Feathertop-Nathaniel Hawthorne's Last Story

Feathertop was the last story Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote. Most literary critics do not rank it with his best. They usually find the story too far-fetched and its moral message too obvious. Both these criticisms may be valid, but it’ s also very difficult to please literary critics. Did they overlook Feathertop’s entertainment value? Mother Rigby certainly makes her disdain for human phoniness very obvious, but she does so with humorous digs and disses that have held up very well over time. 

And when Feathertop gains self-awareness, when he realizes he is but a scarecrow stuffed with straw, his surrender to truth contrasts sharply with the humans he met who were blindly or casually superficial. At least one critic thinks that’s a very nice satiric poke at society. So maybe Hawthorne should get credit for blending effective satire with a farfetched plot to create a highly entertaining story.

Finally, on a basic emotional level, who doesn’t feel at least a little sympathy for Feathertop? He did not choose the task he was sent off to accomplish—without success—and he did not seek the personal glorification he received—fleeting as it was. Feathertop meets a sorry end, and what was his fatal flaw? He was endowed with too much good-heartedness to survive in the world. How sad!

Despite many unfavorable opinions, one extremely influential modern critic ranks Feathertop as Hawthorne's best literary work. Harold Bloom believed all of Hawthorne's tales and sketches are higher literary achievements than his noted novels, distinguished as they are. But of all Hawthorne tales, Feathertop was his favorite. He called it Hawthorne's ultimate legacy.

Hawthorne's Feathertop via Biblioboard

Why don't you be the judge? We included Feathertop as the last story in our collection of three illustrated Hawthorne tales. You can take a free look at Feathertop in Hawthorne Illustrated via this link to Biblioboard. It's worth noting our e-book version of Hawthorne Illustrated received an Honorable Mention for Middle Grade Fiction in the 2020 Purple Dragonfly Book Award contest.