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An Analysis of Hawthorne’s Short Stories

In many of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short stories, he creates characters with either a malicious or evil feature to relay to the reader a more allegorical meaning. Many would say he targets woman without justification. Therefore a reader may interpret him to be a misogynist. In the story Rapaccinni’s Daughter he uses Beatrice as a carrier of a deadly poison. In Young Goodman Brown he targets Faith as the character who is lost to the Devil. In the stories Rappaccini’s Daughter, and The Birthmark, Hawthorne also uses men as transmitters of evil illicitly.

The men involved in the stories have heir own flaws which contribute to the flaws of the women in their lives. Ultimately, Hawthorne in the cases above can be seen as a misogynist who directs his maliciousness on only women, yet he also uses male characters as vile transmitters of evil, therefore he is not a misogynist and targets both sexes equally. In Young Goodman Brown, Faith, the wife of Young Goodman Brown is a character who loses her faith and submits to the Devil. Hawthorne, in this case directly uses faith as the carrier of a flaw. That is, she does not contain enough self-control, or faith to refuse the calling of the Devil.

Even with the emotional plea from her husband, Look up to heaven, and resist the wicked one, (1590) Faith cannot resist the Devil’s temptation and has uncertain sorrow, (1587) after submitting to him. The character of Faith which Hawthorne portrays is one of uncertainty and one which has a lack of self control. Faith is a good example of how Hawthorne uses a woman to symbolize a deeper significance, in this case, it is to evoke the hypocrisy of the Puritan people, that is, Puritans are really not as pure as we all think, they also contain evil haracteristics, in this case, exploited at night.

We cannot justify Hawthorne’s usage of Faith as misogyny, in that woman were not considered equal in status to men in the early 16th and later centuries. Also, with the history of witchcraft during the puritan era, it can be seen appropriate that Hawthorne uses a woman in this case. In Rapaccinni’s Daughter, Hawthorne develops the character of Beatrice as the possessor of poisonous elements, namely, her breath. Beatrice instills her deadly breath to Giovanni when, she had at least instilled a fierce and subtle poison into his system. 1649).

Giovanni acquires her poison and is subjected to stay within the garden. This evil act which Beatrice does, is not done intentionally, it is the act of her father which results in Beatrices evil possession. Hawthorne creates Beatrice as the possessor of evil, but he doesn’t present her as an evil character, in fact it is her father Dr. Rappaccinni who is deemed the evil character. For it is he who creates the garden. Hawthorne describes Beatrice as being beautiful as the day, and with a bloom so deep and vivid that one shade more would have been too much. 645)

Therefore, Hawthorne cannot be considered a misogynist when he creates a male character who imposes an evil possession on a woman. In this case it is really Dr. Rappaccini who has the evil flaw, that is he is mentally ill to try and distort nature by creating the garden. Beatrice is a result of Dr. Rappaccini’s evil actions. In the Birthmark Hawthorne introduces the character Georgianna who’s soul flaw is a birthmark on her face. Every other characteristic of Georgianna is perfect. Her husband Aylmer loves science and questions her one flaw, her birthmark.

He suggests that he should try and remove it. When the moment comes and Aylmer finally does remove her Birthmark, everything evolves. When Aylmer announces, My peerless bride, it is successful! You are perfect! (1627) Immediately following the removing of the Birthmark, Georgianna dies. Once again Hawthorne uses a woman as the possessor of an evil characteristic, but it is Aylmer’s insistence on trying to distort nature which leads to the death of his wife. Aylmer is the character who possesses the evil flaw, he insists that the Birthmark must be removed.

And therefore it is obvious that Hawthorne oesn’t direct his evil characteristics only on women. In all of the above cases, Hawthorne uses both women and men to introduce his meaning to his audience. In many cases he possesses women with explicit evil flaws. But Hawthorne also possesses men with deep inner flaws, which in many cases creates the flaws of the women. Based on the supporting evidence above, it is clear that Hawthorne is definitely not a misogynist and can even be described as focusing on men and their inner flaws. In general, it is evident that Hawthorne uses both sexes to introduce his beliefs.

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