Rappaccini’s Daughter by Nathaniel Hawthorne (Summary & Analysis)

Read the complete summary and critical analysis of the famous English short story "Rappaccini's Daughter"

Rappaccini Daughter Hawthorne Nathaniel summary analysis explanation translation review

“Rappaccini’s Daughter” is a fantasy in English literature, written by Nathaniel Hawthorne. It deals with the scientific research of a well-known Dr. Rappaccini who has grown up in a botanical garden full of poisonous plants. He is bent to establish the superiority of his scientific knowledge over other scientists. And, he has no room for the welfare of human beings. He cares more for science than mankind, it is misery. Giovanni is a young man from the south of Italy for study at the University of Padua. He has got a private lodging in the upper story of an old-fashioned building. the young man peeps outside the window and gets pleased to notice a well-arranged garden, very carefully maintained. So, he feels that the garden will serve to keep him in touch with nature. He is told that the garden belongs to a famous doctor, Rappaccini.

One day Giovanni notices a sickly middle-aged man working in the garden. To Giovanni, this strange man appears as if he is working among poisonous animals and evil spirits. After exhaustion of little work, he comes back and calls his daughter, Beatrice. She comes running into the garden. She looks full of life, health, zest, and energy. Giovanni is stunned to notice her attractive figure.

Dr. Rappaccini tells his daughter, Beatrice, that he wants to hand over the charge of his chief treasure, the magnificent plants with purple flowers. He feels that plants may be harmful due to his old age and sickening soul. She bends towards the magnificent plant by hugging it and kissing it. This spectacle doubts Giovanni’s eyes. He fails to understand whether Beatrice is tending her favorite flower or a sister performing the duties of love to another.

Character of Professsor Baglioni

Giovanni meets Professor Baglioni who is an old friend to his father. He tells Giovanni that Dr. Rappaccini is a man of doubtful character. He warns him to be careful who in the future might hold his life for some new experiment. Baglioni confirms that he is a skilled doctor of medicine but he cares more for his scientific experiments than for mankind. He also tells him that Dr. Rappaccini has also instructed and nurture his daughter deeply in his science. But Giovanni is not fully convinced against Dr. Rappaccini. He sits close by his window and starts looking down in the garden. Meanwhile, Beatrice appears in the garden. She throws her arms around the bush and asks it to give her its breath as she is restless in the common air.

Effect of Beatrice’s Poison

Giovanni observes the mysterious effect of Beatrice’s poison which is exhibited in the garden. A small orange-colored animal happens along the path, two drops of water from a flower fall on its head. The animal is laid motionless in the sunshine. A beautiful insect begins flying around Beatrice’s head, and as she gazes at it, the insect falls down dead at her feet. Giovanni throws down his flowers at her asking. She lifts flowers with thanks but they begin drying as she passes through the garden hurriedly.

The old lady Lisabetta tells Giovanni about the private entrance in the garden. It becomes a routine for Giovanni to meet Beatrice in the garden. Beatrice also watches for Giovanni’s appearance and flies to his side as if they have been playmates from early childhood. By all signs, they love, and yet there has been no touch of hands. Their love is a sort of spiritual acquaintance, which brings souls to each other. He also notices that Dr. Rappaccini observes them secretly.

One morning Professor Baglioni visits Giovanni unexpectedly. Baglioni tries to convince the youth about lurking danger through a story of an Indian Prince. But Giovanni is in no mood to hear such a fictional story and calls it a childish story. Baglioni feels uneasy at his remarks and points out the sweet smell that is spread in his room. He clearly tells him that Beatrice is a poisonous girl. However, they may bring the unfortunate girl back to her natural self from her poisonous plight. He produces a silver bottle containing an antidote whose single drop could make the strongest poison harmless.

What happened at the end of Rappaccini’s Daughter?

A long discussion with Professor Baglioni strikes many doubts in Giovanni’s mind. He decides to make some tests with fresh flowers. Before proceeding to the garden, he looks into the mirror in which he sees his healthy face. He is surprised to see that the flowers have withered due to his poisonous touch. But he is fully terror-stricken when an insect dies of his breath. In his shock, he cries out; accursed! accursed! ‘Have I grown so poisonous that hits insect dies by my breath!’.

Giovanni, chocked with anger and anguish, wants to kill Beatrice, for drawing him into such a plight. In the garden, Giovanni asks her about the Jewel-like flower. Beatrice replies that her father has created that plant and she is brought up by its breath. He thundered! accursed one, “You have cut me off from all the warmth of life and drew me in your region of unspeakable terror. You have made me as hateful, as ugly, and as deadly a creature as yourself.” However, his anger is subsided when she assures him that her body may be fed with poison but her soul is God’s creature.

After realizing the sincerity of Beatrice, Giovanni gets melted and tells her that their fate is not yet without hope. He tells her that there is powerful medicine in the bottle that can make the strongest poison harmless. He suggests that they should drink it together, and thus be freed from the poisonous elements in their body. She drinks accordingly.

Why did Dr Rappaccini poison his daughter?

Dr. Rappaccini comes out of the shadows happy at the union of Giovanni with his daughter. Beatrice asks her father angrily why he has brought such a terrible fate upon her. Rappaccini considers her foolish and stresses the importance of evil poisonous power. He says to her that he has made her power over other women as no one can exploit her. Soon she dies with the reaction of the antidote, like poison, and becomes life to her body. She lays dead at the feet of her lover and father. At this moment, Professor Baglioni addresses thunder-stricken Dr. Rappaccini from the window making him ashamed of his science and experiments.

The fantasy of the Story

“Rappaccini’s Daughter” is a fantasy. The whole background of the story, the incidents, the characters, the situation are fantasy. The purpose of such fantasy is to enable man to understand what challenges may occur and how they can positively be tackled. Human development is a never-ending process. Scientific researches and human values go side by side.

What is the plot of Rappaccini’s Daughter?

The story opens with strange extraordinary events. Dr. Rappaccini is found working in the garden but he avoids direct contact with herbs plants, as they are poisonous. He has also brought up his daughter, Beatrice, in the same atmosphere. To the reader’s surprise, she cannot survive in the common air. If a person comes in contact with her, he will surely die. Giovanni gives flowers to Beatrice, which go dried in her hands. An insect dies at her feet. A flying bird also dies due to her breath. The same poisonous air also contaminates Giovanni. Such things do not exist in the real world but in an imaginative one. The moral is conveyed through this fantasy that one should never step beyond one’s limits. And every step must be in the aovr of human welfare. Get video notes on this short story for further explanation.

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