Nathaniel Hawthorne's Young Goodman Brown Compared And Contrasted With Rappaccini's Daughter

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Nathaniel Hawthorne's Young Goodman Brown compared and contrasted with Rappaccini's Daughter


Nathaniel Hawthorne, one of the greatest of all American fiction writers, was descended from William Hathorne (the w was added by Nathaniel himself while he was in college). He came to Massachusetts Bay from England with John Winthrop in 1630 and as a magistrate ordered the whipping of a Quaker woman in Salem. William's son John was one of the three judges who presided over the Salem witch trials in 1692. These men were important figures in the early history of the Massachusetts Bay Colony; they were also guilty of great crimes. The family fortunes had declined since those early days — Nathaniel's father was a ship captain who died in a distant port when the boy was only four years old — and Nathaniel, who was sensitively aware of this inheritance, often wondered whether the decline was a punishment for the sins of his (as he called them) “sable-cloaked, steeple-crowned progenitors.” 

After his graduation in 1825 from Bowdoin College (where poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, a lifelong friend, was a classmate), Hawthorne returned to his mother's house in Salem. There, after the publication of an immature “college novel,” Fanshawe, in 1828, he settled down to hard application to the craft of fiction. He read much, wrote much, and destroyed much of what he wrote. The result was the appearance in the periodical press of many remarkable stories (or “tales,” as he preferred to call them), which he published anonymously at first. He collected many of these tales in book form in 1837 under the title Twice-Told Tales, the first work to bear the author's name on the title page. His publications having brought him very little money, Hawthorne took employment in the Boston Custom House in 1839-1840, and in 1841 he joined the socialist community at Brook Farm, where he stayed about six months. Meanwhile, he had met and fallen in love with Sophia Peabody, and she with him. After their marriage on July 9, 1842, they went to live in the “Old Manse” in Concord, Massachusetts. The story of their three years there, as recorded in Hawthorne's American Notebooks and his essay “The Old Manse,” is one of the most charming of marital idylls. (Pennell, 389)

Comparision and Contrast

“Rappaccini's Daughter,” set in Italy, significantly combines the biblical Garden of Eden with Dante's medieval conception of Hell. Rappaccini's garden is an inverse of Eden, a heavenly hell. God's garden is positive, centered by a tree of life. Adam and Eve are expelled because they undertake to know good and evil. A plant of death centers Rappaccini's garden, the product of his quest to know more than humans should. The snake in this garden is the will to probe forbidden depths, including the human heart and the material world.

Aspiring to be the god of his garden, Rappaccini reverses God's creation. God created salubrious plants. Rappaccini creates poisonous ones. God created a male first, Adam, and — when the creatures around him proved inadequate ...
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