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CompareContrast Nathaniel Hawthorne's heroines in The BirthMark and Rappaccini's Daughter - Essay Example

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CompareContrast Nathaniel Hawthorne's heroines in The BirthMark and Rappaccini's Daughter

This has led to a few of them being described as "dark heroines" (Bell, 20); Beatrice Rappaccini, the bewitching daughter of the brilliant, but sinister scientist Rappaccini and to a lesser extent, Georgiana Aylmer, the beautiful young wife of the obsessed scientist Aylmer, are examples of poignant, yet powerful 'dark heroines'.
This short essay shall compare and contrast the heroines of two of Hawthorne's short stories, 'The Birth-Mark' and 'Rappaccini's Daughter' respectively. This essay shall cite appropriately from them and other secondary sources to show that, while both the heroines testify to their purity of character by their ultimate sacrifices, Hawthorne's portrayal of Beatrice Rappaccini more than Georgiana Aylmer, aptly suits a 'dark heroine'.
Both 'The Birth-Mark' and 'Rappaccini's Daughter' of Hawthorne warn the society regarding the excessive pursuit of science and technology without morality. The stories end as tragedies with the heroines falling victims to the evil obsessions of the dominant men around them. In 'The Birth-Mark' Hawthorne depicts his heroine Georgiana as a powerful image of beauty, that she is praised by her husband Aylmer as one who "came so nearly perfect from the hand of Nature" (The Birth-Mark 1021). She is young and beautiful, but for one "visible mark of earthly imperfection" (The Birth-Mark 1021) on her cheek. ...
er husband in particular, and the male world in general perceived as negative - "Masculine observers contented themselves with wishing it away, that the world might possess one living specimen of ideal loveliness without the semblance of a flaw" (The Birth-Mark 1022). Indeed this becomes the focal point of the story itself, and ultimately causes her death.
Hawthorne introduces the element of evilness in the form of Aylmer, young Georgiana's science-loving husband; what was trivial matter to him before marriage, appears "more and more intolerable with every moment" to him after marriage, and he is obsessed with removing it, so as to make her perfect. "I am convinced of the perfect practicability of its removal" he retorts to her innermost fears of it being fatal. Here again Hawthorne introduces the element of fantasy in the form of Georgiana's dream, of approaching doom. He scorns, scoffs, chides, coaxes and cajoles her (The Birth-Mark, pp. 1027-8) to have trust in his science, and even tries to hide the fact that it may be "dangerous" (The Birth-Mark, p.1030).
Though Hawthorne's heroine is aware that the experiment may not be to her advantage, she is sweet and pure in character, loves her husband so much that she is unable to see him pained over the blemish in her cheek. She would rather give her life than allow it to stand between their happiness, and begs him "Remove it, remove it, whatever be the cost, or we shall both go mad!" (The Birth-Mark 1030) That her love is pure and untainted is explicitly brought out by Hawthorne through her quiet words "There needed no proof; Give me the goblet I joyfully stake all upon your word" (The Birth-Mark, 1031). She remains true in her love for her husband, till her dying moment, though she allows him to realize his folly of ...Show more


Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-64) was one of the well-known writers of his time. Some of his famous works (for example, The Scarlet Letter) are set in the backdrop of puritanical seventeenth century society in New England, with the underlying themes of sin, evilness, repentance, and redemption…
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CompareContrast Nathaniel Hawthornes heroines in The BirthMark and Rappaccinis Daughter essay example
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