Rappaccini’s Daughter - An Exploration of Human Nature

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Rappaccini’s Daughter - An Exploration of Human Nature

The key to my understanding Hawthorne’s perspective on Science and Nature in Rappaccini’s Daughter was his cheeky introduction, when he placed himself somewhere between transcendentalists and "pen-and-ink men who address the intellect and sympathies of the multitude" - too unpopular for the multitude, and too popular for the transcendentalists. Choosing not to fit in either camp, he seems to tease us with the merits and deficits of each - science and nature, too. It’s not a matter of balance, or a weighing of arguments. His device here is to play upon the tensions attendant to these apparent polarities.

On the first reading "Rappaccini’s Daughter" appeared to be a cautionary tale, a warning about the dangers of too much science, excessive manipulation of nature - leading to "thwarted nature," the "fatality that attends all such acts of perverted wisdom." Rappaccini is described as a "vile empiric" and "not restrained by natural affection for his daughter." Beatrice, his daughter, describes herself as merely his earthly child, while the plants are the "offspring of his intellect."

Beatrice is described by her physical beauty and poisonous physical nature. She is described also by the "pure light of her character." Giovanni, the would-be lover, alternates between obsession with Beatrice - which might be love - and abhorrence of her. The obsession is with her beauty and simplicity - her goodness. The abhorrence is with her poisonous physical nature. Giovanni’s character, however, is found wanting when he urges Beatrice to take the fatal antidote to her poisonousness. Beatrice protected Giovan...

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...cience was represented by his demeanor with his daughter and his garden - touching nothing directly, only looking and tending from a distance. Baglioni sought power manipulatively and politically - represented by his academic rivalry with Rappaccini, his plan to kill Beatrice, and his manipulation of Giovanni as the instrument to kill Beatrice. Giovanni wanted power over Beatrice - he wanted to recast her into a form he could "love" - he couldn’t love her as she was. Beatrice and the plants in the garden were the innocents in this story - they simply came into being. The poison in their physical nature simply was - there was no malice in them. Beatrice was the only human who exhibited real love, and who only wanted love/to love. She expressed her love for Giovanni by dying - and in dying released herself from (transcended) the power of each of these men.