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Vanity - Devil's Favourite Sin In both of Nathaniel Hawthorne's short stories "The Birthmark", and "Rappaccini's Daughter" a beautiful young woman becomes the victim of a misguided perfectionist/idealist who loves her.

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Introduction

Emily Lan Page 1 5/3/2007 Vanity - Devil's Favourite Sin In both of Nathaniel Hawthorne's short stories "The Birthmark", and "Rappaccini's Daughter" a beautiful young woman becomes the victim of a misguided perfectionist/idealist who loves her. In order to demonstrate the satire and tragedy involved in trying to create perfection, Nathaniel Hawthorne presents scientist who becomes ignorant of the necessity of imperfection in the world, and try to use science to "play God" and create excellence. The scientists Aylmer and Rappaccini are both very proud of their great knowledge; however, this pride drives them to change nature as a test and demonstration of their ability. The stories illustrate the satiric nature of an idealist's need to alter and perfect, when, in the end, nothing is learnt. The story "Rappaccini's Daughter" is set in a fanciful garden with a broken fountain in the middle. Created by Rappaccini, the garden consists mostly of beautiful but toxic flowers. His daughter, Beatrice, is confined to this garden because she thrives on the very poisons produced by the plants in the garden. Due to his role as the creator Rappaccini is compared to God. ...read more.

Middle

"Bestow the vast, and the precious liquid within it, on your Beatrice, and hopefully await the result" (203). This vial is the forbidden fruit, and in accordance with the Bible, Beatrice is the first to partake of the fruit. Rappaccini has created the poisonous garden and made his daughter poisonous so that she can live in it. The garden is not a product of God but rather the creation of a vain idealist. Rappaccini sees his garden as his perfect world, "This garden, then, the Eden of the present world?"(182), though its poison would be fatal to him too. Rappaccini wants perfection that is unachievable, he does not realize God has already created an ideal world, and imperfections are a part of that world. His lust for perfection drives him to question God's creation and therefore cause the death of his beloved daughter. Hawthorne uses many religious terminologies in describing Aylmer the scientist in "The Birthmark". Words like "faith"(148), "miracle"(149), "holy"(152), "to pray"(154), "immortality"(162), and "heavenly"(163), are found throughout the story to show clearly that science has become a religion for Aylmer. ...read more.

Conclusion

Even though he is able to use his scientific knowledge to remove the birthmark from Georgiana's right cheek, the price is deadly. Overly confident in his science, Aylmer feels that "He felt he could draw a magic circle round her, within which no evil might intrude"(154). Aylmer tries to perfect, but instead he kills his wife and ruins everything; perfection is something never achieved on earth. Aylmer's behaviour shows his attempt at being God; his overconfidence in his abilities causes science to turn against him. By refusing to accept that Georgiana's birthmark is a mere physical imperfection, Aylmer is unable to see past his own selfish desires and pride in his quest for perfection. As a result, his science does, indeed, triumph over the birthmark, but at the cost of his heart, his soul, and the true source of his happiness: his wife. Aylmer lets vanity blind him, and his obsession with perfection makes him Georgiana's murder. In both tales "The Birthmark" and "Rappaccini's Daughter", the finales show, that idealism and narrow-mindedness is the cause of devastation. The intolerance and the need to perfect, illustrated by the scientists towards the necessary flaws that God has produced in the world, lead them to destroy their beloved ones. 1 ...read more.

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