Nathaniel Hawthorne

"Rappaccini's Daughter"

Where is this set? What is the setting for this story? What city is the garden in? We are in Italy. What is Hawthorne's best known location for his writing? New England. He is, himself, a classic New England descendant himself of the Puritans. The Hawthornes were almost the first off the boat. Has anyone read "Young Goodman Brown"? Remember how the Brown's grandfather had burned the Indian village, and his father had whipped the Quaker woman so smartly through the streets? Well, Hawthorne's own ancestors did these things. He writes them into his stories. He felt a great deal of guilt over that, but also, in some ways suspected that he might not quite live up to the stern old Puritan ancestors that he had. He was in some way degenerated from them, but anyway, he sets this story in Italy.

A young man, named Giovanni Guasconti, came, very long ago, from the more southern region of Italy, to pursue his studies at the University of Padua. He goes into his room, looks out the window, and what does he see? The garden. Who is in the garden? A beautiful woman. What is her name? Beatrice. Who does she represent when we think of women in gardens? Eve. God created Eve. Who created Beatrice? Rappaccini. He is taking upon himself the prerogatives of God. Where should our science take us? How far should it go? A couple of years ago this was big in the news. Why? Cloning. What did they clone? A sheep. And, therefore, what could they clone? Humans. Congress got all stirred up about it and started passing laws that we should not clone humans. Why? This is God's area. There are certain places we should go as people that our science should take us and then there is going too far. That replicates the very first crime in the garden of Eden, which was grasping for the knowledge and power of God, eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. It wasn't just knowledge they were after; it was also power. You will be as God. You will be like God if you eat this fruit. We have the fall before the garden here. The father has fallen. He is treating his daughter, not so much as a daughter as a scientific experiment. This is the romantic view of the enlightenment scientist who has gone astray. He is pursuing his science at the cost of everything else.

Rappaccini himself is the enlightenment scientist living in the more romantic world, a man out of place. In the enlightenment their heroes were people like Ben Franklin. You could say meddling with thunder and lightning is delving into the area that God has reserved for himself, but they didn't really see it quite that way. Now they are pursuing their knowledge but at what cost to humanity?

Beatrice represents Eve, but this is a new Eve. What kind of garden is this? It's poisonous. If you touch her what will happen to you? You will die. She also represents death. Eve, of course, why did they call her that? She is called Eve because she is the mother of the living. The name of Eve is derived from the word "life" in Hebrew. Beatrice represents life, also. To others she is death, but she herself is full of life. She is luxurious like these tropical plants that are around her, ready to enter the adult world but needing her own Adam to come along to make everything complete, to have this new Adam and new Eve in a new Garden of Eden. This is going to be a new Garden of Eden. Here she is in the midst of this garden which itself puts her in touch with nature. If her father is science, then she is more natural. Is he in his element in that garden? Can he interact the way she does? No, he has to wear heavy gloves and touch it from afar and try not to breathe too much of this stuff. She is in her element. In this sort of twisted, unnatural world that he created, he has no place, but she does.

The distrustful gardener, while plucking away the dead leaves or pruning the too luxuriant growth of the shrubs, defended his hands with a pair of thick gloves. Nor were these his only armor. When, in his walk through the garden, he came to the magnificent plant that hung its purple gems beside the marble fountain, he placed a kind of mask over his mouth and nostrils, as if all this beauty did but conceal a deadlier malice. But finding his task still too dangerous, he drew back, removed the mask, and called loudly, but in the infirm voice of a person affected with inward disease:

"Beatrice! -- Beatrice!"

"Here am I, my father! What would you?" cried a rich and youthful voice from the window of the opposite house; a voice as rich as a tropical sunset, and which made Giovanni, though he knew not why, think of deep hues of purple or crimson, and of perfumes heavily delectable. -- "Are you in the garden?"

"Yes, Beatrice," answered the gardener, "and I need your help."

Soon there emerged from under a sculptured portal the figure of a young girl, arrayed with as much richness of taste as the most splendid of the flowers, beautiful as the day, and with a bloom so deep and vivid that one shade more would gave been too much. She looked redundant with life, health, and energy; all of which attributes were bound down and compressed, as it were, and girdled tensely, in their luxuriance, by her virgin zone.

They explain that this was a belt that you tied around your waist hopefully to protect your virginity, although, such belts did not always have their intended effect. She has all this life ready to blossom out. All she needs is an Adam to come to take his place beside her.

Now, Rappaccini has an enemy; who is that? Baglioni. Is Baglioni, in the end, much better than the man he hates so much? What does he wind up doing? He provides the antidote that will make her not poisonous anymore, but, of course, it is poison to her. She dies. What happens to the young man? What is his state at the end of this? He is poisonous, too. He will be alone in the garden now. Nobody can touch him. This is really an all around tragedy for everybody involved. Of course, Baglioni likes to blame it all on his own enemy, Rappaccini. This is all your fault. Beatrice played her part in willingly drinking this. The guy, Giovanni, played his part by giving it to her, and Baglioni had cooked up the concoction. This is not something we can purely pass on to poor old Rappaccini.

* "The Minister's Black Veil"

This is more in the typical Hawthorne style, or what we think of as a typical Hawthorne work. He wrote many other kinds of stories, but these are the ones that are most famous, because he really soaked into the Puritan culture. He studied it quite thoroughly. He read all the old histories and all the old books. To the degree that he could, Hawthorne tried to understand the Puritan mind. In the end, the veil symbolizes sin. In the one element it symbolizes sin. In the fact that we are all sinners. What do we call that? Total Depravity. On one level we are all sinners, all guilty.

What else does it represent? When he's lying there dying, he says, "Why are you so upset about my veil? We all wear a veil." We tend to try and link a sign to the reality. The sign should correspond to the reality. If I tell you something, it should be true. Is this always the case? Do people lie? Would people lie about being good when they are really evil? What would be their motive for doing this? They would do this to make themselves look better. This is an important thing in this society. Why? If you wanted to be a full citizen of the colony what did you also have to be? You had to be a member of the church. You had to exhibit the particular virtues that they wanted their church members to have. If you weren't really virtuous would you try to seem to have these virtues? Would there be a motive to do it? If you wanted to be a full participant politically, economically, socially with the other people you had to do this.

What do we call it when you seem to be something you're not? Hypocrisy. Basically, the veil represents hypocrisy. The fact that we are full of sin, but to the world around us we present a mask. Is the face a window to the soul? It can be, but is it always? If somebody is really good at hiding his or her emotions, keeping them off their face, what do we call this? Poker face. You don't give yourself away. What you exhibit is not what you're feeling. When I'm talking to you it is in my interest to know what's going on inside your head, therefore I work to understand your facial expressions. It may be in your interest that I don't know, and you try to mask what is going on inside your head.

Can we trust what we see on everybody's face? No. His life had been a parable, but a parable that itself was veiled. Did he tell everybody what he was up to all this time? No. To some degree he has come to the same realization that young Goodman Brown did -- that external virtue, visible virtue can mask internal sin. Remember that Brown was just totally devastated upon finding that out and returned to the village but never, ever had a happy day in his life. Well, this guy is a little bit more tolerant of others, a little bit less grim, but you see the same shadow that has fallen across him. This was, of course, the shadow that fell across the Puritan culture in general. In 1692, they discovered that a bunch of these people who had seemed to be very good and virtuous and upright church members were really something else. What were they? Not just hypocrites, but this called for burning. They were witches. They were worshipping Satan. I know it because I saw it in a dream. There was this guy that accused this woman of coming to him in his dream and seducing him. They burned her. It was her fault for enticing him to sin. You had a lot of this going on at the time, and then suddenly it was impossible to see what was behind the mask. You couldn't know. Is this person a saint or really a sinner? Are you elect or a reprobate? Philosophy of the colony had been that you were able to tell. With this breakdown came the breakdown of the Puritan system. This veil represents all of that.


“The May-Pole of Merry Mount”

By: Nathaniel Hawthorne

He has taken a somewhat historical incident, although he changes it considerably in order to bring it to line with the symbols that he wants to portray. So if there is a conflict between what he wants the thing to look like and what really was then, he will change the facts to match what he wants it to be. For instance, he has Governor Endicott come out, and as I recall, it was actually Miles Standish who went out there and chopped down the may-pole. The great conflict of the day resulted in one bloody nose. It was somewhat less there than is here. Endicott really wasn't a part of busting up this party.

However, the Puritans did not write it up that way. They wrote it up as a heroic struggle, and Hawthorne in turn followed suit. He knew that there were more realistic accounts of what happened but he followed those more slanted accounts that had been passed down. The real account survived in footnotes at the bottom of pages like your footnotes that says that George Washington did not really cut down the cherry tree nor did he really not tell a lie. This is a story that someone made up after he was dead to talk about how truthful he was. You can always read this. There is so much real history that doesn't get taught, but then they'll put a little star by it and say well this is edifying, it's good for you, it teaches character, but it's not actually true. So, it's a lie about telling the truth. This is a fable, the May-Pole of Merry Mount with some basis in history, but the Puritans of course were filtering it through their view of the world. What is their view of the world? It's light versus dark, good versus evil, God's people versus the people of the devil. When young Goodman Brown goes out to the woods, he suspects that there is a devilish Indian behind every tree. Well, did the Indians worship Satan? Have they ever heard of Satan before the Christian Europeans got over here? No, they had their own gods, but for the Puritans these gods were all masks for Satan. They believed that Satan was behind all of them except ours. In fact, Satan was behind all other Christians except our version of Christianity. Everybody but us is going to hell and probably a lot of us too. It's a pretty grim outlook, but for it the Indians out here are worshiping Satan. And so are these people jumping around the May-Pole when in fact what they were doing was bringing across to the new world some of the "jolly ole' England" of the old. They actually got some of these folks that have been in a music video recently, The Mummers’ Dance, have you seen that one? It goes on and on. Who sings the video? Check this. She has a really high voice that goes on and on. It's one of those songs that really got a lot of over-play this fall. I saw the video a couple of times and people like these wicker basket sort of things that they put on their heads and they sort of jump around. It's done in black and white stuff and apparently this is a throw back to this sort of event here. The basket would be woven into the images of animals and didn't look so much wild and fantastic as it did sort of like, what's the point? Anyway, this is something like Mardi Gras, let's say. Where you're having a big party, and north Louisiana has always had sort of a judgmental and rather righteous Baptist attitude about Mardi Gras. We did do that up here until recently nor crawfish by the way. I remember that you did hear of crawfish north of Alexandria. This is the sort of thing that we have going on here. You've got the upright Puritans and then the people out in the wilderness who want to party. The town of course, for them is representative area of religion, upright living, stern morality. The wilderness is where you let your hair down. We see the same thing in young Goodman Brown, don't we? Except there explicitly stating that they are worshiping out in the wilderness where here we see a bit of the point of view of the reveller as well as of the Puritans.
Town Wilderness
Puritans revelers
stern  celebratory
black (color scheme) colors and flowers
Apollonian--- (Nietzsche developed) Dionysian (God of wine)
reason passion
prayer party

The revellers are bent on the losing of self and boundaries.
Dressing like animals shows their sexuality but also their union with nature.  For the Puritans, nature was "howling wilderness" that needed to be conquered & tamed.

The town represents the puritans and their strong ways, their morality. The wilderness represents the revellers being celebratory, getting drunk, having sex. What colors represent the Puritans? Black and they would wear a little bit of white and that was it. What about the revellers in the wilderness? What's their color scheme? All kinds of colors and flowers. This is a slight misuse of the term Apollonian for Nietzsche to come up with this distinction. The Apollonian was as pagan as the Dionysus, however, the Apollonians for him focuses and it does say a lot about the Puritans, on the principle of the individual. Apollo was the god of sculpture. He was the god of prophecy associated with the sun, and rationality above everything. The Puritans were nothing if not very rational. Even their slide off into witch hunting, what they rationale working out of their view of the world. If they world was as they thought it was then it would be natural that there would be witches and you would certainly need to burn them.

What is Dionysus the god of? Wine and also the god of partying. Where you have the individual here you have the group over here. Where as you've got reason going on the Apollo, you have wild reckless abandon emotionality all this going on with the Dionysians. So, Apollo is reason and Dionysian is letting go of reason. How do they symbolize and also where Apollo maintains the distinction of self apart from everything else. The Dionysian is the emerging of the self, losing of the self. So that they show the losing of the self and of the boundaries by their masks. Where breaking down the boundary between animal and human. Showing animalistic characteristics such as sexuality of the goat. The goat represents sexuality in ancient imagery, and so they have all this going on songs, and gothic monsters perhaps a repeat of the ancestors of the savage man. We have this today, don't we? Where do we go through into the Dionysian to try to lose the uptight way that we normally are? Mardi Gras! It's a relative of this very sort of a party. Where else? You don't have to go to New Orleans in February to do this. The night spots, right? where you have a little libation to the god Dionysises. The wine begins to flow, you start to dance, one thing leads to another. It's not only in these sorts of places, but any place that we merge with the crowd, such as a football game. If Tech had a real football tradition then you might make a point of going to the games on Saturday. Even like a very emotional sort of turf not the Puritan type, but where people like to jump and shout and that sort of stuff. This is a Dionysian experience. Losing of the self and merging with the group. There are all kinds of places that we go for this, but they were out there in the wilderness trying to seek the Dionysians. Each one of these has part of the truth. Each one of these lacks a part of the truth that the other has, and we never get any resolution sin the story except for perhaps in some degree in the Lord and lady of the May.

Now, who are these people, the Lord and Lady of May? Truly married. They have made a real commitment to each other not just a commitment for tonight. The normal tendency in this sort of party atmosphere is to form temporary liaisons. As might have happened to some of you at our night spots. Wake up next to some stranger the next day who really looked good last night. Perhaps not so good this morning, and then you introduce each other and scurry off into your separate lives. That was one of the points of this sort of orgy was to have sex with strangers. Here they are actually making a real commitment, so they function on sort of two levels. On the one hand, they are here as a representative Lord and Lady of May, representing the orgy. Yet on the other hand, they've actually made a real commitment. There is already a contradiction in their character that they're the most beautiful couple there, so naturally they got picked. This is like the king and queen of the prom or if you go to the Mardi Gras it's like the king and queen of the krewe. Normally the king is some old geezer who has paid a lot of money and the queen is some old geezer's daughter. They pair this sixty year old man with this twenty year old girl, which is more of what you'd expect in a situation like this. Nobody expects them to establish a long-term relationship because they're just there for the night. But the couple here has made a real committment in addition to the mating ritual they symbolize. Even before the Puritans arrive, the bloom is off the rose. They both fear the passage of time. This is a desperate parting by the way. This isn't real happiness that they've found up here it's a desperate search of happiness through revelry. They are finding that they are not real happy.

"Nothing of futurity will be brighter than the mere remembrance of what is now passing."

That's what I am afraid of. This is our best days. Do you ever stop to think that this is as good as your life will probably get? That it's all down hill from here? So, enjoy your English 202 class! That sort of cuts the joy of your class a bit whenever you think that this is as good as it's going to get, but it could get better.

The tempest fugit(time flies) theme means that we can't hold on to this. That's why summer is important. This is not May first. It's the summer's solstice. Twenty-first of June, the summer's solstice, the longest day of the year, but from now on every day of the year will be shorter, and winter is coming. If it had probably been on May first that would have been spring just whenever you're starting. But now in the high summer this is as good as things get. In imagery, spring is when you are a child and young person. Summer is when you are mature and at the height of your powers. Fall is when you begin to decay like your old professors, and the winter is the time right before you die when you're really desperate. The summer is as good as things get, and it's down hill from here.

Next come the Puritans; grim, judgmental, harsh, out there to break up the little party in the wilderness, and they still do that today. This whole thing between Bill Clinton and Kenneth Starr is like the Puritans going out to hunt them down and lop off that may-pole. They want to get rid of it. Too much of those things in this country, we want to be a righteous country where everybody wears black, prays prayers, and sings songs. They came over here to get away from all that partying. They weren't going to put up with it. One thing that is totally out of character for Endicott is that something moves him to pity. What is that? Who does he take pity on? The Lord and Lady of May. Normally, they did not pity those of the so called fairer sex because they were naturally worse so they needed all the more discipline in order to keep them from just becoming totally wild. The Puritans were not known for chivalry because that was some other view of the world than they had. Hawthorne is pretty correct in representing the Puritans as being as tough on women as on men. When you and this shows a bit of a gradation in Puritan penology or which is the word for the way that people punish; then penal system. What were the levels? You could place people in stocks, you could whip them, and this would represent the possibility to them of repentance and restoration. This did not necessarily mean that you were totally out of the elect. which side was the elect? The right hand over here? Now if you started lopping off ears and noses and things like that it showed that in Puritan mind, and the Puritans had a really close connection to God, and so in God's mind you were a part of the reprobates. So whenever he starts talking about lopping off their ears and noses, he's saying that they're reprobates, therefore, they're unredeemable. They will be marked forever as being beyond God's grace. He does not do that to the Lord and Lady of May. It's a more vial punishment, so let's cut his hair because he looks like a hippie freak, and get rid of that marijuana, but we're going to try to blend them into the community because they seem to have something about them that will make them able to function in our community. Although, I don't know that they would fit much more comfortably there than they were in the wilderness. They're as comfortable as most of them because they have a bit more of the truth than either side has.


“The Celestial Railroad”

By: Nathaniel Hawthorne

Based on John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, this story is a satire of the American need for speed and love of technology.  It is a straightforward allegory, with each name pointing to something beyond itself.


-Allegory ~ is the reading of documents on several levels.  It was used by church in middle ages, and still is popular.  Allegory was Invented by Greeks because their gods' immorality was embarrassing. (Example - Zeus sometimes turned himself into an animal and raped women.  Allegorical interpretations of these myths thus arose).  Allegory was later adopted by Christians.

The medieval church expressed its understanding of allegory in the following distich:

  1. Littera gesta docet;
  2. quod credas allegoria;
  3. quid agas moralia;
  4. quo tendas anagogia.


  1. The letter teaches the events;
  2. what you believe is allegory;
  3. what you are should do is the moral (tropological) sense;
  4. where you are going (after you die) is anagogical.

The verse that the church used to justify this method of interpretation is 2 Corinthians 3:6:

Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life. The early church took this to mean that interpretation of the Bible should be symbolic as well as literal.  "By dismissing the spiritual sense as a pious fantasy, modern critics have missed the profundity of this verse, and hence of the tradition of spiritual exegesis. This medieval distich expresses what the Church has always believed about the Bible.
  1. The Bible records God's action in history (the letter), and it is the task of the interpreter to discern the relation between what is written there and what has come about (and will come about) because of what happened.
  2. The three latter senses show how this is best done, by relating the text to what we believe (allegory),
  3. to how we are to live (the moral sense),
  4. and to what we hope for (the anagogical sense)."  (Interpreting the Bible: Three Views)

Jerusalem in the four-fold allegorical senses:

  1. Jerusalem, e.g., according to its literal sense, is the Holy City;
  2. taken allegorically, it denotes the Church Militant;
  3. understood tropologically, it stands for the just soul;
  4. finally, in its anagogical sense, it stands for the Church Triumphant.

 In Pilgrims Progress:

  1. Literal - journey from the City of Destruction to Celestial City despite great perils.
  2. Allegorical - the progress of any Christian from Baptism through trials to heaven.
  3. Moral - courage, trust, effort ~ to have these there characteristics.
  4. Anagogic - God’s providence and care for us. Worthiness of goal - to get to city.

What are the symbolic meanings of the names in the story?

What is the difference between a pilgrim and a tourist?

Find some of the clues in the story that let us know that the passengers aren't headed in the right direction.  Where do they think they're going?  Where are they really going?

This story influenced the Wizard of Oz & finds a more recent parallel in the series of Vacation movies.  These movies are themselves satires.