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being, made only for happiness, and heretofore so miserably failing
to be happy . . . this poor, forlorn voyager from the Islands of
the Blest, in a frail bark, on a tempestuous sea, had been flung,
by the last mountain-wave of his shipwreck, into a quiet harbor.
There, as he lay more than half-lifeless on the strand, the fragrance
of an earthly rosebud had come to his nostrils, and, as odors will,
had summoned up reminiscences or visions of all the living and breathing
beauty, amid which he should have had his home.
Throughout the novel, Clifford is a
difficult, sometimes unpleasant character, and this quotation from
Chapter 9 conveys how his once beautiful
mind has so thoroughly gone to waste. The quotation beautifully
and tragically chronicles how thirty years in prison have caused
his mind to degenerate. The image of Clifford “half-lifeless” on
the sand, captivated by the scent of a rose, illustrates the terrible suffering
that accompanies his return and his sense of having missed out on
his youth. The tone is one of exhaustion, but it is also one of recovery,
for the image does not end with Clifford’s drowning but with his
slowly coming back to consciousness. As we have seen in other aspects
of the novel, in the chickens returning to health and the garden’s
restoration, decay and renewal are linked. Hawthorne’s poetic portrayal
of Clifford’s degeneration makes us inclined to sympathize with
Clifford and helps us to understand why his recovery moves at such
a slow pace.
Hawthorne’s language makes Clifford’s incarceration seem
like a violent, almost overwhelming struggle rather than merely
an extended absence. His use of words like “forlorn,” “frail,” -“tempestuous,”
and “miserably” helps to convey the severity of the tribulations
that Clifford has endured. He has been delivered from a “shipwreck”
to a “harbor.” The passage ends with words that conjure pleasure,
comfort, and hope: “living,” “breathing,” and “beauty.”
Ace your assignments with our guide to The House of the Seven Gables!