The House of the Seven Gables (pt. 1)

Hawthorne is an acute observer of dress in this book, and most character introductions begin with a description of what they are wearing. This is my bread and butter: do I, reading this in 2011, understand his descriptions with the same complexity as they did in the mid-nineteenth century?

But last night I read this great passage that belies his reliance on dress as an indicator of class, age, etc, and indicates a more complex understanding of outward appearance:

"As a mere object of sight, nothing is more deficient in picturesque features than a procession, seen in its passage through narrow streets. The spectator feels it to be fool's play, when he can distinguish the tedious common-place of each man's visage, with the perspiration and weary self-importance on it, and the very cut of his pantaloons, and the stiffness or laxity of his shirt-collar, and the dust on the back of his black coat." (165)

Hawthorne, Nathaniel [ed. Seymour L. Gross]. The House of the Seven Gables. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1967.