In addition to the obvious religious allegory that frames Hawthorne’s 1843 short story “The Celestial Railroad,” this article proposes that the story might be read more literally and ecocritcally, as evidence of Hawthorne’s growing skepticism toward the emergent transportation industry as well as toward the environmentally deleterious fossil fuels that would animate it for decades and centuries to come. Reading “The Celestial Railroad” through an energy humanist framework might reveal, as the author suggests, Hawthorne’s prescient intimations of the social and ecological degradation that would eventually result from the expansion of the fossil-fueled transportation industry. Placing the story in the context of Hawthorne’s nascent concerns with industrialism and environmental decay—reading “The Celestial Railroad” historically and materially, rather than merely symbolically—provides crucial insight into Hawthorne’s environmental imagination, particularly in relation to the increasingly visible ecological effects of industrial modernity upon the American landscape.

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