Academic journal article Nathaniel Hawthorne Review

"Annie Does Not Love the Monkeys": Hawthorne, Irony, and Childhood Innocence

Academic journal article Nathaniel Hawthorne Review

"Annie Does Not Love the Monkeys": Hawthorne, Irony, and Childhood Innocence

Article excerpt

Thanks to scholars such as Michael Colacurcio, Nina Baym and David Reynolds, it is now considered very old fashioned and naive to imagine Hawthorne quietly engaged in the drawing rooms of his prefaces and introductions, existing in the imaginative play of light and shadow, unconnected to the actual bustling nineteenth-century world he inhabited. Instead, all three of these scholars have convincingly argued that Hawthorne fashioned his writing career based on and in response to popular writers or topics of the day. Hawthorne's engagement with the Actual in all its complexities is especially evident in a long ignored sketch, "Little Annie's Ramble," that was originally published in Youth's Keepsake in 1835 and subsequently included in Twice-Told Tales in 1837. Particularly, Hawthorne's inclusion of a caravan or menagerie, a fairly recent development of popular culture in North America at that time, prompts a much needed re-evaluation of the sketch, both for the ways in which it documents this entertainment as well as how Hawthorne's use of the show reveals hitherto unrecognized aspects of Annie and the narrator. Annie's attendance at a caravan and Hawthorne's ironic treatment of the narrator call into question the ascendant ideology of sentimental childhood.

Nathaniel Hawthorne opens "Little Annie's Ramble" with the town crier's announcement of the arrival of a caravan or menagerie. The unnamed narrator sees Annie on her doorstep longing to attend the show and he invites her to accompany him. Together they stroll around the corner and view a street clogged with vehicles and then pass a series of shop windows: a dry-goods shop, a jeweler, a hardware store, a bakery, a bookseller, and a toy store. In the throng of Main Street, the narrator comments on the animals in view--caged and domestic animals including a canary, a parrot, and a squirrel as well as a dog and a cat. The narrator and Annie enter the caravan or menagerie and view an elephant, a lion and lioness, a tiger, a wolf, a black bear, a polar bear, monkeys, and a monkey riding a pony. The narrator and Annie then return to the street where they hear the town-crier announcing a lost child. The narrator quickly identifies Annie as the lost child and they hurry homeward to alleviate the fears of Annie's mother.

Twentieth-century critics, if they paid attention at all, tended to mention the sketch in passing, dismissing it as conventional sentimentality. Even in studies that focus on Hawthorne's early career, the sketch rarely merits a passing remark. For example, Neal Frank Doubleday in Hawthornes Early Tales does not even mention the story. Nina Baym in The Shape of Hawthornes Career devotes a sentence to the sketch. One possible motive for critics' inattention to the sketch could be its publication in Youth's Keepsake, a gift annual the title of which suggests an audience of children. Because Hawthorne disparagingly referred to his own writing for children, (1) critics have likely felt some justification in setting aside work for which the author seemed to have little respect. In fact, the editors of the Centenary Edition remark that "Little Annie's Ramble" is "yet another example of the lovingly sentimental hackwork that from the outset he [Hawthorne] was willing to undertake in order to make his way as a writer" (Pearce et al., 6:288). And Laura Laffrado, in the one book-length study of Hawthorne's writing for children, repeats the characterization of the sketch as sentimental and implies it is beneath critical attention by ignoring it (1). This is not exactly a ringing endorsement for serious attention to the sketch. Sentimentality continued to be the grounds for explicit dismissal in Beneath the American Renaissance, in which David Reynolds lumps "Little Annie's Ramble" in with several other early sketches that perpetrate such nineteenth-century values as "simplified piety, patriotic history, comforting angelic visions, domestic bliss, and regenerating childhood purity" (114). …

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