The dialogue, action and motivation revolve about the characters in the story (Abrams 32-33). It is the purpose of this essay to demonstrate the types of characters present in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Rappaccini’s Daughter,” whether static or dynamic, whether flat or round, and whether portrayed through showing or telling.
The tale takes place in Padua, Italy, where a Naples student named Giovanni Guascanti has relocated in order to attend the medical school there. His modest room is in an old mansion watched over by the landlady, Dame Lisabetta, a two-dimensional character given to religious expletives like, ``Holy Virgin, signor!'' She seeks to make the customer content with his lodging; she answers Giovanni’s curiosity about a garden next-door: ``No; that garden is cultivated by the own hands of Signor Giacomo Rappaccini, the famous doctor. . . .” As a character, old Lisabetta never develops beyond this single aspect of her personality of trying to make the customer happy. Later she sells information to Giovanni so that he can enter the garden by a secret entrance.
Giovanni in his room can hear the water gurgling in Dr. Rappaccini’s garden, from an ancient marble fountain located in the center of the plants and bushes; this sound “made him feel as if the fountain were an immortal spirit that sung its song unceasingly and without heeding the vicissitudes around it. . . .” Of particular interest to Giovanni is “one shrub in particular, set in a marble vase in the midst of the pool, that bore a profusion of purple blossoms, each of which had the lustre and richness of a gem.” As striking as the plant of the purple gems is “a tall,
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...ed nature,” at the feet of her father and Giovanni. Beatrice, in the course of the story, passes from isolation to love and to a full realization of the truth, thus she is very dynamic; not static like her father. Giovanni is equally dynamic in developing into a loving person, and then reverting into an almost hating person because of the acquired malady.
Abrams, M. H. A Glossary of Literary Terms, 7th ed. New York: Harcourt Brace College Publishers, 1999.
Hawthorne, Nathaniel. “Rappaccini’s Daughter.” ElectronicText Center. University of Virginia Library. http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/etcbin/browse-mixed-new?id="HawRapp"&images=images/modeng&data=/texts/english/modeng/parsed&tag=public
Kazin, Alfred. Introduction. Selected Short Stories of Nathaniel Hawthorne. New York: Fawcett Premier, 1966.
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