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Romanticism in Hawthorne's Young Goodman Brown, The Birthmark, and Rappaccini's Daughter

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Romanticism in Young Goodman Brown, The Birth-Mark, and Rappaccini's Daughter   

 
Nathaniel Hawthorne gives his own definition of romanticism in the preface to The House of Seven Gables. According to Hawthorne, the writer of a romance may "claim a certain latitude" and may "deepen and enrich the shadows of the picture," as long as he does not "swerve aside from the truth of the human heart." The writer of a romance "will be wise...to mingle the Marvelous" as long as he does it to a "slight," however if he "disregards this caution," he will not be committing "a literary crime" (Hawthorne, House of Seven Gables, preface). Nathaniel Hawthorne consistently stays true to his standards of romanticism. The application of these standards is most abundant and lucid in "Young Goodman Brown," "The Birth-Mark," and "Rappaccini's Daughter."

 

The chief difference between a novel and a romance as defined by Hawthorne, and in general, is that the writer of novel must stick to reality, whereas the writer a of romance, Hawthorne in this case, may "claim a certain latitude" (T.H.O.S.G., preface). This "latitude" is expressed in "Rappaccini's Daughter," "...Dew-drops that hung upon leaf and blossom, and, while giving a brighter beauty to each rare flower, brought everything in the limits of an ordinary experience" (Hawthorne, "Rappaccini's Daughter" 655). Although a large portion of the story is spent on describing the vegetation that grow in the garden, Hawthorne symbolizes the flowers as dark and mysterious, not realistic. Hawthorne's use of exaggeration is seen more keenly in "The Birth-Mark." Hawthorne exaggerates this birthmark to mythical proportions, "dreadful Hand" or "Crimson Hand" is how he refers to Georgiana's birth-mark....


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...ed that to be successful. Although, it is possible to write a romance without referring to the supernatural, and certainly many have done so, it's the "Marvelous," that keeps one coming back for more. In all three stories, Hawthorne refers to the "Marvelous," thus remaining true to his definition of romanticism.

 

One may ponder if Hawthorne's definition of romanticism, as defined in the preface to the House of Seven Gables, was written for that certain work or if his definition of romanticism applies to all his work. As the three works analyzed show, he follows his definition of romanticism throughout his work. Hawthorne succeeds at setting appropriate standards for romanticism and then applying them in his work. Thus, he is remembered as one of the greatest Romantic authors of all time, both by his definition of romanticism and ours. (1057)

 

 

 


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