“The Man of Adamant” Summary: Nathaniel Hawthorne Short Story Plot Synopsis

“The Man of Adamant” is a short story by Nathaniel Hawthorne first published in 1837 and later appearing in his 1852 collection The Snow-Image, and Other Twice-Told Tales. It’s about a strictly religious man who takes a drastic step to ensure his salvation. Here’s a summary of “The Man of Adamant”.

“The Man of Adamant” Summary

Richard Digby lives in a time of religious gloom and intolerance, which suits him perfectly. To achieve Salvation, he believes he must seclude himself from the wretched masses who are doomed to die.

Richard Digby takes an ax and weapons and sets out for the wilderness. He’s a bit disappointed that the village isn’t immediately consumed by fire and brimstone now that its one righteous man has left.

For three days he journeys, talking to himself, reading his Bible and praying along the way. He feels better the deeper into the woods he goes. He comes to a cave, secluded and overgrown, which is a perfect place for him to read the Scriptures and pray.

The cave roof is covered with mineral icicles, hard as adamant, as are parts of the ground. It continues to drip and harden. Digby himself was diagnosed by doctors as having calculous particles in his heart that would eventually harden the entire organ. He doesn’t believe such a thing is happening inside him.

The Man of Adamant SummaryNathaniel Hawthorne short story Plot Synopsis
“The Man of Adamant” Summary

Digby loves his sepulchral cave. Although there’s a spring of water a few steps away, he instead lets drops of moisture from the roof fall on his tongue.

Reading his Bible aloud on the third day, he sees a young woman in white and sunlight at the mouth of the cave. It’s Mary Goffe, whom he had converted in England before coming to America. He believes faith and love have enabled her to make the journey and reach him.

Digby orders her away, as she is sinful. She claims to have the cure for his heart condition and pleads with him to come with her, back to his fellow men. Staying in this cold and damp cave will kill him and, moreover, won’t lead him to heaven. He rejects her plea, confident that he alone will reach heaven.

Digby returns to his Bible reading, using the remaining sunlight. Mary stands outside the cave by a tree. She gets some water from the spring and brings it to Digby, entreating him to drink. Then they can sit, read together and pray.

Digby, with an evil expression, rejects her again, knocking the water away and threatening her if she continues to bother him. While talking, Digby’s heart stops beating and Mary’s form fades away. She died months ago in England.

Over a hundred years later, when there are settlements in the area, two children come upon the spot, creeping into the dense growth. They shout and run to their father. He returns with them with an ax and clears away the growth. In the mouth of the cave is the repulsive figure of a man, looking as though he was carved from gray stone like the cave.

When the man recovers from this sight he, his wife and the children throw stones over the entrance of the cave. Then they throw dirt and sod into the gaps, completely covering it in.

The legend of the Man of Adamant grows as generations of people tell their children the story. Eventually, few believe it’s true. Still, the place is avoided by adults and children alike. Inside still sits the shape of Richard Digby with an attitude of repelling the whole human race.

I hope this summary of “The Man of Adamant” by Nathaniel Hawthorne was helpful.