Horror Short Story: "The Old Maid in the Winding Sheet" by Nathaniel Hawthorne

@msiduri (5750)
United States
June 8, 2016 6:56am CST
In true gothic fashion, the opening scene of this ghost story portrays the corpse of a recently deceased young man laid out for burial in a bedroom. What appear to be flickers of life are merely the moonbeam-shadows of the fringed curtains hanging around the bedframe playing across his features. Two young girls enter the chamber one at a time. They had apparently been rivals for the young man’s affections. One, proud, is unnamed. The other, named Patience, is overcome with emotion. She kisses the lips of the dead young man and lays her head on the pillow next to his. (Uh, just a bit much?) “Wilt thou betray me?” the proud girl asks. “Till the dead bid me speak, I will be silent,” Patience responds. She tells the other girl to leave her alone with the dead. “Go, and live many years, and then return and tell me of thy life. He, too, will be here! Then, if thou tellest of sufferings more than death, we will both forgive thee!” The girls agree to meet in the same chamber years in the future. Patience hands the other girl cuts a lock of hair from the corpse. They part. I don’t know how many of you suffered through The Scarlet Letter in high school, but Nathaniel Hawthorne’s hand hasn’t gotten any less heavy. There’s a comet here, but no hypocritical young clergyman going through an emotional breakdown. The story is drips gothic. It plods along, tugging at heart strings. Had I read it when I was younger, I might have been moved to more pity, but at this point, I’m torn. On the on hand, I want to give vent to my inner Marxist and let her rant about the repressive New England mores and worship of wealth. On the other hand, I’d like to give Patience a good swift kick in the gluteus maximus. This short story is available from Project Gutenberg at the link below. ______ Title: “The Old Maid in the Winding Sheet” (also “The White Old Maid”) Author: Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864) First published: New England Magazine July 1835 Source: book
https://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/9214
4 people like this
4 responses
• United States
8 Jun 16
I liked your short summary of what is happening in the story, but I don't think that I will read it. I wanted to slap people when reading "The Scarlet Letter", and I have the same feeling here. I know that people were different back then, but that does not make it any less frustrating and annoying ... but maybe that is just me.
1 person likes this
@msiduri (5750)
• United States
8 Jun 16
@purplealabaster I don't know if I could read "The Great Gatsby" again. I forced myself to read it for class in high school and didn't find anything redeemable in it. I might think more highly Fitzgerald's skill now that I did at 17 (oh, god was I ever so young?) but the book bored me to tears. I wanted to slap all the characters upside the head. With a golf club.
1 person likes this
• United States
9 Jun 16
@msiduri Yup, that is exactly how I felt when I re-read it. Somehow, I felt more compassion for them when I was younger - maybe because I was more naive back then.
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@msiduri (5750)
• United States
9 Jun 16
@purplealabaster LOL If that's the case, I better not re-read it. I'd feel even less patience with them.
@teamfreak16 (41181)
• Colorado Springs, Colorado
8 Jun 16
So the first girl is a ghost? That's about what I got out of it.
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@teamfreak16 (41181)
• Colorado Springs, Colorado
8 Jun 16
@msiduri - Or I could just be entirely wrong, which seems to happen a lot!
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@msiduri (5750)
• United States
8 Jun 16
@teamfreak16 It's so vague, it could be just about whatever one wants it to be, I think.
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@JohnRoberts (57331)
• Los Angeles, California
8 Jun 16
The Scarlet Letter was a struggle to get through. I understand the theme and all its significance but I though it was an awful book horribly written and overrated.
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@msiduri (5750)
• United States
8 Jun 16
Amen, brother. Though I read it more recently and found it not quite as beyond redemption as I remembered it from high school. I still don't think it's worth subjecting kids to.
• United States
8 Jun 16
I probably "had" to read "The Scarlet Letter" when in high school. Much of the storyline is still in my memory bank so I believe that yes, I did read it. That being said, I have problems with reading most any book after being force to read so many books.
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@msiduri (5750)
• United States
8 Jun 16
That's unfortunate as books can be so much fun. And so eye-opening. This one... well, live and learn. Hawthorne was never one of my favorites. I always thought he took himself a bit too seriously.
1 person likes this