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"The Great Carbuncle
" is a short story
A short story is a work of fiction that is usually written in prose, often in narrative format. This format tends to be more pointed than longer works of fiction, such as novellas and novels. Short story definitions based on length differ somewhat, even among professional writers, in part because...
by Nathaniel Hawthorne
Nathaniel Hawthorne was an American novelist and short story writer.Nathaniel Hawthorne was born in 1804 in the city of Salem, Massachusetts to Nathaniel Hathorne and the former Elizabeth Clarke Manning. His ancestors include John Hathorne, a judge during the Salem Witch Trials...
. It first appeared in Twice-Told Tales
Twice-Told Tales is a short story collection in two volumes by Nathaniel Hawthorne. The first was published in the spring of 1837, and the second in 1842...
, a collection of short stories, in 1837
The year 1837 in literature involved some significant new books.-Events:* The Little, Brown and Company publishing house opens its doors.* First publication of the The United States Magazine and Democratic Review.-New books:...
In the White Mountains
The White Mountains are a mountain range covering about a quarter of the state of New Hampshire and a small portion of western Maine in the United States. Part of the Appalachian Mountains, they are considered the most rugged mountains in New England...
, a band of eight adventurers gathers together. They are each on a personal quest for the Great Carbuncle, a brilliant gem legendary in its elusiveness. The adventurers are as follows:
- The Seeker: a man sixty years of age who has sought the Great Carbuncle
A carbuncle is an archaic name given to any red cabochon cut gemstone. The name applied particularly to red garnet. The word occurs in four places in most English translations of the Bible...
nearly his entire life. He says when he finds the Carbuncle he will die alongside it.
- Doctor Cacophodel: a chemist. He hopes to perform many tests on the Carbuncle and make many copies of it.
- Master Ichabod Pigsnort: a merchant, who wishes to sell the Carbuncle to the highest bidder.
- The Cynic: a bespectacled man with a constant sneer. He considers the hopes of the other adventurers futile. He seeks the Carbuncle to prove to everyone that it doesn't exist.
- The Poet: He hopes the Carbuncle will bring him inspiration.
- Lord de Vere: a wealthy prince, who would use the Carbuncle's brilliance as a symbol of his family's greatness for posterity.
- Matthew and Hannah: newlyweds, who wish to use the gem as a light in their household and as a conversation piece.
The next morning, Matthew and Hannah wake up realizing that the others have left before them. Even though they fear they have lost the Carbuncle, they take their time in preparing for their morning's adventure.
They begin to climb a great mountain. They soon fear they will be lost, until they spy a great red brilliance. They realize it is the Carbuncle. Beneath the Carbuncle, they see the figure of the Seeker, who has died trying to reach the gem. The Cynic approaches them and claims that he cannot see the Carbuncle. He removes his glasses and is immediately blinded by the gem's brilliance. Matthew and Hannah decide the gem is too brilliant for their household, and they leave it where it lies.