In what ways does the writer powerfully convey the ideas of regret and the effects of the past in the present in, ‘The Door in the Wall’ by H.G Wells and ‘The Hollow of the Three Hills’ by Nathaniel Hawthorne?
In this essay, I will be exploring the ways in which the writer has powerfully conveyed the consistent theme of regret and the profound effect of the past in the present in relation to Nathaniel Hawthornes, ‘The Hollow of the Three Hills. ‘This story is about an unnamed woman who neglected her duties as a wife and mother but was unable to escape these regrets and therefore seeks the help of a witch to witness the situation in which her family is currently in. The author uses plot, language and characters to convey the theme of regret and how the past has affected the woman in the present. The second story, ‘The Door in the Wall’ by H.G Wells is a story about a young boy who discover a mystical garden in a wall, but is later on in the story unable to enter the garden which leads to his demise. The author uses Wallace’s experiences of expressing his dream, the setting, and the fact that he was not able to distinguish the difference between fantasy and reality, as a way to convey the theme of regret and the effect of the past on the present.
One of the key ways in which Nathaniel Hawthorne has expressed the theme of regret and the effect of the past in the present is through the plot. At the beginning of the book, the author offers us some insight into the woman’s character. He shows us that the woman attempted to escape her responsibilities as a wife and a mother but was incapable of getting past these regrets, and so had to seek the help of a witch to witness the state her loved ones are in. On page 2 paragraph 1 the women said, ‘there is a weight in my bosom that I cannot away with, and I have come hither to inquire of their welfare.’ This suggests the woman was not able to live with her past actions, therefore seeks the help of a witch at the cost of her own life. We can also perceive the woman’s past actions have been haunting her through the description used to describe her appearance. The woman’s appearance is said to be, ‘…graceful in form and fair of feature, through pale and troubled and smitten with an untimely blight…’ The words ‘pale’ and ‘troubled’ clearly depict that the woman although young is rather anxious and worried about her past actions.Another way in which the author portrayed the theme of regret and the effect of the past in the present is through the language. On page 4 paragraph 2 the author said, ‘…the mother who had sinned against natural affection and left her child to die.’ Nathaniel Hawthorne used irony to show us that even though the woman did abandon her infant, the regret of leaving her child behind has led her to sacrifice her own life in the present, for this reason we can conclude she did not exactly sin against natural affection. He also emphasizes on how the past has affected the present by making a once mirthful house became desolate and lonesome. On page 3 paragraph 1 the husband ‘spoke of a woman’s perfidy, of a wife who had broken her holiest vows, of a home and heart made desolate.’ The author supports us acknowledge the intense pain her husband is bearing. This not only makes the reader feel sympathy for her husband but also magnifies the regret the woman is feeling for leaving him to suffer the consequences of a dying child.
A third way in which the theme of regret and the effect of the past in the present were portrayed is through the characters. The author shows us how the woman sacrificed her life to discover the ways in which her departure has affected her family, but not once was there a character that spoke positively of the woman. On page 4 paragraph 2 the woman is said to be, ‘…the daughter who had wrung the aged hearts of her parents- the wife who had betrayed the trusting fondness of her husband’. This without a doubt depicts that the woman has laid down a huge burden on the shoulders of her family, and would not be forgiven for her actions even if she was to return. More than all the censure the woman got from her family what ultimately led to her demise was the death of her child. The author supposed the woman as the mother who had, ‘…left her child to die.’ This shows that the woman abandoned her child in the period of time when her child actually needed her most and this makes the reader feel aversion towards her. The woman unable to live with any more guilt and clearly understanding that not one member of her family felt sympathy for her, was ultimately led to her death. But one might ask how much trauma and suffering did she cause to others?
One of the prime points in which H.G Wells communicates the theme of remorse and the effect of the past in the present in the book ‘The Door in the Wall’, is through the regret Wallace experienced after expressing his dream. The first encounter Wallace had of the garden was at West Kensington Street in London at the age of five, and it brought him punishments and beatings. Wallace said, ‘I tried to tell them, and my father gave me my first thrashing for telling lies.’ The ‘thrashing’ Wallace got ‘for telling lies’ changes Wallace’s attitude towards the door, it made him become increasingly careless about it. This first seemed insignificant, but it is something that the reader will realize is vital as the story progresses. Throughout the story Wallace encounters the garden multiple times in different parts of London but his other concerns become more important to him than his childhood dreams. On page ninety-four paragraph seven Wallace says, ‘I have done no work at all… My soul is full of inappeasable regrets.’ The reason for Wallace’s inability to do any work is because he rues allowing preoccupation to block the door.
Another way in which H.G Wells showed the theme of regret is through the difference between the world Wallace lived in compared to that of the garden. The garden is portrayed as ‘a door that goes into peace, into delight, into a beauty beyond dreaming…’ It is also described as a ‘world with a different quality, a warmer more penetrating, and mellower light, with a faint clear gladness in its air…’ The language that the author uses to describe the scenery makes the reader understand the vision of the garden was kept clear in Wallace’s mind. The fact that Wallace could remember each and every detail of the garden makes him unable to forget about it, later on causing him to bitterly regret all the opportunities he missed of entering the enchanted garden. Nevertheless, when he returned to reality after his initial encounter of the garden, he was not not welcomed back as decently as that of the garden where the children were, ‘glad to have him’, instead he was prodded with an umbrella by an elderly man and later on in the story punished by his father. Throughout the story Wallace realizes the garden was the opposite of reality, rather unbearable and excruciating. This causes him to vehemently regret not staying in the garden eternally.
A third way in which the author portrayed the theme of regret and the effect of the past in the present is through Wallace not being able to differentiate between reality and delusion. Although Wallace is able to distinguish the difference between reality and the garden he was unable to build a bridge between the gap of fantasy and reality. The reason for this is that the repetition of the garden has caused Wallace to think the door is no longer fantasy but part of reality. As Wallace grew older his attitude towards the door changed, he started to realize his education and career were more important than his dream, but the continuous repetition of the door makes him think the door was part of reality. At the end of the book the author says, ‘the doorway was left unfastened through a misunderstanding between two gangers, and through it he made his way.’ This clearly shows Wallace was not able to distinguish the difference between reality and fantasy, thus we can conclude his past led to his death.
In this essay I have explored how the authors of both books have conveyed the idea of regret and the effect of the past in the present through setting, language, plot, and characters. I believe Nathaniel Hawthorne has intentionally intended on showing the theme of regret and the effect of the woman’s past on her present because he believed people suffered the consequences they create. Nevertheless the authors of both books show how mistakes and ambitions that we have in the past will follow us to the absolute end of our lives whether we try to bury them or escape them. It also shows that if we don’t take actions with regards to our objectives and mistakes they will cause us regret and can even lead to our death.