The Great Carbuncle

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First page of the anonymous first edition in the 1837 issue of The Token and Atlantic Souvenir (published in 1836)

"The Great Carbuncle" is a short story by Nathaniel Hawthorne. It first appeared in Twice-Told Tales, a collection of short stories, in 1837.

Plot synopsis[edit]

In the White Mountains, a band of eight adventurers gathers together. They are each on a personal quest for the Great Carbuncle, a brilliant gem legendary in its elusiveness. The adventurers are as follows:

  • The Seeker: a man sixty years of age who has sought the Great Carbuncle nearly his entire life. He says when he finds the Carbuncle he will die alongside it.
  • Doctor Cacophodel: a chemist. He hopes to perform many tests on the Carbuncle and make many copies of it.
  • Master Ichabod Pigsnort: a merchant, who wishes to sell the Carbuncle to the highest bidder.
  • The Cynic: a bespectacled man with a constant sneer. He considers the hopes of the other adventurers futile. He seeks the Carbuncle to prove to everyone that it doesn't exist.
  • The Poet: He hopes the Carbuncle will bring him inspiration.
  • Lord de Vere: a wealthy prince, who would use the Carbuncle's brilliance as a symbol of his family's greatness for posterity.
  • Matthew and Hannah: newlyweds, who wish to use the gem as a light in their household and as a conversation piece.

The next morning, Matthew and Hannah wake up realizing that the others have left before them. Even though they fear they have lost the Carbuncle, they take their time in preparing for their morning's adventure.

They begin to climb a great mountain. They soon fear they will be lost, until they spy a great red brilliance. They realize it is the Carbuncle. Beneath the Carbuncle, they see the figure of the Seeker, who has died trying to reach the gem. The Cynic approaches them and claims that he cannot see the Carbuncle. He removes his glasses and is immediately blinded by the gem's brilliance. Matthew and Hannah decide the gem is too brilliant for their household, and they leave it where it lies.

External links[edit]