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Literature / The Great Carbuncle

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"The Great Carbuncle" is a short story written by Nathaniel Hawthorne in 1835.

The titular Great Carbuncle is a legendary gem of immense light that is rumored to be hidden somewhere in the White Mountains in New England. Eight adventurers are all in the area looking for the same gem and decide to camp together for the night before beginning their own adventures for the gem in morning. From there we see who finds the legendary gem and who does not.


Tropes on the search for the carbuncle

  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": "The Seeker" is only known by this name. Everyone in the whole area just seems to call him this as seeking the carbuncle is what he is known for doing.
  • Flat-Earth Atheist: The cynic is this given his name. Everyone else is on this quest to find a long rumored gem in the woods (which in the scale of rumored things to go searching for isn't among the most outlandish given that yes pretty gems and stones are found in nature) but he instead insists it is all lies and gossip. He intends to search all the mountains just to prove the others are wasting their time.
  • Go Mad from the Revelation: A playing with this trope is done with the reaction to the carbuncle. The seeker is found dead from what appears to be just seeing it in person. This being a man who spent a good chunk of his life searching for it. The cynic however refuses to see it and once he does is blinded from the experience
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  • Happily Married: Matthew and Hannah are the only two adventurers connected to each other being young newlyweds who are happy with one another.
  • No Name Given: Only a few of our adventurers are given proper names.
  • Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: Of the eight adventurers only two (Matthew and Hannah) are connected. Each of the seven just happen to be on a quest for the same item that decide to camp together for one night.
  • Take That!: While many a Hawthorne stories feature Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane elements this is one of the few with a direct Take That! at a cynical character. The cynic refuses to believe in the carbuncle even when it is in front of his face and then is forever blinded as punishment for it.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: The story ends giving disclosure on the fates of the adventures after this quest with their lucks or lack thereof. The carbuncle itself is also given one with people wondering where it is now. Even the narrator.

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