Mr. Higginbotham’s Catastrophe – Hawthorne Illustrated
Mr. Higginbotham’s Catastrophe holds down the second spot in Hawthorne Illustrated, our new Adapted Classics compilation of three illustrated stories by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Humorous at it’s core and sweet in substance, this story carries no overt moral messaging. That differentiates it from other Hawthorne tales. Mr. Higginbotham’s Catastrophe simply charms and entertains while spotlighting Hawthorne’s wry sense of humor, which he also melded into many stories with serious content. Told in typically beautiful Hawthorne prose, Mr. Higginbotham’s Catastrophe entertains, but it also serves as a fine example of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s versatility as a story-teller. You don’t want to miss it, especially our version, illustrated by Marc Johnson-Pencook. Marc’s illustrations provide cool oases on which to pause and refresh.
The main character, Dominicus Pike, is a traveling salesman who peddles products (and flirts) in towns along the Connecticut River. In Hawthorne’s original version, Pike mainly hawked tobacco products. In our adapted version, he mainly peddles candy. Times have changed, and though our intended audience is broadly inclusive, we do focus on middle-school readers. Does that mean we are socially conscious and politically correct? Yes – we confess – but we have always preferred the sweet vices anyways!
Hawthorne and Pike
Though a salesman by occupation, Dominicus Pike is a story-teller at heart. We know that’s probably true of most salesman, and Hawthorne surely knew that as well. But Pike’s official occupation is beside the point. Dominicus Pike is a story-teller through and through, just like Nathaniel Hawthorne was. And story-telling is what this story is all about.
Dominicus Pike is the only Hawthorne character who loved stories as much as Hawthorne did. Consequently, this makes for a curiously special bond between author and character. As an author who focused on moral problems, Hawthorne sought to illuminate deep truths via make-believe tales. Dominicus Pike might not share Hawthorne’s spiritual inclination, yet he too mines for truths he can divulge in story form. He is hilariously hyper-sensitive about protecting his truth-telling reputation, yet like any good story-teller, he surrounds truth with embellished details to engage and please his audience and satisfy himself.
Only Hawthorne could say how much of himself he put into Dominicus Pike, and he didn’t say, as far as I know. That would leave it up to readers and critics to surmise the extent of their similarities. But whether a lot alike or not, this much we can know for certain: both were marvelous story-tellers.
Mr. Higginbotham’s Catastrophe holds it’s own in Hawthorne Illustrated, our compilation of three fine Nathaniel Hawthorne stories. Each story is distinctly illustrated by Marc Johnson-Pencook. It is available from Baker & Taylor and Follett School Solutions, and also Amazon via our web-site.