American author Nathaniel Hawthorne has been described as a "realist" and
one who assesses the American character within the plot lines of his novels.
His story, Rappaccini’s Daughter, follows this style. Its scenario encompasses
the main character of Giovanni Guasconti, a young student who is studying at the
University of Padua in a southern region of Italy. It is Giovanni’s first time
away from home and, being of limited resources, must rent an old, dismal, and
run-down apartment. It does however overlook a beautiful garden belonging to a
Doctor Giacomo Rappiccini who cultivates it daily with his daughter, Beatrice.
Throughout the course of time, Giovanni falls in love with Beatrice and his
courting of her consists of extensive daily walks through the garden. However,
he soon finds out that Rappaccini is no ordinary doctor; the garden he nurtures
is of no ordinary shrubbery, but rather one large scientific experiment on
medical cures that houses the world’s most poisonous plants. He also discovers
that Beatrice, being raised around such toxins, has been contaminated herself;
both her breath and her touch are venomous. As if that wasn’t enough, Giovanni
realizes that the time he spent with Beatrice is having the same effect on him.
The events in Rappaccini’s Daughter are of such romantic fiction that one
wonders about the meaning behind them. Is the purpose of this story to merely
entertain? Remember that a common characteristic in Hawthorne’s novels is his
evaluation of people; their personalities, character, and relationships with
... middle of paper ...
...s to change her, and that one hits home with just about every reader.
He tries to fore her into becoming something she’s not and the result is death,
whether can represent death of the body or relationship. As a result of his
actions, he loses her.
Rappaccini’s Daughter is a story set in the late eighteenth or early
nineteenth century, yet, it can be easily related to the present. Hawthorne’s
story contains many different dimensions that nearly every reader will be able
to relate to. He points a finger and shows the reader that the pain we inflict
on others is what we in turn inflict on ourselves.
Hawthorne, Nathaniel. Rappaccini's Daughter, included in Heath Anthology of
American Literature; Houghton Mifflin Co., New York, 1998.
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