Theory:

The Great Stone Face, written by Nathaniel Hawthorne, is an interesting, fanciful short story. He is a great short story writer of American Literature. His work involves more of quest and symbolism.
 
The image of  The Great Stone Face is a symbolic element, which represents an abstract idea, on which Earnest will construct his quest in life. Right from the introductory section of the story, we can easily figure out the elements of symbolism and quest in it; as, The Great Stone Face symbolizes divine qualities such as nobility, wisdom, greatness, etc. These two elements give life to the whole plot, woven around the protagonist of the story.
 
It was a fine day when a mother and her son sat near their cottage door, discussing about ‘The Great Stone Face’. 
 
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Mother's discussion with her Son
  
Now, let us see what The Great Stone Face is all about. The Great stone face was a creation by the hands of nature. A lot of rocks accumulated together on a perpendicular mountainside, forming all the attributes of a human face. It would be possible to clearly view The Great Stone Face from a distance, while it’s impossible when being close to it as we could only figure out the huge rocks on the mountain and not the sketch of its face. The everlasting smile on Great Stone’s kind, pleasant face, is believed to be responsible for the valley’s richness.
 
As discussed earlier, the story starts with the conversation between a Mother and her son, named Earnest, on the legend of The Great Stone Face.
 
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The kid expressing his wish to the Mother
  
The child expresses his wish to the mother, as, the attraction towards the kindness on the stone’s face makes him expect its voice; imagining it to be a pleasant one. Secondly, the child also wishes to see a man with such a lovely face.
 
Hearing these wishes from the kid, the mother proceeds to quote a fantastic legend behind this ‘Great Stone Face’ portrayed by their ancestors. The curious kid when demanded an explanation to this old prophecy, his mother started to narrate the story that she heard from her mother; as, how their ancestors believed that a child will be born in the future, resembling The Great Stone’s Face, exhibiting great, noble qualities among others of its period. Though this doesn’t happen still, it is believed by some likely to happen in the future, while others refuse to believe in it. Hoping the wish to be granted in the future, the child happily applauded, desiring to live while the legend comes alive.
 
Being a lovable, thoughtful person, Earnest's mother encouraged her son’s hope as she didn't want to discourage or intervene in his unrealistic thoughts. The very thought of Great Stone Face's arrival got registered in his mind. Also, he started helping his mother with a good amount of work as much as he can do of his age, which showed his love for her.
 
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Son helping Mother
 
His youth life was spent on this routine work and Great Stone Face. He spent time starring at the Great Stone Face regularly at the end of his day's work. In this way, though Earnest had no teacher, the Great Stone Face was one such to him. Every time he looked upon it for hours, it gave him a broad smile of kindness and encouragement.

When Earnest turned to be a youth, there seemed to be a rumour in the valley, relating Great Stone Face's legend. A rich man who left this valley when young, started his career as a shopkeeper and turned wealthy in a short duration with his effort and intelligence. He wished to leave his last days in his birthplace and so returned to this native valley.
 
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 The Rich Man
 
This aroused Earnest's expectation and desire he waited for all these days, that he is about to see a great and noble person much awaited on all these generations. One day, when Earnest, as usual, was starring at the Great Stone Face, he heard people shouting on someone's arrival. He is none but the so-called Great Stone Faced, Gathergold who arrived in a horse-drawn carriage.
 
People shouted while looking at him (Gathergold) claimed to be the exact resemblance of Great Stone Face, quoting its old prophecy.
 
Though people accepted him (Gathergold) resembling The Great Stone Face's appearance, it didn't win Earnest's heart: as he couldn't relate Mr. Gathergold with Great Stone Face. As usual, his intention made him feel that the Great Stone Face was replying to his confusion. The reply is to wait for Great Stone Face, for it will surely come one day.
 
Days went by. A few years later, Ernest grew up to be a young man. Earnest's name was established as a good, kind, and hardworking person among his neighbours, but spending time gazing at The Great Stone Face was considered a foolish thing by his neighbors because they did not know the love and sentiment he has towards it. Earnest believed it to be a wonderful teacher which cannot be equivalent to even an actual teacher and his thoughts in regard with the Great Stone Face came from the valley and not taught by anyone. He still waited for the Great Stone Face’s arrival and wondered why the face bearing its resemblance hadn't arrived as of yet.
 
By this time, Mr. Gathergold, died. It has been said that he died in poverty, losing all wealth he gained. With this information, people dismissed their belief on him to be a reflection of The Great Stone Face, but it happened to be another native of the valley named Blood-and-Thunder. From a Soldier’s position, he had risen to a position of Commander. Now, he is believed to resemble the likeness of The Great Stone Face.
 
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 The Commander
 
People had spent time gazing at the Great Stone Face to verify the similarity between it and the Commander. And, the day finally arrived, for which Earnest and people awaited long. People started shouting at the Commander’s arrival, claiming him to be the exact resemblance of The Great Stone Face, but Earnest couldn’t relate him in any way comparing the resemblance on Great Stone Face. The story ends with a quest; as still Earnest feels The Great Stone Face replying him, it will come for sure.