THE AMBITIOUS GUEST By: Nathaniel Hawthorne First Published

By: Nathaniel Hawthorne
First Published: 1835
Type of Plot: Domestic realism
Time of Work: The early 1800's
Setting: Notch of the White Hills, Massachusetts
Characters: The Ambitious Guest, Mother, Father, Eldest daughter, Aged
grandmother, Younger children
Genres: Short fiction, Domestic realism
Subjects: Family or family life, Death or dying, Storms, Ambition, Disasters,
Natural disasters
Locales: Massachusetts
What is the plot in the story the ambitious guest?
In: Plot and Setting
A young traveler stops for the night with a family that lives in a "notch" next to a
mountain. They make friendly conversation, interrupted once by the sound of a wagon
carrying other travelers (who pause but do not go inside, continuing on with their
journey) and then by the sound of rocks falling from the slope. The father reassures the
visitor that rockfalls happen regularly without causing harm, but that the family has a
"safe place" to go in the event of a serious collapse.
The group carries on with their friendly conversation. The visitor acknowledges that he
is young and has no accomplishments of note, but hopes he will have "achieved my
destiny" before he dies and then "I shall have built my monument!" The father
expresses the wish for a more humble legacy, and the aged grandmother makes a
request for her dying day.
Suddenly, they are alarmed by the sound of a much larger avalanche. They scream in
fear of "The Slide!" and bolt outside for their safe place. But they are all caught up in
the rockslide and killed, while the house is completely undamaged. Their bodies are
swept away and never found. The narrator notes that some who see the house later
think there is evidence of a visitor that night, but others disagree - the young man has
in fact died without leaving any trace of his life.
DESPONDENCY: ( adj ) extremely unhappy and without hope:
Gill had been out of work for a year and was getting very despondent.
PRECIPICE: ( noun ) a very steep side of a high rock, mountain or cliff:
A loose rock tumbled over the precipice.
INCLEMENCY: ( adj ) bad weather ( rough, or harsh, stormy )
The inclemency of the weather didn’t permit us to continue our journey.
RUMBLE: ( verb ) to make a series of long low sounds, especially a long distance
away from you:
We could hear thunder rumbling in the distance.
MIRTH: ( noun ) happiness and laughter:
Her body began to shake with mirth.
LAMENTATION: ( noun ) deep sadness or something that expresses it:
There was lamentation throughout the land at news of the defeat.
SOLITUDE: ( noun ) when you are alone, especially when this is what you enjoy:
Carl spent the morning in solitude.
PRIMITIVE: ( adj ) characteristic of early ages or of an early state of human
Show me those primitive books you have.
YEARNING: ( noun ) a strong desire for something:
He had a deep yearning to return to his home town.
PERTINACIOUS: ( adj ) continuing to believe something or to do something in a very
determined way:
The pertinacious rain caused the flood.