Saturday, April 9, 2011

Research Paper on Nathaniel Hawthorne

Research Paper on Nathaniel Hawthorne

Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804 - 1864) was a brilliant writer of his time. He spent years writing, isolating himself from society. Nathaniel Hawthorne liked and was not afraid to tell about the dark side of humans. He did this in his masterwork (published in 1850), The Scarlet Letter. However, like many writers, Hawthorne's true genius was not recognized till after his death.

Today, almost all people want something to improve their lives, but how many people actually get it? Not many. Nathaniel Hawthorne did not just write long novels, but he also wrote many short stories. These stories pertained to life, and what should be accomplished by it. In many of Hawthorne's stories, he portrayed characters that had desires, some deeper than others, but their desires, did not come true.


In one of Hawthorne's short stories titled Dr. Heidegger's Experiment, an old man, Dr. Heidegger, had invited four guests over. (This could show that Hawthorne did want company during his "dark years" when he isolated himself from society.) These guests were all very old, and all were soon to die. However, the main thing that affected these people was that they wasted much of their life. Mr. Medbourne went on a speculation spree, Colonel Killigrew chased after sinful pleasures, Mr. Gascoigne was a ruined Politician, and Widow Wycherly secluded herself from society (as Hawthorne did). These people, wanted to remake their lives over, be young again, and correct their mistakes. In this short story, Dr. Heidegger brought the four guests into a chamber located inside his house. First Dr. Heidegger brought out a wilted rose. He asked the guests if it could bloom again, and they replied that that would be impossible. Dr. Heidegger then took water from a vase and sprinkled it onto the wilted rose. Soon the rose blossomed fully. The guests however, thought it was a magic trick, a deception. Dr. Heidegger explained that the water was from the "Fountain of Youth" that Ponce DeLeon searched for in 1513, but still the guests were in disbelief. At this time Heidegger filled the four champagne glasses with the water. Before the guests drank, Heidegger said "It would be well that, with the experience of a lifetime to direct you, you should draw up a few general rules for your guidance, in passing a second time through the perils of your youth. You should not become patterns of virtue and wisdom to all the young people of this age." (Hawthorne 250-251)The friends laughed.

Then the guests began to drink the proclaimed water from Fountain of Youth. Soon the guests began to look younger; wrinkles disappearing and their faces becoming fuller. Widow Wycherly exclaimed, "Give us more of this wondrous water! We are younger, but still too old.

Dr. Heidegger then said, "You have been a long time growing old. Surely, you might be content to grow young in a half an hour." (Hawthorne 251-252) He then re-filled their glasses with the water. The four guests began to re-enact their youth. Killigrew began complimenting and staring at Widow Wycherly in a sexual way. Mr. Medbourne started doing calculations with dollars and cents in supplying the East Indies with ice. Mr. Gascoigne began thinking about political topics. Later, Widow Wycherly asked Dr. Heidegger to dance, however, he was still old and feeble, so both Me. Melbournce and Colonel Killigrew danced with her. But then the rose began to wilt. The four guests looked at each other and realized they were growing old, too. An old woman with three old men soon re-appeared. They all look at Dr. Heidegger, who said, "For if the Fountain of Youth gushed at my doorstep, I would not stoop to bathe my lips in it. Such is the lesson ye have taught me." (Hawthorne 254) However, the guests did not learn a lesson, as they soon then began to look for the infamous Fountain of Youth.

This story greatly explains how what people desire most, people never get. The four guests made mistakes in their life. They wanted to go back and re-live their lives. In order to, they needed to be young again, their biggest desire. Currently, they were all about to die, something none of them were ready for. And what they did desire, youth, came true, but for mere minutes. It was only an illusion. They (the guests) could not have what they wanted, their youth again.

Hawthorne wrote many other stories were peoples deepest desires never came true. In today's media, whether it be movies, music, or television, people spend their lives looking for love. Some people believe that there is that "special someone" while others "there's another fish in the sea." In Rappaccini's Daughter, Dr. Rappaccini has a laboratory with a garden of flowers. Professor Baglioni, his rival, believes that Dr. Rappaccini is too much involved in his work. Another way that Hawthorne may have revealed himself in his works. Hawthorne spent years doing his work, whether than caring about people. Professor Baglioni clearly states this when he says, "he cares infinitely more for science than for mankind."

In Dr. Rappaccini's garden, he has many plants, some which threaten and frighten him. Whenever he has to deal with these plants, he calls on his daughter, Beatrice. He claims she is "better with them." However, his daughter is poison herself. Any object she touches immediately dies. To protect her and her father, she walks over to the plants and breathes on them. In one instance, the flower that she killed dripped moisture onto a lizard, which also died. Beatrice wasn't fond of killing the flowers, but to make sure her and her father were safe, she did so. She behind her fathers work. He treats her like a flower, how and where to grow. Some people look at Dr. Rappaccini and see evil, that the only purpose of his subjects are for experimentation. Although very smart and evil, he does care and protect (maybe over-protect) his daughter.

Giovanni, another main character, has a room overlooking the garden. (He attends the University of Padua.) One day while starring out his window, he notices Beatrice in the garden.

Giovanni immediately falls in love with her. He even begins to fall into a trance when he watches her in the garden. He soon believes to himself that he is in a dream state when he looks at her, especially when he notices when she kills the flower and lizard. Giovanni did not look for Beatrice for a couple of days. But then Giovanni meets Beatrice. He looks at her and sees nothing but the purest of goodness. When Beatrice goes into Giovanni's room, she poisons him, unknowingly. While she was breathing, fumes began to intoxicate and fill the air in his room. However, Giovanni did not die, but anything he touches, also dies now. This event may have been foreshadowed because in the beginning of the story talking about the garden of Eden, according to the bible, what is in the garden of Eden? Poisonous fruit.

Beatrice is very displeased with herself now. Professor Baglioni sees this as the perfect chance to "be better than" Dr. Rappaccini, in the competition to be the better scientist. He tells Beatrice that he can give her a remedy that will cure her from her "condition." However, when Beatrice drinks the remedy, she dies. Only Beatrice and Professor Baglioni new about the remedy, so he could have blamed Dr. Rappaccini for her death. It would make Professor Baglioni look better as a scientist. This shows the game between the two scientists. In the end, neither scientist cared about human life, whether it lived or died. All subjects were meant to be experimented on. However, Giovanni could also be blamed. He was attempting to make her someone she wasn't. And the resolution was that he lost her, as a person and as a love.

This story heavily explains how what people desire they never can fully have. Take Dr. Rappaccini for example. Dr. Rappaccini wanted a perfect daughter. One who could help in his experiments, and still just live in his shadows (giving Dr. Rappaccini all the credit). Also, he really wanted to beat Professor Baglioni at science (and vice-versa), but in the end, neither won because their subject died although it did not really affect them). Another motive of the scientists may have been to achieve god.

However, they also did not accomplish this as they could not even keep Beatrice alive. Giovanni wanted Beatrice as his one special person. He attempted to make her "his way" (as it still happens today) and since she took a remedy that would "cure" her, she died. All Beatrice wanted was to be able to be free, from harm, poison, and she wanted to be able to live her own life. When she got outside her box (the garden), she never got to experience them because she soon died. All of the desires of the people never came true.

The final and last short story by Hawthorne being covered is the one with the greatest impact, The Birthmark. In The Birthmark, Alymer (another scientist) also likes to put science before mankind. Alymer marries a woman who he is in love with. She (Georgiana) is also in love with him. After they are married, Alymer becomes obsessed with a birthmark on her body. He said it shocks him. Geogiana questions why Alymer even took her from her mother's side. He thinks that she is full of perfection, expect in the one area on her face where there is the birthmark. Geogiana first thinks that it is part of her. Some people have even called it a beauty mark. However, Alymer highly dislikes it. Soon he becomes so obsessed to the point where he wants to remove it from her. The birthmark on her face however, is what makes her so special. If it wasn't for the birthmark, she would be known as Alymer's Wife.

A special aspect of the birthmark is that it is in the shape of a little hand (the hand of God?). I think a motive of Alymer was jealousy of her birthmark. Alymer wanted to be god. He wanted to be able to control everything. However, he was not god. This little hand on Geogiana's face came very close to god, something Alymer wanted, but could not have. Alymer also wanted to be perfect. "I am convinced of the perfect practicability of its removal" (Kazin 87)

Georgiana now just wanted to please her husband. So much ridicule from him about the birthmark made her feel ugly. During nights at dinner all he did was stare and make faces of disgust at the birthmark. Georgiana decided she had to get rid of the birthmark. The thing that made her different, special, from everyone else, had to be removed. “If there is the remotest possibility of it, let the attempt to be made at whatever risk” (88).

Still Alymer was more concerned about science than Georgiana. He says "you have driven me even deeper into the heart of science" (88). As with other of Hawthorne's stories, you can predict what will happen when an experiment is tried to get what you desire. Also, an event that foreshadows the fate of Georgiana is the dying flower. When she touches the flower, it turns black and dies. She desperately wanted to get rid of the birthmark. Georgiana absolutely hated it. She even begged Alymer and his assistant Amindab to remove it. When Alymer ran another test on a blotched flower, it came out successful. Immediately, Georgiana reached for the goblet the water. "Thou shall soon be perfect," exclaimed Alymer. (97). Then Georgiana went to sleep.

A day passes, and Alymer, first going over to the birthmark, screams about his success with the removal of it. He opens the curtains and awakens Georgiana who whispers to Alymer, "Poor Alymer, I am dying" (99). For a few seconds, she was perfect; alive, hand-free, perfect. Now Alymer has less happiness than before, but the hand is gone. Would he rather of had Georgiana with a mark, or dead without one?

There are many desires in this story, even though there are only three characters introduced. The first desire is to live a happy marriage. Soon after Alymer and Georgiana are married, it becomes hell. They can barely even sit at the same table without giving nasty looks. The second desire is that Georgiana wants Alymer to look past her "birth" mark and see her for who she is. Alymer however cannot do that. He looks at only the birthmark, with more disgust each day. Then Geogiana hates the birthmark, too. Alymer wanted his wife to be perfect. He claimed she was, except for the birthmark. He wanted the removal of the birthmark. She wanted removal of the birthmark. They wanted to be happy. The birthmark was removed, but Georgiana died. Alymer was willing to put science before what he really cared about. Was the risk of losing Georgiana, his love, worth removing a miniscule mark? His desire to be happy with a perfect wife, never was fulfilled.

Nathaniel Hawthorne based many of his works on the most evil and selfish wishes of humans, a message that is still existing today; perfection. Today's superstars make other people look plain and not acceptable to society. They make it seem without looking or acting a certain way, you will not be cool or popular. However, at the end of the stories, when perfection was demanded, it was completely opposite of it. Perfection may have been achieved, but only for moments.

In Hawthorne's writings, what the people desired they never got. Dr. Heideggers guests did not get to remain young or re-live their lives accordingly. Dr. Rappaccini never beat Professor Baglioni at science. Giovanni never married Beatrice. Beatrice never got to be free. Alymer never removed the birthmark in time to enjoy it. And Georgiana mostly made Alymer unhappy. Perfection is an opinion. If every person was created in God's image, everyone is perfect in his or her own way, it may not be very obvious, but spend a little time with a person, and you will find something perfect about them.

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