Nathaniel Hawthorne – A Serious Man and a Funny Guy

Did you know Nathaniel Hawthorne was both a serious man and a funny guy. Many people who think of him as nothing but a great moralist should read “Mr. Higginbotham’s Catastrophe”. Hawthorne told it in a light, humorous vein, and he didn’t use it to deliver a great moral message. But as for serious—well, this story is…seriously funny. And seriously sweet!

Unusual though this story is coming from Nathaniel Hawthorne, Edgar Allan Poe, a contemporary of Hawthorne and a renowned literary critic, praised “Mr. Higginbotham’s Catastrophe”. He described it as “vividly original and dexterously managed”. Other critics have favorably compared Dominicus Pike, the story’s main character, to Ichabod Crane, the main character in Washington Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow”. Both Pike and Crane are common men who become unlikely heroes, and they reap similar rewards for their gallantry in the end.

Nathaniel Hawthorne usually navigated within dark themes and settings in his stories and novels. He included this comic story in “Twice Told Tales”, his first collection, because he wanted the collection to appeal to a range of tastes. “Mr. Higginbotham’s Catastrophe” succeeds mainly as a refreshing change of pace for devoted readers of Hawthorne, but for casual readers it succeeds on its own. It shows the breadth of Hawthorne’s talents and serves as proof that he could do comedy when he chose to.

Nathaniel Hawthorne was a great author. His prose was stylish, often almost poetic. He had a fanciful imagination and a deep moral sensibility. There have been few writers in any age who could render scenes more visually or expose the moral fiber of characters more ably than Nathaniel Hawthorne.

Dominicus Pike, standing upon the town water pump, relays the news of the day to a large gathering of townspeople in "Nathaniel Hawthorne's Mr. Higginbotham's Catastrophe".

Dominicus Pike delivers the news in “Mr. Higgginbotham’s Catastrophe” by Nathaniel Hawthorne.

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