Hawthorne Nature And Female Victimization Essay

Length: 4 pages Sources: 1+ Subject: Plays Type: Essay Paper: #58192047 Related Topics: Time Warp 3, Adultery, Personal Responsibility, Beloved
Excerpt from Essay :

Personal Responsibility: "Rappaccini's Daughter" versus "The Birthmark"

Both Nathaniel Hawthorne's "Rappaccini's Daughter" and "The Birthmark" contain similar themes of the dangers of human pride, specifically male pride, and arrogance. In both stories, male figures in the name of science explicitly tamper with the fate of the women in their care. In the case of Rappaccini, the sorcerer-like figure slowly poisons his own daughter so she cannot come into contact with anyone without poisoning them herself. In the case of "The Birthmark," the scientist Aylmer is obsessed with removing his wife Georgina's birthmark to the point that it kills her. The blindness of these men to their own ambition causes them to destroy what they ostensibly wish to save.

"The Birthmark" begins with an exchange between Aylmer and his wife that underlines the fact that his obsession with the birthmark is solely his own and has little to do with his wife's desire. When asked if it troubles her, Georgina explicitly replies: "No, indeed ... To tell you the truth it has been so often called a charm that I was simple enough to imagine it might be so" (Hawthorne 1). Georgina has been told that her uniqueness is charming but her husband views it as a blemish upon perfection. Specifically, he arrogantly believes he has a responsibility to remove it as a husband. Hawthorne suggests that this refusal to see what is good about his wife and his insistence upon focusing on her imperfections is foolish and dangerous. "No, dearest Georgiana, you came so nearly perfect from the hand of Nature that this slightest possible defect, which we hesitate whether to term a defect or a beauty, shocks me, as being the visible mark of earthly imperfection" (Hawthorne...

...

Aylmer, with these words, seems to elevate his wife to the status of goddess but in doing so he only brings about her demise given that perfection in the earthly world is impossible.

Rappaccini's decision to slowly poison his daughter Beatrice so she is unable to have a normal relationship with men is similarly controlling. Although Professor Baglioni appreciates Rappaccini's skill, he underlines the unnaturalness of the father's quest, noting how the man's scientific abilities outweigh his capacity for intelligent, feeling action: "Her father ... was not restrained by natural affection from offering up his child, in this horrible manner, as the victim of his insane zeal for science" (Hawthorne 15). Rappaccini places science and the ability to demonstrate his own intellectual prowess above Beatrice's own needs. Even though he is intelligent, he is not good: "For -- let us do him justice -- he is as true a man of science as ever distilled his own heart in an alembic" (Hawthorne 15).

Both men are clearly very resistant to the idea that they must bow down to the will of fate, particularly in regards to where their women are concerned. Georgina's other lovers "were won't to say that some fairy at her birth hour had laid her tiny hand upon the infant's cheek, and left this impress there in token of the magic endowments that were to give her such sway over all hearts" (Hawthorne 1). The fact that her husband knows this suggests that his obsession with the birthmark is partly rooted in jealousy and his desire to uproot what others did not and were willing to tolerate. Masculine pride and scientific accomplishment are intertwined. Gradually, he poisons Georgina's mind against herself, until she is just as obsessed with the removal of the birthmark as he is.

Both of Hawthorne's short stories underline the fact that what these powerful men wish to do is unnatural. Baglioni states that he has obtained an antidote for the purpose of: "bringing back this miserable child within the limits of ordinary nature, from which her father's madness has estranged her" (Hawthorne 15). Beatrice has become a kind of sacrifice to her father's vanity, much like the poisonous tree…

Sources Used in Documents:

Works Cited

Hawthorne, Nathaniel. "The Birthmark,"1-10

Hawthorne, Nathaniel. "Rappaccini's Daughter," 1-20.


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