When given the opportunity to gain dominance over humans, man thirsts for everlasting power. Argentine writer Julio Cortazar argues that “Human history is the sad result of each one looking out for himself” (Blair). Mere desire can easily be twisted into a dangerous obsession due to the egotistic human tendency to never be fully satisfied. For example, the slaughter of the Jews under Adolf Hitler, which is considered one of the most apocalyptic chapters of history, resulted out of Hitler’s necessity for sovereignty over others. Man obtains the inclination to use any possible means available in pursuit of personal gain, disregarding any negative consequences to others. The penalties of this are emphasized by Romantic author Nathaniel Hawthorne in his short stories “Rappaccini’s Daughter” and “The Birth-Mark”. The antagonists, Giovanni and Aylmer, demonstrate their manipulation of their authority over women in order to pursue their perpetual infatuation with scientific experimentation. The ability to exercise their self glorifying ambitions while simultaneously controlling human life threatens Romantic ideals of individualism, idealism, and love for nature in its purest form.
Exemplifying the thrill inherent in exerting dominance over another, both stories portray Aylmer and Rappaccini as God-like. The females, Beatrice and Georgiana, become the subjects of Rappaccini and Aylmer’s inquisitiveness, allowing them to be altered through the exploitation of science into subservient counterparts. In Hawthorne’s time, a patriarchal society was deeply valued. This allowed for the control of females economically, psychologically, and socially, which Beatrice is a replica of. Rappaccini tells her to perform an otherwise hazardous task to humans unaffected to the poison inflicted on Beatrice. Immunized to the lethal plants, she says she will “…gladly… undertake it” because to her, the fatal aroma of the plants “is the breath of life!” (“Rappaccini’s Daughter”). Possessing paternal power over his daughter, Rappaccini instills an ideology of female weakness into his vulnerable daughter, eternally enslaving her to him. Hawthorne incorporates irony with regards to the sinister garden Rappaccini gave life to. The naïveté of Beatrice blinds her from the pernicious effects of the anti-Eden that her father has created. She becomes a symbol of the diabolical pleasure Rappaccini finds in the discovery of the unknown. Rappaccini uses his acquiescent daughter as the vessel through which his self-interests for control are manifested. Ruthless and ambitious, his attempt to gain supremacy unfolds when he reveals that:
science, and the sympathy between thee [Beatrice] and him [Giovanni], have so wrought within his [Giovanni’s] system, that he [Giovanni] now stands apart from common men, as thou [Beatrice] dost. (“Rappaccini’s Daughter”)
Giovanni is ensnared in Rappaccini’s nefarious oasis becoming just as toxic as Beatrice. As a result, Rappaccini obtains command...