Level N Short Stories Workbook & Questions 2012
STORIES OF OURSELVES
The Hollow of the Three Hills by Nathaniel Hawthorne
The Author and the Age
Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804
1864) was born in Massachusetts, USA, and became a prominent and much
respected novelist and short story writer. One of his best known novels is The Scarlet Letter
studied at Bowdoin College and graduated in 1825. Later, he worked at a Custom House and joined a
transcendental utopian community called Brook Farm. He then married and had three children. Much of
his writing is about the New England Counties and eastern USA, and many stories feature moral tales
inspired by the Puritans, an extremely strict and moral Christian sect. His fiction is considered part of the
Dark Romanticism movement, and the theme of his writings emphasizes the inherent sin and evil of
man. Most of his stories contain moral messages of a deep psychological complexity. They suggest guilt,
evil, sin, and repentance bordering on surrealism and fantasy. An extremely shy and reclusive person,
Hawthorne wrote a large number of short stories in his early career, as well as a number of novels.
Critics have focused on the strange and subtle beauty of his prose, his concern for laying bare the
themes of moral purity, and his use of symbolism to stress sin, guilt, and repentance.
Synopsis of the story
Written in 1830,
The Hollow of Three Hills
is set in a deep, dark valley in a rural area. A young woman
and an old hag meet – the young woman is deeply troubled and seeks answers from the old hag who
seems to have supernatural powers of communicating with souls. She utters strange prayers which
conjure up voices and visions; these seem to provide some answers to the young woman. The old hag
conjures up a final scene which has a tragic ending. The hag is not who she seems to be.
Horror/Mystery with a moral message – the wages of sin is death.
The time is long ago in a country area where three hills form a dark hidden valley. It is autumn
and late evening; autumn is the season of dying, and evening is the end of the day. The setting echoes
what is happening in the world of men.
Language & Style:
Many archaic (old fashioned) words are used, typical of the formal prose style of the
time. The tone is didactic (a message to teach or instruct), and the story is rich in descriptive imagery
(e.g. simile, personification.)
Neither of the women is named. The young lady is beautiful but seems pale, troubled,
and emotionally disturbed. She has come to seek answers from an ugly, wrinkled, shrunken old hag,
who seems to have spiritual powers and control over people’s lives. Initially, the young woman is