Can you believe it? This is my 100th post! I can’t believe I’ve been blabbing about so many things since September... :P
Anyways, I managed to catch up on some speed reading during lunch today. It started off as a slow day at work so I took full advantage of the opportunity to catch up on my reading. I visited Classic Reader again and decided to read Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Ambitious Guest.
At first, I found it a bit hard to digest Hawthorne’s writing but I’m glad that I read the story till the end. The tale of the ambitious traveller who stumbled upon the home of a simple, yet open and warm hearted family carried a strong message on the perils of being too ambitious and trying too hard to make a mark in the world.
Hawthorne’s description of the ambitious stranger was that “he had travelled far and alone; his whole life, indeed, had been a solitary path; for, with the lofty caution of his nature, he had kept himself apart from those who might otherwise be his companions.”
Whereas the family was described as ‘so kind and hospitable, had that consciousness of unity among themselves, and separation from the world at large, which, in every domestic circle, should still keep a holy place where no stranger may intrude”
One of my favourite quotes from the book was that of Hawthorne’s detailed explanation on why the guest travelled far and wide, the reasons as to why he led such a solitary existence and the consequences of chasing after his ambition:
“The secret of the young man’s character was a high and abstracted ambition. He could have borne to live an undistinguished life, but not to be forgotten in the grave. Yearning desire had been transformed to hope; and hope, long cherished, had become like certainty, that, obscurely as he journeyed now, a glory was to beam on all his pathway,-- though not, perhaps, while he was treading it. But when posterity should gaze back into the gloom of what was now the present, they would trace the brightness of his footsteps, brightening as meaner glories faded, and confess that a gifted one had passed from his cradle to his tomb with none to recognize him.”
While the guest sits to rest at the family’s home, he tells them his story and his quest of gaining acknowledgement in the world. This carried on into a full discussion with individual members of the family itself outlining their own personal ambitions.
As the story goes, a terrible accident occurs and the occupants of the home as well as the guest die in the incident. Yet, those who were remembered even after their death was the pleasant, simple family members that open their door and their home to the guest; while the guest remained a mystery.
So, the key to acknowledgement based on my understanding of The Ambitious Guest is:
- You don’t have to travel far and wide to achieve greatness, sometimes greatness comes from the simplicity in life through values that are respected by others.
- Chasing after your ambitions can sometimes lead to a solitary life when the key to acknowledgement is building relationships with the people around you.
While the storyline was simple; the characters featured were strong and helped carry the message across clearly. I think this story should be read by many of us who are caught up in chasing our own personal ambitions. We sometimes forget that the simplest things in life is what we should value most; whilst maintaining relationships and practicing kindness and generosity will ensure we are remembered even long after we are gone. This is definitely going to be one of my favourite short stories.
To read The Ambitious Guest and share your views on the story, please visit Classic Reader.