Young Goodman Brown and Other Hawthorne Short Stories

rappaccini daughter by nathaniel hawthorne

explain how the theme of intellectual arrogance operates in rappaccini daughter.

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Many of Hawthorne's stories show a fascination with, yet also fear of, science. It is unclear whether he deems scientific inquiry to be without honor, but certainly demonstrates a mistrust of it in relation to humanity. For example, in "Rappaccini's Daughter", Rappaccini is shown as a man so embedded in intellectual pursuits that he creates a monster out of his own daughter, Beatrice. Though it may be argued that he made her dangerous to protect her, therefore perhaps using science for the sake of humanity, the audience is left to decide which has been the greater driving force behind his actions. At the same time, Professor Baglioni professes to value humanity over scientific inquiry, yet ultimately delivers the potion that kills Beatrice. Here, the audience is again left to decipher whether scientific inquiry trumps humanity, or whether both have their inherent evils.

Another story where scientific inquiry comes into conflict with humanity is "The Birthmark", where Aylmer's lofty intellectual aims instill him with an incurable desire to rid his wife of a birthmark on her cheek. His wife, Georgiana, comes to appreciate his love for science, and submits her life to him, knowing full well that he will fail. Her ultimate demise at the hands of her husband's science casts a shadow over the human quest for heavenly achievement.

Ethan Brand's search for the Unpardonable Sin may be more philosophical in nature, but the result of his intellectual pursuits are similar to those of Rappaccini and Aylmer. In the end, he is cut off from his own humanity and gives the mind prominence over his own heart. Through each man's tragedy, Hawthorne cautions his readers to strive for balance between thought and love and a respect for nature.