Rappaccini’s Daughter - Perceptions, Impressions, and Interactions

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Writers often use the characters in a story to make a comment on people's actions. In "Rappaccini's Daughter," by Nathaniel Hawthorne, the characters make a telling comment on the interaction of people within society. Hawthorne, a "thinker and artist" (Delbanco 14+), creates characters that are much different from what they seem like initially, and this encourages the reader to look deeper into issues instead of judging things by first impressions, rumors, or appearance. Cappello defines the judging of people as "how [people], in general, translate or read the world" (263). Hawthorne probes how people look at one another through his portrayal of Baglioni, Rappaccini, Giovanni, and Beatrice and their reactions with and toward one another.

Baglioni's character initially makes readers believe that he is a helpful doctor, and the text of the story constantly shows him wanting to aid Giovanni. Baglioni begins the story by supposedly clearing up the mystery regarding Rappaccini and his daughter: "You shall hear the truth in respect to the poisoner Rappaccini and his poisonous daughter, yes, poisonous as she is beautiful" (Hawthorne 271). He even remarks to the misguided Giovanni that Rappaccini "cares more for science than for mankind" (Hawthorne 259). The picture that Baglioni paints scares both Giovanni and the reader into believing that horrid things are going on at Rappaccini's mansion. Cappello believes that Baglioni is obviously "aware of the power of his language" (266). Baglioni's advice continues, and he even warns Giovanni through a historical fable that depicts a woman "nourished with poison from her birth upward " (Hawthorne 270). All of these warnings achieve their goal of helping to formulate Giovan...

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Nelson, Ronald. "Two Potential Sources for Pierto Baglioni in Nathaniel Hawthorne's 'Rappaccini's Daughter.'" Studies in Short Fiction 28.4 (1991): 557-564.

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Stoehr, Taylor. Hawthorne's Mad Scientists: Pseudoscience and Social Science in Nineteenth Century Life and Letters. Hamden: Archon Books, 1978.

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