Short Stories All the Time

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... a few of my thoughts about 900, mostly contemporary, short stories.
Showing posts with label Hawthorne. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Hawthorne. Show all posts

30 November, 2015

Nathaniel Hawthorne, "Rappaccini's Daughter"

It's amazing how relevant this story is to our situation today. Rappaccini, a nineteenth-century scientist who has used and isolated his daughter in his experiments to the extent that she's become poison herself and kills flowers and insects with her breath. Rappaccini conducts experiments without regard for consequences, "... that he cares infinitely more for science than for mankind." Scientific ethics are the main theme.  Does his occasional "marvelous cure" make-up for all of his "new varieties of poison."

"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." The professor peeps in the window just as Beatrice dies and exclaims, "And is this the upshot of your experiment?"

"Rappaccini's Daughter" was written in 1844 and included in the collection, Mosses from an Old Manse. It's so easy not to read or re-read some of the older short stories and that is a loss. As much as things change, things don't change.

Nathaniel Hawthorne in Salem web site
Peabody Essex Museum Hawthorne exhibit
some Hawthorne letters from the American Reader

04 October, 2013

Nathaniel Hawthorne, "The Minister's Black Veil"

Nathaniel Hawthorne's story, "The Minister's Black Veil," is referred to as a parable and was first published in 1836. I'm not sure what the lesson is. Our own guilt seeks company and then we hate the person we perceive as guilty because they remind us of our own failings and weaknesses.

The recipient of the veiled gaze feels vulnerable and exposed. This story makes me think of the way  non-Muslims feel uneasy or mistrustful of veiled women?

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"...felt as if the preacher had crept upon them, behind his awful veil, and discovered their hoarded iniquity of deed or thought." Guilt.

"...might be ready, as he trusted this young maiden had been, for the dreadful hour that should snatch the veil from their faces." Their secrets revealed.

For a wedding, the parishioners assume that the minister will not be wearing the black veil. However, he does wear the black crape veil and they feel that evil covers the wedding or even that the young woman for whom they'd had her funeral earlier in the day, she takes the place of the bride.

"But that piece of crape, to their imagination, seemed to hang down before his heart, the symbol of a fearful secret between him and them." Again, we mistrust what we cannot see or what someone is hiding from us.

We also do not like it when we perceive that people can see us and we cannot see their eyes. Guilt and mistrust. And, when the people are too afraid to approach a subject forthrightly, they seek a formal investigation much like we pass laws when something makes us uncomfortable or has become taboo, such as abortion or marijuana and at one time, alcohol.

Elizabeth, his lover or fiancé, is the only person unafraid and un-awed by the "double fold of crape." She warns him that people will think he has a "secret sin." However, then, she is also affected, "its terrors fell around her." She leaves him until he is on his own deathbed when she is the attending nurse. The minister dies and has remained veiled.