Nathaniel Hawthorne's Beliefs Concerning Ethics, Morality, and Term Paper

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Nathaniel Hawthorne's beliefs concerning ethics, morality, and guilt as made evident in one of these stories. Consider how beliefs affect characterization, setting, plotting, and theme.

In the story of Rappaccini's daughter, the narrator becomes infatuated with a young woman whose life literally has become poisoned, because of her father's influence. Unlike a conventional Christian system of morality, as is typical of most of the author's other tales, the girl is being 'punished' for no real crime, other than being born the daughter of a mad scientist. The European setting is also atypical of the author. It takes place in exotic Italy, where the fantastical narrative seems more appropriate than Puritan New England.

The title character's father is a botanist who has created a beautiful garden, but because of his extensive scientific knowledge, he has hubristically attempted to transcend the laws of nature. He has created a girl whom literally has no life outside of his grasp. His daughter is afflicted by guilt, because she knows her life is a perversion of her father's aims to transcend the laws of the natural world. She is also guilty because she knows, out of loneliness and desperation, she has been infecting the bloodstream of the man she loves, making him similarly poisonous, according to her father's will and desire.

Thus, the poisonous morality of her father has also affected the daughter, spiritually as well as biologically. Yet the girl's lover is also infected, not only with Rappaccini's poison but also with the same hubris that the young woman's father has. Her lover too hopes to surmount the laws of nature, by finding an antidote to the young woman's poison. But ultimately he cannot, as poison was the girl's life and birth. He ends up killing the young woman, killing the evidence of her father's experiment, and putting an end to the diseased girl, to Rappaccini's mad desires, but also to his own life's love.

Extinction may well be the end of all, but for Hemingway and his heroes this merely emphasizes the need to live each moment properly and
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skillfully. Select one of these stories and show how it illustrates that thesis. Indicate the relationship of plot, characterization, setting, and action to the theme.

In "Hills Like White Elephants," the unnamed male protagonist, unlike his young, pregnant lover 'Jip,' simply lives for the moment. The entire story takes place in dialogue, but the narrative voice does intrude just enough to note that the suitcases of the lovers are covered in stickers from far away places. These lovers like to try different, exotic drinks. As the story progresses, we as readers learn that they are on their way to yet another exotic location and are only stopping at a train station to catch a connection.

The male of the story is very exact in how his drinks should be prepared and how his girlfriend should behave. Although he seems to care about her, he does not wish her to have a child, because he fears it will get in the way of his ability to live life to the fullest, to drink more, see more, and experience more. She, in contrast, is quite sarcastic about this point-of-view, mocking his desire to try new drinks, for instance, and saying that everything tastes the same, like absinthe, or licorice.

Nothing really happens in the plot of the short story -- Jip is still going to have an abortion, and the two lovers proceed on their way. The setting is transitory, in between two train stops. Except for a confused, metaphorical discussion about the skin of hills that look like white elephants, no action takes place. However, the reference to white elephants reveals much about the characters, even though little about their pasts is opened over the course of the tale -- like the girl and the man, both of them mistake what is false, namely the hills and their love, for what is real. The man may be attempting to live in a better fashion, but really his life is empty and transitory and full of air, like the setting of the station itself and the procedure Jip…

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