Lemorne Versus Huell vs Rappaccinis Daughter: Compare & Contrast
Elizabeth Drew Stoddard’s ‘Lemorne Versus Huell’ and Nathaniel Hawthorne’s ‘Rappaccini’s Daughter’ deal with the complex issues related to man-woman relationships. Though Hawthorne’s story is not set in America, the cultural issues represented in both the stories are relevant to the 19th century American readers. They display the subtle nuances of courtship rules in a fast-growing materialistic world and contrast them to the personal longings and passions of those who try to break socio-cultural and class barriers to fall in love with the person of their choice. While Stoddard presents the story from the perspective of the female protagonist, Hawthorne lets the story evolve through the felt experiences of his male protagonist. Though there are many similarities in the theme and value systems presented both the stories, they differ basically in their structure and style. Stoddard’s linear narrative flows smoothly and presents the events systematically. Hawthorne experiments with what has come to be known as metafictional ploys to tell a story laden with mythical allegories.
‘Lemorne Versus Huell’ deals with the intense, life-changing experiences that a young woman, Margaret Huell, had to undergo while she stayed for two months with her rich aunt Eliza Huell. Margaret and her mother had fallen on bad times and her stay with her aunt had exposed her to the upper-class lifestyle and mannerisms. She is a silent witness of the progress of litigation that involves her aunt’s property and gets acquainted with the younger of Uxbridge brothers, the lawyers of her aunt’s opponents. A love affair evolves between Margaret and Uxbridge, but she realizes that her aunt and Uxbridge were using her as a pawn to bargain their material and sexual benefits respectively. She gets married to him despite her apprehensions and is a loser in the end when her aunt breaks her promise of making her rich if she won the case and Uxbridge abandons her.
‘Rappaccini’s Daughter’ is presented as the translation of a story by M. de l’Aubepine. It deals with the mysterious experience a young man from Naples, Giovanni Guasconti, who had come to the University of Padua for his studies. He stays on the upper story of a building that overlooks a carefully mended garden of Signor Giacomo Rappaccini, a physician and his daughter Beatrice. Guasconti is warned by his father’s friend, Signor Pietro Baglioni, professor of medicine in the university, that Dr. Rappaccini indulges in occult medicine and grows poisonous plants in the garden for magic cures. It is rumored that he has made use of her daughter for his experiences and raised her among the garden plants that she too is poisonous. As Guasconti is drawn to the beauty of Beatrice, he ignores Baglioni’s warning that Rappaccini would not hesitate to make use of anyone for the slightest advancement in his field of research. However, he finds out that his association with Beatrice is turning him also into a poisonous creature and gives Beatrice a potion given to him by Baglioni. Beatrice dies when she consumes it, and it is revealed that Baglioni had been plotting against Rappaccinni’s experiments out of professional jealousy.
Both the stories have the common themes of a naïve person going through the temptations of dangerous love and the unexpected twists and turns of it that changes their lives. Stoddard’s story is presented in the first-person narrative of Margaret Huell and is restricted to her viewpoint on the events that unfurl. However, she is not a foolish young girl who would fall in love with the first person who proposes to her. She is well aware of her financial disposition and living standards and does not try to give the impression that she is rich, by telling Uxbridge that she is made to wear the exquisite dresses at her aunt’s expense and insistence. When he proposes to her, she is troubled as she reflects: “I was not allowed to give myself – I was taken”. When her aunt bargains with Uxbridge with her on the stakes, Margaret realizes how her love has turned into a business transaction. Even then, she falls for the trap wholeheartedly, as she is hopelessly in love with Uxbridge, and pays dearly for it in the end. Hawthorne’s story is in third person narrative, though its central focus is on Guasconti. The story has a mystic strain to it and it unravels entirely through Guasconti’s perspective. He is drawn to Beatrice by a primordial force despite the many warnings that she was a fatal woman. The narration is laden with many mythical allusions. Beatrice had alluded to the woman nourished with poison sent by an Indian Prince to destroy Alexander the Great. However, the young man’s dark and strong desire for Beatrice could not be impeded by any external force and he is inevitably led to self-destruction. Beatrice is represented as a woman estranged from the outside world due to her father’s occult practices. She says to Guasconti: “There was an awful doom…. effect of my father’s fatal love of science, which estranged me from all society of my kind. Until Heaven sent thee, dearest Giovanni, oh, how lonely was thy poor Beatrice!” This theme of isolation and frustrated feelings has its parallels in Margaret too, though the reason for that in her case is her loss of wealth and social position.
The 19th-century obsession with the consummation of love through marriage is strongly evident in both the stories and that is what creates and sustains the human interest element in the fatal romantic affairs portrayed in them. The personal decisions that the protagonists of the stories have to take against adversities contribute towards the tensions in plots. Moreover, the self-realization that love life does not feel as rosy as often imagined strikes home at the end of both the stories. The major contrast among the stories lies in their narrative technique. While Stoddard does not take recourse to the craft very much, Hawthorne is extremely concerned with it. Moreover, he fills the fictional space with many allegorical references like the Garden of Eden and the forbidden fruit (flower). For the same reasons, Guasconti’s psychological conflict brings in parallels of a spiritual quest and its failure as he succumbs to temptation. When compared to this, Stoddard’s scope of narration is restricted to the socio-political sphere of a particular time. Margaret is a sensible woman who keeps her eyes and ears open to the subtle nuances of interpersonal relations. Her failure is not brought to the epic dimensions of spiritual failure, since she exhibits her capability to rationalize and learn from her mistakes.
Hawthorne, Nathaniel. “Rappaccini’s Daughter”. <http://www.online-literature.com/hawthorne/152/> November 18, 2007.
Stoddard, Elizabeth Drew. “Lemorne Versus Huell”.<http://arthursclassicnovels.com/arthurs/short/lvssh10.html> November 18, 2007.