Unfulfilled ambition is sorrowful and calamitous.

Correspondingly, The Ambitious Guest by Nathaniel Hawthorne is a tragic short story displaying such qualities.

The story opens with a family sitting around a fire in a cottage in the wilderness of New England. Their cottage lies just beneath a mountain, which the reader later finds is a ticking bomb. Hawthorne introduces the characters, but does not provide the reader with any of their names. The characters remain nameless throughout the entirety of the story. There is a mother, a father, a grandmother, an adolescent girl, and a few small children. As this content family is sitting and conversing around the fire, there comes a knock at the door. A young man, a traveler, is at the door. He is in need of a place to stay. He stays with the family and they have dinner and begin to become comfortable with each other's company. It is implied that the young girl and the traveler could have had the beginnings of a romance, though thoughts of this romance could never be fulfilled. The traveler tells the family of his ambitious tendencies, but he never gets the chance to go into a sufficient amount of detail. Everyone has become comfortable with each other and their company when something terrible happens. There is a slide of rock that comes hurling off of the mountain and on to the cottage. The entire side of the mountain gives way. The slide traps and kills the family and the guest. Their bodies were lost and there names never known by those who retell their story. The story is quite tragic and depressing. (The Ambitious Guest by Nathaniel Hawthorne)

This is actually quite a disturbing story in many ways. There are many characters in The Ambitious Guest that could have had bright and exciting futures, though Hawthorne was too cruel to provide them with this opportunity. However, without their deaths there would not be a story. It is very dark and pessimistic that these jolly characters should die so violently. Hawthorne almost recklessly kills them off, deciding at the last minute that they do not get to have a future. Transcendentalism can be quite cruel. Cruelty is not often an aspect of Transcendentalism, but nature is, and in The Ambitious Guest nature sure plays a very significant role. Without the unpredictability of Mother Nature, there would be virtually no story. The unpredictability makes the story interesting. Plain is boring, Hawthorne clearly wanted to spice things up a bit. This is something he did frequently in all of his works. Transcendentalism is very enchanting, though however cruel these enchantments may be.

Enchanting and intriguing best describes the style of writing used throughout The Ambitious Guest. Hawthorne captivates readers with his incredible prose. The way in which he writes is truly eloquent:

"When the footsteps were heard, therefore, between the outer door and the inner one, the whole family rose up, grandmother, children and all, as if about to welcome some one who belonged to them, and whose fate was linked with theirs (The Ambitious Guest)."

Hawthorne writes leaving much to the imagination. This sense of mystery is a large part of Transcendentalism that is prominent throughout The Ambitious Guest. This sense of mystery continues with the description of the ambitious guest himself: "The secret of the young man's character was a high and abstracted ambition (The Ambitious Guest)." The young man described his ambitions to the family, wanting to elaborate but never getting the chance to: "'You laugh at me,' said he, taking the eldest daughter's hand, and laughing himself. 'You think my ambition as nonsensical as if I were to freeze myself to death on the top of Mount Washington, only that people might spy at me from the country round about. And, truly, that would be a noble pedestal for a man's statue (The Ambitious Guest)!'"
This quote is quite sad in and of itself, displaying what will be the young man's wasted ambitions.

Ambition and fate play very large roles throughout The Ambitious Guest. Ambition can be found in the eyes and lost hopes of the young man, and fate can be found in him as well as the members of the family. It is curious that the man should have chosen the day he did to stay with the family. It is as though there was some sort of fate pulling them together, making events occur the way they did. The reader is left to ponder this themselves. This open ending is also a characteristic of Transcendentalism in that it leaves a lot to the reader's imagination. Like Poe, Hawthorne seems to have a deep understanding of the human psyche.

The end of The Ambitious Guest is also quite disturbing in and of itself:
"There were circumstances which led some to suppose that a stranger had been received into the cottage on this awful night, and had shared the catastrophe of all its inmates. Others denied that there were sufficient grounds for such a conjecture. Woe for the high-souled youth, with his dream of Earthly Immortality! His name and person utterly unknown; his history, his way of life, his plans, a mystery never to be solved, his death and his existence equally a doubt! Whose was the agony of that death moment (The Ambitious Guest)?"
The mere thought of this dark ending is quite concerning and almost reads like the work of a tortured artist.

Hawthorne was not as much of a tortured soul as Poe was. Hawthorne lead a relatively normal and comfortable childhood and he did not experience nearly as much loss as Poe did, though he did experience the loss of his father at a young age (Werlock). This accounts for their different approaches to writing and life in general. Though both men were part of the Romanticism movement, Poe seemed more pessimistic while Hawthorne more optimistic (not optimistic in this particular story though).

Compared to Hawthorne's other works, The Ambitious Guest seems to be one of the most negative of all of his works. For instance, The Scarlett Letter is not a happy piece of prose by any means, but it possess a lesson at the end of the story from which people can then learn from.

Hawthorne was a author of the Transcendentalist movement, and his works are still read to this day and relevant to this day. Hawthorne is a great Transcendentalist author whose works seem to transcend time.

Works Cited

"The Ambitious Guest by Nathaniel Hawthorne." The Literature Network: Online Classic Literature, Poems, and Quotes. Essays & Summaries. Web. 10 Dec. 2010. http://www.online-literature.com/hawthorne/123/.

Werlock, Abby H. P., ed. "Hawthorne, Nathaniel." The Facts On File Companion to the American Novel. New York: Facts On File, Inc., 2006. Bloom's Literary Reference Online. Facts On File, Inc. http://www.fofweb.com/activelink2.asp?ItemID=WE54&SID=5&iPin= CANov0413&SingleRecord=True (accessed December 11, 2010).