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Culture & Religion

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Thanksgiving

Humanness and strangeness are tied together, tragically perhaps, but inextricably. So it is for our strangeness that we ought, like Hawthorne, to give thanks most of all.

It takes Satan to bring out the true spirit of Thanksgiving. That’s because it can be hard to give thanks unless you know why you are doing it. Plenitude is lovely. Abundance is a delight. … When the devil is on your doorstep, however, thanks takes on a different timbre. The American most consistently preoccupied with thoughts of Satan was probably Nathaniel Hawthorne. Hawthorne never trusted in the good times. He saw the devil lurking in every moment of pleasure, waiting for the chance to pounce on the unsuspecting reveler when his guard was down. Hawthorne’s story, “John Inglefield’s Thanksgiving,” is appropriately evil-obsessed. Utterly bleak, it is a difficult fit in the traditional American story of goods asked for, goods delivered, thanks given.


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