An analysis of Nathaniel Hawthorne's Roger Malvin's Burial

Essay by majestik1High School, 12th grade January 2005

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In "Roger Malvin's Burial," Hawthorne presents the story of a man who lies to his wife about how he helped her father in his dying days. The young man, Reuben Bourne, and his girlfriend's father, Roger Malvin, have been left wounded by a battle. After journeying for three days, Roger can no longer go on. Despite his request to Reuben that he should go home to his daughter, Dorcas, Reuben refuses and wants to stay by Roger's side until he dies. However, Reuben decides that he can try to save Roger by getting help and, if not, promises that he will return to bury Roger. Instead, Reuben ventures off and rests after the second day, where he plans to await death. Soon, a few travelers come and rescue Reuben and take him to his hometown where he sleeps for a few days. Therefore, Reuben returns home safely while he leaves Roger to die without being buried.

This sin of abandoning Roger leads to overwhelming guilt by Reuben, which, in turn, leads to self-destruction and the deaths of Reuben's son Cyrus. Thus, in "Roger Malvin's Burial," Hawthorne demonstrates that sin and guilt leads to dehumanization, as the guilt of not fulfilling his promise to Roger consumes Reuben's life, sending him down a destructive path.

At first, Reuben is so overcome by sin and guilt that he lies to Dorcas about how her father died. When Reuben returns home, Dorcas asks him where her father is. As Reuben tells the accurate story of their journey from the battle before he deserts Roger, Dorcas interrupts him, fearing that her father died with Reuben by his side. Reluctantly, Reuben confirms her suspicion, as he "bowed his head," finding "it impossible to acknowledge that his selfish love of life had...