Recent scholarship on Nathaniel Hawthorne has paid attention to Hawthorne's attitude toward and conscious manipulation of the interrelationship of author, narrator and audience in his fiction. The early exploration of this literary technique is clearly exhibited in the third abandoned collection of his tales and sketches, The Story Teller. Its striking feature is the introduction of a narrative frame and a first-person narrator/author figure to unify various types of tales and sketches. However, what scholars have largely neglected in their attempts to reconstruct this unrealized collection is the narrator's ambivalent reaction to his progressive society and old American nature in his native land.
The narrator's romantic longing for freedom of the artist is first shown in "The Seven Vagabonds." He admires free spirits and independence from society in all of the seven vagabonds, but the one with whom he travels to the same destination in the last scene is the wildest of all, an "Indian." He is an embodiment of American wilderness and history, which the expansionism of American society of the time ignored or regarded as "enemies" against the future of the advancing republic. This "Indian" figure shares the same isolation in the society of the time as the artist himself.
The start of the narrator's pilgrimage as a writer is depicted in "Passages from a Relinquished Work." In this section he left his home, abandoning his past and community to pursue his romantic ambition to become a traveling story-teller. But he is always haunted with his personal past and guilt, which are personified in the figure of his fellow-traveller, a young moralistic parson just like his puritanical guardian. He is in a sense the narrator's alter ego, or his accusing shadow.
As a writer traveling through various American landscapes, the narrator finds himself surrounded with commercialism and progressivism of the times. He has a sense of incongruity and feels out of place in his own society, being rather comfortably alone in the old American wilderness. But this wilderness is now retreating from their native land together with the "Indians," excluded from contemporary society just like this wandering story-teller. His pilgrimage as a writer must end with his return home, to his own past and society. Though his bitter moral drawn from his unsuccessful hope and early death is intended for his ambitious fellow youths, it may be also intended to warn American society that if they do not respect their past, which includes the wilderness, "Indians" and the puritan ancestors, and their mutual human sympathy, their future native land will be sterile and desolate, very unlike our dying story-teller Oberon's last vision of a Paradise Garden.