No, the least not! It is natural what you feel, for indeed, she does have a look about her when we are entertained therein. Even the light of their brightest fire cannot hide her glow when you speak in her presence. And as for ambition, you could do no better than she. Good stock they are. Counted among the most kindly around the entire valley. This mean old mountain does not deserve the likes of them. You, my young friend, could, as I have said, do no better than she.”

Just then they heard the heavy footsteps of Atlas rushing with long, rapid strides down the mountain and they held their breath wondering if that was the hour of their death. But there was nothing of death to be seen that night. Even so, the sound of it nearly quenched their spirit. “Surely that cast a shadow on the family at the tavern as much as it did on us. We are almost upon the cottage now. Perhaps we should sing a cheerful song to announce our presence and to lift their spirits.”

“That, dear boy, is an idea befitting the most noble of men!” With that they began the most cheerful song they knew. As they approached the tavern, the rough chorus of a song, which resounded, in broken notes, between the cliffs (Hawthorne 221) fell upon it. They hesitated briefly while deciding whether or not to call upon the inhabitants therein; unsure if they were awake or not, but surely they were because there still appeared to be light within, and a set of tracks leading into the cottage revealed another visitor still within. They loudly called to the goodly man inside by name, but there was no answer and the door appeared as though it may be lashed. The wind at that moment decided to wash over them and it, perhaps, carried away their words that those circling the fire could not hear them. Or perhaps the nature of their entertainment bid they allow the unknown guest the courtesy of no further interruption. In any case they were near on their destination and could continue their travel without further insistence of this family. So the travellers plunged into the Notch, still singing and laughing, though their music and mirth came back drearily from the heart of the mountain (Hawthorne 331).

After a short while the wind and the cold and, perhaps, something else finally brought upon them a fatigue that no mere man could resist. Being more than mere men, but only barely so, they drove on in complete silence. While it remained unspoken between them, both felt a small unease at leaving the tavern without having checked within. It was now too late. Turning back would certainly be mad. The weight of their unease grew heavier when a sound abroad in the night, rising like a roar of a blast, had grown broad, deep, and terrible (Hawthorne 332). The mountain trembled; the foundations of the earth seemed to be shaken, as if this awful sound were the peal of the last trump. Young and old exchanged one wild glance, and remained an instant, pale, affrighted, without utterance, or power to move. Then the same shriek burst simultaneously from all their lips (Hawthorne 332). Realizing the mountain was coming down upon them the old man drove the horses harder than he had ever before driven them; no longer, in the real face of it, welcoming death with the same alacrity. Miraculously they made it to the safety of the valley bottom thus avoiding certain annihilation.

In that moment, also, it occurred to him that if there was cause for alarm for the fate of that primitive tavern in the Notch this was the source of that concern, but there was no getting to it tonight and that was equally certain. Returning to their homes they slept a sleepless night of dreams obsessed with the thunderous roar of the slide and of unheard screams of agony from the uncertain victims; of unrequited love and of warm fires and of pleasant conversation.

Early the next morning the two, with a host of other men as hearty as they, made their way to the cottage they feared was certainly destroyed. They were heartened, however, to find it in one happy piece with a joyful curl of smoke floating from its chimney. Within the fire still shouldered and was encircled with the expected chairs, plus one, proving a visitor had, indeed, been among them. Yet none were there. It was entirely empty of them, but still held all that they had owned. Perhaps they were out surveying the devastation around them, thankful for their miraculous escape. They were not found that day or any day after and all those present were not hearty enough to avoid the tears that inevitably fell at the loss of this great family. The men promised each other that this family would be remembered in the heartiest of legends that would oft be repeated and never forgotten. And the mountain became all the more gloomy with its brightest light having finally been extinguished.

Work Cited

Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Ambitious Guest. The American Tradition in Literature. Vol. 2, 12th ed. Ed. George Perkins, and Barbara Perkins. Boston: McGraw Hill, n.d. Creat eText. <;.

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