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The Marble Faun is Hawthorne’s most unusual romance, and possibly one of the strangest major works of American fiction. Writing on the eve of the American Civil War, Hawthorne set his story in a fantastical Italy. The romance mixes elements of a fable, pastoral, gothic novel, and travel guide. The climax comes less than halfway through the story, and Hawthorne intentionally fails to answer many of the reader’s questions about the characters and the plot.