The Language of Biblical Destruction: Endicott Agonistes
There are explicit and implicit Miltonic references utilised by Hawthorne in the tale “The May-Pole of Merry Mount”. Comus appears in the body of the text to describe the Merry Mount revellers, placed in sharp contrast with the “darksome figures” of Endicott and his Puritans. The tale’s final line also holds echoes of Paradise Lost’s famous ending, where Adam and Eve “through Eden took their solitary way”.
This paper wishes to analyse Hawthorne’s influence from a different Miltonic source than those listed above, namely Samson Agonistes, in its utilisation of language to describe the quasi-Biblical nature of John Endicott’s ruin of the May-Pole.
I will examine how Endicott is figured as an agonist in Hawthorne’s story, a Champion of his people who, despite strong identification with communal aspects of the “New Israel”, is individualised through his actions, ultimately being marked out as special, chosen for God’s work. Like the Biblical template Milton derives from Judges, the shifting emphasis from the plight of a people to the achievements and tour de force of an individual is marked in both texts.
This paper will go further than comparing Milton’s Samson with Hawthorne’s Endicott however. The true import of this influence lies not only in the respective dramatization of an awesome religious terror, but the subsequent introspection and self-analysis that follows the climactic act of violence. For Samson, the Chorus dominate the denouement of the tragedy. With Endicott, the question of civil and religious law (and their undoubted intertwining) come to the fore, bound within the figures of the “Lord and Lady of the May”.
The language of Biblical destruction can take us only so far in the examination of these narratives, we must look to Hawthorne and Milton’s respective use of Biblical language, and the ensuing thought that truly marks these characters as not only “Agonistes”, but men of God.
Obsession and Shattered Self: Gollum in The Lord of the Rings.
In July 1954, John Ronald Reuel Tolkien published the first volume of his magnum opus, The Lord of the Rings, and in so doing he established the fantasy genre, utilising the quest narrative to tell the story of how one individual manages to defeat an apparently insurmountable evil. This paper wishes to unravel the complexities of one of the most interesting characters in Tolkien’s universe: Gollum. Gollum’s perpetual obsession with the One Ring constitutes the reason for his existence in the story, but in this paper I will focus on how this obsession leads to his deterioration and eventual death. The Ring’s near total sublimation of Gollum’s mind contrasts with his battle to retain his identity, making him the most complex character in the text.
Even though nominally he is not a protagonist, his presence in the story is of great importance to the overall narrative that links The Hobbit texts to each other. In order to achieve a sufficient examination of the character, the paper will focus on two key areas: Gollum’s obsession with the Ring, and the destruction of his own self. These two areas are interwoven with some complexity in Gollum, but in examining them separately this paper will open a discussion that leads to a more cogent understanding of Gollum’s character as a whole, contrasting his internal motivations with the external influences on him, and using this to investigate his contribution to the narrative as a whole.