Comparing Three Nathaniel Hawthorne Stories

Comparing Three Nathaniel Hawthorne Stories

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Nathaniel Hawthorns short stories, such as, Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment, Rappaccini’s Daughter and The Birthmark all have an underlying meaning and demonstrate a similar recurring theme. Hawthorne uses his stories to clarify his beliefs on the competition between nature, religion, and science in everyday life. In all three of his short stories he refuses the concept of science coming before religion or nature. Hawthorne clearly thought if nature or religion was tampered with using science it could only end badly, but more specifically with death. In each of his stories there is a scientific experiment that defies both nature and religion ending harmfully. Nathaniel Hawthorne’s beliefs conclude that God and nature to ultimately be more powerful then science.
In Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment, Nathaniel Hawthorne creates a fictional experiment that resists both God and natures intentions. Dr. Heidegger gathers a few old acquaintances who seem to be unhappy with their lives and they all wish to be young again. They also hope having their wisdom from over the years, will allow them not to make the same mistakes that resulted in their unhappiness. Since they were so desperate, they joined a unpromising experiment, which turned out to be an illusion. Once the old friends started hallucinating their youth, they began to act out as they would have a decade prior. As well as forgetting all of their insight, as the narrator explains, “The fresh gloss of the soul, so early lost, and without which the worlds successive scenes had been but a gallery of faded pictures, again threw its enchantment over all prospects”(6). Clearly god did not intend the experiment subjects to be given a second chance and painfully strips them of their young age once again, “The delirium which it created had effervesced away. Yes! they were old again. With a shuddering impulse, that showed her a woman still, the widow clasped her skinny hands before her face, and wished that the coffin-lid were over it, since it could be no longer beautiful”(8). The fatal outcome in this story was the hope the old people once had in science. Therefore proving science is incapable of defying God’s power.
In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s, The Birthmark, he uses unperfected beauty to confirm that if God’s creations are meddled with the product is harmful. A scientist, Alymer is married to a beautiful women named Georgiana whose only flaw is a birthmark on her left cheek.

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Alymer challenges God and attempts to make his wife the single most perfect being. Alymer says to his wife, “There is no taint of imperfection on thy spirit. Thy sensible frame, too, shall soon be all perfect”(22). When the birthmark is removed it is known that Georgiana is dead because of it, “The fatal hand had grappled with the mystery of life, and was the bond by which an angelic spirit kept itself in union with a mortal frame”(23). Alymer learns that God’s creations cannot be interfered with or else it may be deadly.
In Rappaccini’s Daughter, Nathaniel Hawthorne introduces a scientist who’s only concern in life is science. Rappaccinis daughter, Beatrice unfortunately has no choice but to live her life also conquered by a lethal science that ultimately ends in her death. Rappaccini ignorantly rationalizes his reason for experimenting on his daughter and the plants in his garden by saying, “What do you mean, foolish girl? Dost thou deem it misery to be endowed with marvelous gifts against which no power nor strength could avail an enemy, --misery, to be as terrible as thou art beautiful? Wouldst thou, then, have preferred the condition of a weak woman, exposed to all evil and capable of none?”(59). This quote shows that Rappiccini is blinded by science and can not see the heartache his daughter is feeling because of his obsession. One could say science made him a bad father by destroying Beatrice’s future. Beatrice drinks a supposed antidote obtained by science which kills only her and not Giovanni, as shown in this quote, “To Beatrice, --so radically had her early part been wrought upon by Rappaccini’s skill, --as poison had been life, so the powerful antidote was death; and thus the poor victim of man’s ingenuity and of thwarted nature, and of the fatality that attends all such efforts of perverted wisdom, perished there, at the feet of her father and Giovanni”(59). Rappiccinis addiction to science resulted in his own daughters fatality. This story proves that Nathaniel Hawthorne believed if nature is messed with then it becomes corrupt and deadly.
Nathaniel Hawthorne’s three short stories, Dr. Heidegger's Experiment, The Birthmark, and Rappaccini's Daughter all reveal his strong belief in God’s will or the simplicity of mother nature. He represents science with a mad scientist and a lethal end product showing how unnatural and dangerous science can become. Hawthorne also allows the reader to see the tragedy behind science and its abnormality. Each of his stories have a different plot but they all prove the same point, science should not intervene with Gods plan.
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