Mosses from an Old Manse and other stories by Nathaniel Hawthorne

“Mosses from an Old Manse and other stories” is a collection of short stories published separately under the author’s name. It consisted of “The Birthmark”, “Young Goodman Brown”, “Rappaccini’s Daughter”, “Mrs. Bullfrog”, “The Celestial Railroad”, “The Procession of Life”, “Feathertop: A Moralized Legend”, Egotism; or The Bosom Serpent”, “Drowne’s Wooden Image”, “Roger Malvin’s Burial” and “The Artist of the Beautiful”. The collection is freely available from Gutenberg Project and other sites.

Despite the length of the book, I could only concentrate on several of the stories as with my required readings from the collection and I found  the overall stories “The Birthmark”, “Rappaccini’s Daughter”, “The Artist of the Beautiful” to be a sort of science fiction fairytale. I’m really surprised with it. For a classic, the style is evidently modern and doesn’t overfill itself with too much descriptive details and difficult languages which I find in most of the older literatures.

The stories conveyed in a very specific situation and sets of characters with a moving plot and a moral/philosophical lesson gain in its conclusion. It was easy to identify with the situation particularly when the books never actually try to overwhelm the readers which made its easily accessible.

I’ve wondered why the author being compared with Poe  when it’s clearly both writers doesn’t write similarly. They maybe gothic authors of their time but Hawthorne’s style of writing is very relevant to this day. In fact, I never get the 19th century feel from it since the flow is very direct and straightforward unlike the deary constant character’s monologues in classics. I can find a lot of references that would make certain story steampunk by definition which is a genre I’m currently familiarizing with.

To be honest, I never heard of the stories before nor read any Hawthorne book in my life. I’m glad to have found a good author that I like. The other collection which was Hawthorne’s Twice-Told Tales consisted of many pieces of his work and I don’t think I will be reviewing that soon since I would have wanted to read each of his work (same goes as Grimms Tales and Portable Poe).

“The Rappaccini’s Daughter” is by far one of my favourite. The retelling from an Italian story of a forbidden romance, confused main character, victimized by a manipulator and most importantly, the toxicology elements in it which probably one of my favourite subject during university. I guess Hawthorne can be considered as a predecessor to Mary Shelley in the rising era of science fiction.

I really wish Hawthorne is in my highschool syllabus. It would make the readings more interesting than boring ones that I had to suffer.

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https://class.coursera.org/fantasysf-2012-001/human_grading/view_app/courses/114/assessments/7/submissions/16436

Hawthorne : The Scientific Moral Tale

Dark Romanticism concerns the dark mystery and skepticism on the 18th century’s society and its dispositions. Hawthorne build moral stories and criticized the society’s interest in scientific advancement while giving the darker side of the depth in his characters that parallel to modern times.

In “Rappaccini’s Daughter”, Beatrice’s touch of death was resulted from her father’s experiments with poisonous plants. This brought her excessive loneliness and hunger for love which was reciprocated by the Giovanni. Giovanni wanted to elope with her away from Rappaccini’s experimentations but this gave her conflicted emotions. Disillusioned by his scientific achievement on his “gifted” daughter and blind to her intense grievance, “I would fain have been loved, not feared,” Rappaccini unwittingly orchestrated his daughter’s demise when her immunity to poison made her succumb to a dose of a powerful antidote. In “Dr Heideggar’s Experiment”, the doctor observed his elderly friends by offering them glasses of water from the fountain of youth. In the end, he simply drew a cold scientific conclusion and in his glee, he ignored his newly addicted friends. This reflects the virtual ignorance of the medical research society today on its role to the medical problems today.

In “The Birthmark”, Aylmer became obsessed with his wife’s birthmark. In what he deemed as unnatural, he uses his scientific knowledge to ‘cure’ of the abomination of her perfection without thinking the potential tragic consequences that was foreshadowed. The story parallel to the modern surge in plastic surgery and its general dissatisfaction in what was in reality natural but being perceived as an abomination.

However in “The Artist of the Beautiful”, the inventor Owen became conflicted by the horrors of industrial science that he become captivated by natural philosophy and science. Unexpectedly when his work was destroyed in a baby’s grasp, he found spiritual enlightenment and achievement that was not “perceptible to mortal senses”. This had subtle shown the ways of a man of science that respected the beauty of nature at its core despite the skepticism of the modern society.

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