The Maypole Of Merry Mount Summary & Study Guide
SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides for challenging works of literature. This 26-page guide for the short story “The Maypole Of Merry Mount” by Nathaniel Hawthorne includes detailed a summary and analysis, as well as several more in-depth sections of expert-written literary analysis. Featured content includes commentary on major characters, 15 important quotes, essay topics, and key themes like The Fallibility of Man and The Importance of Love.
The story begins with the collection of Merry Mounters celebrating a wedding between Edith and Edgar on Midsummer Eve. The group decorates the Maypole with flowers “so fresh and dewy that they must have grown by magic on that happy pine tree” (Paragraph 3). The people all hold hands around the Maypole, dressed in animal headdresses like wolves and stags, except for one person who is clothed entirely in a bear suit. A few other people have on human masks that distort their features, and one person is dressed as a Native American. Everyone seems very happy, except a group of Puritans who watch the group from the outside, believing them to be worshippers of the devil. The bride and groom are in the middle of the circle, and Edgar holds a gold staff. Behind them “stood the figure of an English priest, canonically dressed, yet decked with flowers, in heathen fashion” (Paragraph 6). The priest presents the couple and bids everyone rejoice by singing a wedding song. Everyone yells happily, and music plays. Edgar looks at his Edith and notices that she is worried. She expresses concern that this will be the happiest point in their lives and that their friends’ happiness is a façade. The narrator argues that the couple shares real love in this moment that can only exist from understanding that their future might be troubled; they feel like they do not belong at Merry Mount.
The narrator recounts the English colonists coming to the New World, some of whom wanted to barter, but some of whom, like the hedonist Merry Mounters, wanted freedom from Thought and Wisdom. The narrator argues that this sense of happiness in the Merry Mounters is a falsehood as they continue the more pagan traditions of Old England, chief among them the veneration of the Maypole every season. The narrator describes the sterner Puritan neighbors of Merry Mount, who kill animals and Native Americans and punish dancers. They watch the Merry Mounters play idle games, disturbed by their gaiety which disrupts the Puritans’ religious fervor, believing them to be spirits of the devil.
The Puritans interrupt the nuptials; Endicott yells at the priest “and with his keen sword Endicott assaulted the hallowed Maypole” (Paragraph 21). Endicott’s followers cheer, and Peter asks what they should do with the prisoners. Endicott suggests whipping, branding, and cutting off ears as punishment for all the revelers, except the bear, who should be shot for…