Analysis of Rappaccini’s Daughter

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Rappaccini's Daughter: A Story of Love and Science

Rappaccini's Daughter is a linear story written by Nathaniel Hawthorne that tells the story of Giovanni, a young man who falls in love with a lady he sees in a flower garden. In several ways, he compares the girl to a vine. Giovanni's thoughts on Beatrice, the Doctor's daughter, "were another herb, the human sister of those vegetable ones, as beautiful as they, more beautiful than the richest of them," the author writes (58). This is a sad love story with many recurring themes that run throughout the short story. Some of the consistent themes include humanity and the need for ultimate control, love and lust, individuality and the society, nature and nurture, and the dangers of science. It is a story told with symbolism as a stylistic device that aids its expression of the story. The author, through the use of symbolism in the narration, shows that nature should be left out of reach of the control of human beings as any attempts to do so turns out disastrous.

The Dangers of Scientific Quests without Compassion

The narrator seeks to point out that scientific quests could be dangerous when undertaken without compassion for human life. This is expressed through Rappaccini's daughter, a symbol of his products. A day after his glorious sight of his daughter, Giovanni mentions Rappaccini's name in the presence of Pietro Baglioni, expecting to get a positive response. However, the latter praises the former, saying that the doctor's scientific brilliance is unmatched in the whole of Padua, and even Italy. However, he criticizes his lack of humanity, telling the young man that, "I should answer it but scantily to my conscience were I to permit a worthy youth like yourself, Signor Giovanni, the son of an ancient friend, to imbibe erroneous ideas respecting a man who might hereafter chance to hold your life and death in his hands" (60). This meant that Rappaccini hardly cares for human beings and was willing to take a life for the sake of proving his scientific propositions. Giovanni learned that the doctor made poison from the flowers that he grew in the garden. When he returns to his apartment, he observes the girl, amazed by her striking beauty, until another even takes away his attention; when Beatrice attempts to pin her dress while tending to the flowers, she picks one, and the liquid falls onto a lizard, which dies immediately. Beatrice's breath is also poisonous as it manages to kill an insect. With this occasion, it is vivid that the narrator uses Beatrice, the doctor's daughter, as a symbol of poisonous products in the narrator's comparison of her to the flowers. The author uses Beatrice's words to confirm this when she refers to the flowers as her sisters and that she would "nurse and serve thee; and thou shalt reward her with thy kisses and perfumed breath, which to her is as the breath of life" (59). This meant that if the flowers were poisonous, then in her likeness, Beatrice was also poisonous.

The Contrast between Love and Lust

The narrator uses symbolism in Rappaccini's daughter and the flowers in the garden to express the difference between love and lust. First, Baglioni's words are clear that the doctor has no love for human beings, but uses them as tools and specimens in his experiments. The reader can explain Giovanni's question regarding the doctor's excessive carefulness when handling the plants, with gloves and a mask, while he left his daughter to breathe freely and touch them with open arms (59). The proverb, 'not all that glitters is gold' applies to the situation of Beatrice and the flowers, as they are remarkably beautiful in outward appearance, indicating delicateness, "but still to be touched only with a glove, nor to be approached without a mask" (58). Despite the caution in observing the peculiar occurrences in association with the girl, either by insects or animals, Giovanni can hardly resist her charming beauty; he lusts for her. He questions himself, "What is this being? Beautiful shall I call her, or inexpressibly terrible?" after witnessing the lack of surprise in Beatrice after observing the lizard die (62). Rappaccini, with his careless application of science, denies his daughter a chance to fall in love with whom she pleases as she can hardly mingle. She blames her father's science when Giovanni demonstrates her fatality, saying, "It is my father's fatal science! No, no, Giovanni; it was not I! Never! never! I dreamed only to love thee and be with thee a little time" (75).

The Consequences of Association with Evil

The author expresses the consequences of association with evil during one's life. The doctor's daughter is an innocent child who desires normalcy. She begs Giovanni, her love, to believe her that "though my body be nourished with poison, my spirit is God's creature, and craves love as its daily food" (75). Anything associated with evil turns into poison. The narrator, through the plot and symbolism, proves that humans' quest for control is indeed dangerous.

Work Cited

Hawthorne, Nathaniel. “Rappaccini's Daughter.” Hawthorne, Nathaniel. Mosses from an Old Manse., 2012. 55-77. Print.

January 18, 2023

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