"Can we discern a pattern, an implicit analytic shape, to Hawthorne's representation
of women, and to his portrayal of gender relations more largely? I think the
answer is, emphatically, yes . . . and it was brilliantly and lucidly identified,
some years ago, by Nina Baym in her hash-settling essay 'Thwarted Nature:
Nathaniel Hawthorne as Feminist.' Baym argues that many of the stories we
most value and most often teach compose a sustained analysis of-and a powerful
attack upon-male behavior. Again and again, in nascent form in stories like
'Wakefield' and 'Young Goodman Brown,' in full flower in 'The Minister's Black
Veil,' 'The Birth-Mark,' and 'Rappaccini's Daughter,' Hawthorne stages encounters
between men and women. In these encounters, male characters--their underlying
anxiousness and aggression disguised as ambition or obsession--refuse the
invitation to full, complex, and humane life offered by their female counterparts.
These acts of neurotic refusal punish--and even kill off--the women and yield
to the male characters the utterly empty lives they seem all along to seek.
...in tales like 'The Birth-Mark,' 'Rappaccini's Daughter,' 'The Minister's
Black Veil,' 'Young Goodman Brown,' and 'The Artist of the Beautiful' (not
to mention the novels) Hawthorne conducts what seems to me to be an analysis
and criticism of male personality unequaled in its depth and rigor. But why
should the anxiousness, rigidity, and aggressiveness of male character have
emerged so insistently as one of Hawthorne's central subjects."