Elliston and Friends Need Repentance, Not Serpents
Interesting characters emerge from literature in the 19th century. Some are consumed with physical deformities, others motivated by sin, and even others persuaded by evil. Roderick Elliston, the main character of “Egotism; or, the Bosom Serpent,” possesses all these qualities, making him a complex character. Other authors shared similar ideas about the meticulous and careful creation of literary characters, including Mary Shelley who thought along the same lines. Hawthorne, as well as in “Egotism,” created characters with similar traits in some of this other works.
Roderick Elliston is a character that is full of detail. He holds many facets about him, some commendable, some condemnable. His preaching of sinning and its repercussions can be seen as admirable; however, his actual sinning is not. Hawthorne suggests that if one is to sin, the consequences can lead to physical deformation. And Roderick in burdened with just that – looking physically hideous to others (at least Hawthorne wants us to believe his is actually physically hideousness). Society saw him as an abhorrent man: “Roderick seemed aware how generally he had become the subject of curiosity and conjecture, and, with a morbid repugnance to such a notice, or to any notice whatsoever, estranged himself from all companionship” (“Egotism” 784). This is the type of character that other authors created. Less than twenty-five years earlier, Mary Shelley’s monster in Frankenstein possessed the exact same reputation among society. He is seen with the same eyes as Roderick is:
No mortal could support the horror of that countenance [the monster]. A mummy again endued with animation could not be so hideous as that wretch. I had gazed on him . . . he was ugly then; but when those muscles and joints were rendered capable of motion, it became a thing such as even Dante could not have conceived (Shelley 35).
Both authors created the same...