""The Ambitious Guest" is a short story by Nathaniel Hawthorne. A young traveler stops for the night with a family that lives in a "notch" next to a mountain. They make friendly conversation, interrupted once by the sound of a wagon carrying other travelers (who pause but do not go inside, continuing on with their journey) and then by the sound of rocks falling from the slope. The father reassures the visitor that rockfalls happen regularly without causing harm, but that the family has a "safe place" to go in the event of a serious collapse. The group carries on with their friendly conversation. The visitor acknowledges that he is young and has no accomplishments of note, but hopes he will have "achieved my destiny" before he dies and then "I shall have built my monument!" The father expresses the wish for a more humble legacy, and the aged grandmother makes a request for her dying day. The outdoor weather corresponds to his mixed emotions. Suddenly, they are alarmed by the sound of a much larger avalanche. They scream in fear of "The Slide!" and bolt outside for their safe place. But they are all caught up in the rock slide and killed, while the house is completely undamaged. Their bodies are swept away and never found. The narrator notes that some who see the house later think there is evidence of a visitor that night, but others disagree - the young man has in fact died without leaving any trace of his life. The basis of the story is the Willey tragedy of Crawford Notch, New Hampshire. Nathaniel Hawthorne (born Nathaniel Hathorne; July 4, 1804 - May 19, 1864) was an American novelist and short story writer. He was born in 1804 in Salem, Massachusetts to Nathaniel Hathorne and the former Elizabeth Clarke Manning. His ancestors include John Hathorne, the only judge involved in the Salem witch trials who never repented of his actions. Nathaniel later added a "w" to make his name "Hawthorne" in order to hide this relation. He entered Bowdoin College in 1821, was elected to Phi Beta Kappa in 1824, and graduated in 1825. Hawthorne published his first work, a novel titled Fanshawe, in 1828; he later tried to suppress it, feeling it was not equal to the standard of his later work. He published several short stories in various periodicals which he collected in 1837 as Twice-Told Tales. The next year, he became engaged to Sophia Peabody. He worked at a Custom House and joined Brook Farm, a transcendentalist community, before marrying Peabody in 1842. The couple moved to The Old Manse in Concord, Massachusetts, later moving to Salem, the Berkshires, then to The Wayside in Concord. The Scarlet Letter was published in 1850, followed by a succession of other novels. A political appointment took Hawthorne and family to Europe before their return to The Wayside in 1860. Hawthorne died on May 19, 1864, and was survived by his wife and their three children. Much of Hawthorne's writing centers on New England, many works featuring moral allegories with a Puritan inspiration. His fiction works are considered part of the Romantic movement and, more specifically, Dark romanticism.
His themes often center on the inherent evil and sin of humanity, and his works often have moral messages and deep psychological complexity. His published works include novels, short stories, and a biography of his friend Franklin Pierce.