The Marble Faun
or, The Romance of Monte Beni
Hawthorne's novel of Americans abroad, the first novel to explore the influence of European cultural ideas on American morality. Although it is set in Rome, the fictive world of The Marble Faun depends not on Italy's social or historical significance, but rather on its aesthetic importance as a definer of 'civilization'. As in The Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne is concerned here with the nature of transgression and guilt. A murder, motivated by love, affects not only Donatello, the murderer, but his beloved Miriam and their friends Hilda and Kenyon. As he explores the reactions of each to the crime, Hawthorne dramatizes both the freedoms a new cultural model inspires and the self-censoring conformities it requires. His examination of the influence of European culture on American travellers lay the groundwork for such later works of American fiction as Mark Twain's The Innocents Abroad and Henry James' The Portrait of a Lady.