Hawthorne Essay, Research Paper
Nathaniel Hawthorne, an American novelist lived from 1804 to 1864. Hawthorne’s works
are deeply concerned with the ethical problems of sin, punishment, and atonement. He
graduated from Bowdoin College in 1825 and returned to his Salem home living in
semi-seclusion and writing. Hawthorne’s exploration of these themes were related to the
sense of guilt he felt about the roles of his ancestors in the 17th-century persecution of
Quakers and in the 1692 witchcraft trials of Salem, Massachusetts. Hawthorne’s views on
women in male dominated roles were portrayed as the weaker sex.
Allegory and symbolism are combined in Hawthorne’s work to create sarcasm and
deep thought to his novels. Allegory is a narrative, either in verse or prose, in which
characters, action, and setting represent abstract concepts apart from the literal meaning of
a story. Symbolism is used to designate an abstract quality or concept. Through both of
these concepts Hawthorne revealed the irony in his writings. These elements helped
Hawthorne become a leader in the development of the short story.
“Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment” contained mostly romantic symbolism. Dr.
Heidegger is the perfect example of the scientific world gone mad. Medbourne is mostly
interested in the economy and is a corrupted businessman. Killigrien is basically interested
only in himself. Gascorgin is a corrupt politician. Wycherly is an example of social
scandal and vanity. The allegory is that Hawthorne is concerned with women’s roles in a
male dominant society and the dangers of applied science.
“Rappaccini’s Daughter” is assembled with Romantic and Anti-
Transcendentalist elements. Light is one of the main components of symbolism in the
story. Dr. Rappaccini is evil and cares more for science than mankind. Professor Baglioni
is basically good and practices “apt” science. Giovanni is Anti-Transcendentalist and
Beatrice is Transcendentalist and are both victims of corrupt science. Hawthorne’s use of
nature in “Rappaccini’s Daughter” is used in the allusion to the Garden of Eden. Beatrice
was poison and forbidden like the apple in the Garden of Eden. An antidote will destroy
poison, therefore when Beatrice drank it, she died.
The Romantic elements that both of these short stories contained included absurd
dramatic effects such as the rose in “Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment” and the butterfly in
“Rappaccini’s Daughter.” They also contained works of art and mirrors to reveal truth
such as the water from the Fountain of Youth and the garden Dr. Rappaccini created. A
Transcendentalist element that both stories had was that the human spirit is reflected in
nature. A very important Anti-Transcendentalist element that was included in “Dr.
Heidegger’s Experiment” and “Rappacinni’s Daughter” was that nature is indifferent,
unforgiving, and unexplainable.