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Essay on the Women of Young Goodman Brown, The Birthmark, and Rappaccini’s Daughter

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The Women of Young Goodman Brown, The Birthmark, and Rappaccini’s Daughter  


In his short stories, "Young Goodman Brown," "The Birthmark," and "Rappacciniâs Daughter," Nathaniel Hawthorne uses his female characters to illustrate the folly of demanding perfection in the flawed world of humanity. Although Hawthorneâs women appear to have dangerous aspects, they are true of heart, and thus, they cannot be fully possessed by the corrupt men who seek to control them.

Hawthorne endows each of his heroines with both light and dark elements. Although each one is inherently pure, none of these women are entirely free from the accusations leveled by the men in their lives. In "Young Goodman Brown," Hawthorne presents Faith as the ideal new bride. Trusting and childlike, she begs her husband not to leave her home alone. He admonishes her for doubting him. There is no reason to conclude that Faith has anything but perfect trust in Goodman Brown. Any such idea that he may have is merely a projection of his own feelings of guilt and shame (Colacurcio 390). Hawthorne never describes Faith in anything other than tender and glowing terms. She is all that Goodman Brown could hope for in a wife. He himself refers to her as "a blessed angel on earth" (Hawthorne, "Young" 65). However, Hawthorne allows both Goodman Brown and his readers to develop feelings of doubt about Mrs. Brown, introducing a darker aspect to her character. He casually, yet obviously, drops Faithâs pink hair ribbons into the story. The color pink seems to suggest that Faith is occupying some middle ground between white, which is "completely pure," and red, which is "brazenly sinful" (McFarland 37). The pink ribbon mysteriously appears deep in the forest, where Goodman Br...


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...eâs Tales. Ed. James McIntosh. New York: W. W. Norton and Company, 1987. 186-209.

Hawthorne, Nathaniel. "Young Goodman Brown." Nathaniel Hawthorneâs Tales. Ed. James McIntosh. New York: W. W. Norton and Company, 1987. 65-75.

Heilman, Robert B. "Hwathorneâs ÎThe Birthmarkâ: Science as Religion." Nathaniel Hawthorneâs Tales. Ed. James McIntosh. New York: W. W. Norton and Company, 1987. 421-427.

McFarland, Melissa Pennell. A Nathaniel Hawthorne Encyclopedia. New York: Greenwood Press, 1991.

Mitchell, Thomas R. "Rappaccini's Garden and Emerson's Concord Translating the Voice of Margaret Fuller." Hawthorne and Women: Engendering and Expanding the Hawthorne Tradition. Ed. John L. Idol. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1999. 75-91.

Tharpe, Jac. Nathaniel Hawthorne: Identity and Knowledge. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1967.


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