"The reader may choose among these theories"
Detail from Madonna del Magnificat (c.1483-5)
Public DomainDetail from Madonna del Magnificat (c.1483-5) - Credit: Sandro Botticelli

This mischievous invitation for the reader to take on the author’s role in deciding the novel’s outcome is a typically Hawthornian ploy. It’s what gives his writing, for all its rooting in nineteenth century assumptions, its strangely postmodern feel, anticipating as it does Roland Barthes’ theories of the “writerly text.” If the more traditional approach places the author, as the arbiter of meaning, in the position of God, then Hawthorne’s refusal of this role also implicitly undermines the idea of a single and all-determining divine authority. His rhetorical strategies thus reinforce the novel’s questioning of the Puritan belief in predestination.