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Nathaniel Hawthorne Stories

In some of his stories Nathaniel Hawthorne yokes the work of science and technology to the purposes of fiction. According to H. Bruce Franklin, three of Hawthorne's stories, "The Birthmark," "The Artist of the Beautiful," and "Rappaccini's Daughter," employ the terms and procedures of science in such a way as to fall under the rubric of "science fiction." More conventional readings of these stories, however, treat technology merely as support for a fantastic atmosphere, rather than as a device for the framing of future possibilities, the usual province of science fiction. An emphasis on their scientific and pseudoscientific elements may determine a special interpretation of these stories that places them outside the realm of "ordinary" fiction.

Franklin begins his discussion of the scientific and speculative aspect of Hawthorne's stories with a definition of science fiction as distinct from other forms of fiction. Although realistic fiction, historical fiction, science fiction, and fantasy all "describe present reality," they differ in the strategies they embrace in their description (Franklin 3). Realistic fiction imitates current reality; historical fiction imitates past reality as a way of presenting current reality; science fiction describes current reality by extrapolation, usually into the future; fantasy attempts to illuminate the present by providing an impossible alternative to it. Because fantasy must contain realistic elements and even the most realistic fiction depends on the play of fantasy, no work of fiction is of an entirely pure type: "In practice every piece of fiction is a combination of all four theoretical modes, deriving what we may call its nature from the proportions and arrangements of its elements" (Franklin 4).

In many respects science fiction stands midway between realistic fiction and fantasy. Without insisting on a new reality, the way fantasy does, science fiction operates ...

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Nathaniel Hawthorne Stories. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 19:49, May 26, 2020, from