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Dolis, J. (1984). Hawthorne's Morphology of Alienation: The Psychosomatic Phenomenon. Am. Imago, 41(1):47-62.

(1984). American Imago, 41(1):47-62

Hawthorne's Morphology of Alienation: The Psychosomatic Phenomenon

John Dolis

Regarding the structure of human existence, and its foundation in the cogito, Hawthorne's work sets forth, an unequivocal position: the ideal makes monsters of us all. Within the finite realm of being, those who would be God would be Satan as well, for the other side of Angel is Devil. Pascal has said it another way: “Man is neither angel nor brute, and the unfortunate thing is that he who would act the angel acts the brute.”1 Perhaps Hollingsworth's character itself best describes that extreme toward which the idea (1) is most disposed:

Admitting what is called Philanthropy, when adopted as a profession, to be often useful by its energetic impulse to society at large, it is perilous to the individual, whose ruling passion, in one exclusive channel, it thus becomes. It ruins, or is fearfully apt to ruin, the heart; the rich juices of which God never meant should be pressed violently out, and distilled into alcoholic liquor, by an unnatural process; but should render life sweet, bland, and gently beneficent, and insensibly influence other hearts and other lives to the same blessed end. I see in Hollingsworth an exemplification of the most awful truth in Bunyan's book of such;—from the very gate of Heaven, there is a by-way to the pit!2

Hawthorne's reformers are not alone in this respect; for both the scientist and “intellectual” in general are precariously poised above this egocentric “pit.” Since by definition the monomaniacal enterprise undertakes its mission with its gaze fixed solely on an isolated “objective”—one which constitutes the infinitely remote vanishing point of its view—it ignores that which lies closest to its immediate “field.”

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