Furtive Role-Playing and Vulnerability in “Wakefield”: Nathanial Hawthorne and E. L. Doctorow

Jamal Assadi


When Doctorow rewrote “Wakefield” in 2008, he proposed to fill in gaps unabridged by Hawthorne’s “Wakefield” (1835). Doctorow gives his first-person narrator and protagonist the power to tell the story free from the load of Hawthorne’s first person witness narrator who keeps the protagonist under his direct and strict observation. Through his protagonist, however, Doctorow lets us learn the psychological reasons why Wakefield decides to leave his home. Besides, Doctorow presents the events that happened to Wakefield during his absence in a more probable manner by creating a plot, with causative connections between the events. In so doing, Doctorow seeks to reconnect the past with the present in order to illuminate our present.

Like Hawthorne, Doctorow constructs the condition of play within play within play. In both stories the protagonists and the narrators direct covert theatrical stages while unconsciously playing the spectators of other stages. Each stage presents the enclosed one in susceptible conditions and undergoes what it knowingly makes others unconsciously experience. Vulnerability and acting prompt the protagonists, the narrators and the readers to raise very important questions concerning man’s place or misplace in the world. I will also attempt to examine how the treatment of these two concepts is reflected in the two authors’ handling of the narrative point of view. My point is to argue that both Hawthorne’s and Doctorow’s concept of vulnerability and theatrical watching offer newly constructed observations regarding critical theory.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.22158/sll.v3n2p195


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