The Marble Faun

I took some time to read an older novel this time, The Marble Faun, by Nathaniel Hawthorne.

Interesting novel, presenting a deep psychological subject, but the shape of it is in the 19th century’s fashion, without a strong objective observation, and with strong emotional implications from the author.

We have four characters, each with a different story, each being biased by the author in a specific way. All of them live initially in Rome, the city of arts, around 1850, young, and in love with arts. We see very well the life in the 19th century, what was important for people, and how they spent their time, and how they did interact at that moment in time.

We start with Miriam, an immigrant in Rome, coming from a land far away, she is mysterious, with a somehow dark secret that nobody knows. Even though she is young, she looks to be the most mature character, and also her beauty is highly praised by the subjective comments of the author. Miriam is followed by a strange character, believed to be her art model, but this is really unclear for everyone.

We have Hilda, another immigrant in Rome, who is not catholic, rather protestant, in a world where religion plays a very big role. In here we can see clear observations from Hawthorne against the catholic church, and I can say that personally I was positively impressed, that in the 19th century, an American author has such kind of hidden attacks. The author again subjectively emphasizes that Hilda is an innocent virgin young girl, with no experience of the world, focused on restoration of the work arts of the great masters.

Donatello is the sole survivor of a long line of counts in Italy, the Monte-Beni, and he is again a very young man, with no life experience, and he is the Marble Faun, as his friends all declare that he really looks like a Faun, a mythical character that was present in many art forms like paintings and sculptures from the ancient times.

Kenyon is an American , a sculptor, the only one with a very balanced mind and soul, but is deeply troubled and has a crush on Hilda. He tries to find enlightenment through love and sculpture.

The four friends live in a dream and fantasy world, Donatello, young and fierceful, falls for Miriam, and is willing to do everything for her. Everything falls apart in the moment of the sin, where Donatello pushes over the cliff the man known as Miriam’s model, Miriam’s catharsis, killing him, but only when Miriam’s look pushes him to do it. So they are united in guilt, in sin, thing that breaks them completely, especially Donatello.

Donatello, young, passionate, find the sin of the murder too strong for him, and in contrast with his initial declarations, that he would do anything for Miriam, finds himself in the impossibility to even see her anymore. Full of remorse and guilt, he retires at his castle in Italy’s mountains.

Hilda unwillingly assists the crime scene, and is completely shattered by the view. She denies her friendship with Miriam, and isolates with an unbearable burden on her heart and shoulders.

In the end, we can see that the four friends start to be more mature, and find some kind of balance in their lives. Donatello finds a way to repay for his sins, trying to punish himself for the rest of his life, by confessing his crime. He manages to get back together with Miriam, to be united with her in their sin.

Hilda understands that being a friend does not mean to deny Miriam, but a true friend is there when she’s needed. She finds a relief of her burden by confessing it to a priest.

We are also invited to understand a very important thing, that only trough sin, a man can understand what is the value of life, the value of sin, the value of redemption, and to understand what it means to make mistakes, and to grow.

A classic novel, presenting the idea of the sin, in a specific way, The Marble Faun is an interesting book, with deep implications, which could be rewritten in a more objective and strong way, but by keeping it’s original design and color, it has it’s own value.