Autumn reading – “not unlike a gigantic gravestone” . . .

rmb coverOften in November I read a novel or short story to get myself into an autumn state of mind . . . I’m not sure why; I don’t do this for other seasons. For one thing, I think, I used to love autumn when I was a kid, and now as an adult I find that it often rushes by before I can take time to appreciate it; a book helps me notice the leaves, the faded goldfinches, and so on.

One such story is “Roger Malvin’s Burial” by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Roger Malvin is a mortally wounded farmer walking home from a battle, accompanied by another, younger, likewise seriously wounded man, Reuben Bourne; Roger convinces Reuben to abandon him (Roger) in the wilderness (New England woods, circa 1725) so that Reuben himself can get the medical attention he needs.

The conversation between these two generous men, each prepared to sacrifice for the other, is the first part of the story; the second part is Reuben’s bitter lifelong guilt that results from the abandonment. The ending is tragedy worthy of Shakespeare.

And we have a giant slab of granite “not unlike a gigantic gravestone;” beds of oak leaves; and old trees groaning in fear.  It’s a perfect autumnal story — set in May, ahem.

Not to be read as a lesson in cultural awareness regarding Native Americans.


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