The Marble Faun Book Summary, Characters, Analysis, Nathaniel Hawthorne


What is the summary of the book The Marble Faun written by Nathaniel Hawthorne? Information about the summary, characters and analysis of The Marble Faun.

The Marble Faun

The Marble Faun; the last completed romance of Nathaniel Hawthorne, published in 1860. Most of the scene is laid in Rome. The main characters are: Kenyon, a young American sculptor; his compatriot Hilda, a painter; Miriam Schaefer, also a painter, with a hidden past; Donatello, Count of Monte Beni, a young Italian who, his friends think, resembles the marble statue of the Faun (or Satyr) by Praxiteles. The resemblance is more than physical: Donatello is gay and charming, but lacks moral responsibility.

Donatello deeply loves Miriam, who, after an encounter in the catacombs, is haunted by a mysterious man whose power over her implies some dark secret in her past. Enraged at seeing her thus tormented, Donatello one night flings the tormentor from the Tarpeian rock. Hilda, a chance witness, parts from Miriam in revulsion, but cannot bring herself to tell what she has seen. She finally, though a Protestant, unburdens herself to a confessor at St. Peter’s. Shared guilt —for she had consented to his act—brings Miriam and Donatello together in an unhappy union. The greatest effect, however, is upon Donatello, in whom bloodguiltiness awakens for the first time real conscience and moral responsibility. Kenyon ultimately marries Hilda; the fate of the other two is left vague.

The book is the least satisfying of Hawthorne’s romances. Too much is left unexplained; the narrative is impeded by Baedekerlike details from the author’s notebooks. It poses, however, a dark problem, thus phrased by Kenyon: “Sin has educated Donatello, and elevated him. Is sin, then, like sorrow, merely an element in human education, through which we struggle to a higher and purer state than we could otherwise have attained?” Hilda repudiates this idea with horror; it is by no means certain that Hawthorne does.


The Marble Faun Characters

“The Marble Faun” is a novel by Nathaniel Hawthorne, first published in 1860. The story is set in Rome and revolves around a group of four characters, whose lives become intertwined as they navigate the complexities of love, friendship, and morality. Here are the main characters of “The Marble Faun”:

  1. Miriam: A beautiful and enigmatic artist who is haunted by a dark secret from her past. She is a skilled sculptor who creates a figure of a Faun out of marble, which becomes a central symbol in the novel.
  2. Donatello: A handsome and innocent Italian youth who works as a model for Miriam’s sculpture. He is fascinated by the idea of sin and morality and becomes increasingly drawn to Miriam.
  3. Hilda: A pure-hearted young woman from New England who is visiting Rome with her friend, the artist Kenyon. She is deeply moral and religious, and her innocence and goodness are contrasted with the darker aspects of the other characters.
  4. Kenyon: A successful American artist who is friends with Hilda. He is intelligent and rational but also somewhat cynical, and he struggles to reconcile his rationalism with his attraction to the mysterious and mystical aspects of life.

The Marble Faun Book Analysis

“The Marble Faun” is a complex and multi-layered novel that explores a range of themes, including morality, guilt, sin, redemption, and the nature of art.

One of the central themes of the novel is the exploration of morality and sin. The characters are all grappling with their own sense of right and wrong, and their struggles with sin and guilt are central to the story. Miriam, in particular, is haunted by a dark secret from her past, and her guilt over this sin becomes a driving force in the novel. Donatello, too, is fascinated by the idea of sin and the consequences of immoral behavior, and his experiences in the novel lead him to a deeper understanding of the nature of sin and redemption.

The novel also explores the nature of art and the role it plays in the lives of the characters. Miriam is a skilled sculptor, and her creation of the marble faun is a central symbol in the novel. The faun represents the beauty and complexity of human nature, and the characters are all drawn to it in different ways. Kenyon, in particular, is interested in the role of art in society and the way that it can both reflect and shape the values of a culture.

Another important theme in the novel is the exploration of identity and the way that it is shaped by culture and history. The characters are all grappling with their own sense of self and their place in the world, and their experiences in Rome force them to confront the ways in which their identities are shaped by their cultural backgrounds and the historical legacies of their societies.

Overall, “The Marble Faun” is a rich and complex novel that explores a wide range of themes and ideas. Its characters are compelling and deeply flawed, and their struggles with morality and identity make for a powerful and thought-provoking read.


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