Rappaccini's Daughter Nathaniel Hawthorne Term Paper

Excerpt from Term Paper :

Rappacinni's Daughter" by Nathaniel Hawthorne [...] what the story is about, along with some other interpretations of the meaning of the story. Many different interpretations of this story exist, however, the one that seems to make the most sense is the underlying story of the father and daughter, and how their relationship alters as Beatrice grows older. The father is so immersed in his scientific study that he has ignored his daughter's growing up, but he understands her needs as a woman, and tries to supply them the only way he knows how - with a lover immune to her poison. It is the ultimate love of a father, to create the "perfect" man for his daughter.

Rappacinni's Daughter

Rappacinni's Daughter" is a complex and magical story, and so, it has been interpreted in many different ways. There are many who believe Hawthorne wrote the story as a religious allegory, with heavy Biblical symbolism wound throughout the story - from the mystical garden itself, to the strange characters that inhabit the house and garden. In the opening, Hawthorne makes an obvious reference to Dante's "Inferno," which obviously describes this poisonous garden that is so evil. He also describes Dr. Rappaccini as the Devil by his black dress and his lack of "warmth of heart" (Hawthorne). There are even references to the garden of Eden and the evil serpents as plants slither along the ground, establishing the idea that this is the Garden of Eden. However, nothing so evil could ever be Eden, and what the doctor does to his daughter could never be considered good or moral, and so, the religious implications may be strong in this story, but they are certainly not the only interpretation that holds any credence.

The beautiful Beatrice is the central character of the story, even though Giovanni narrates it. Giovanni finds Beatrice more beautiful even than the flowers of the mysterious garden. "...more beautiful than the richest of them, but still to be touched only with a glove, nor to be approached without a mask" (Hawthorne). Yet, her father is feeble and ugly, so it is difficult to believe the beautiful daughter came from the old man. Clearly, there is magic in the garden, and the father has harnessed it. Now, he knows his time is limited, and he wants to make sure his daughter is taken care of after he is gone.

Throughout the story, there are many references to the relationship between the father and the daughter, and what it means to them. Giovanni realizes Beatrice has never been outside the garden - she has led a very sheltered and lonely life. Her father realizes this too, and attempts to provide her with the perfect man, one who is immune to the numerous poisons running through her system. Her father has taught her everything he knows, but she does not recognize her knowledge. She tells Giovanni, "Do people say that I am skilled in my father's science of plants? What a jest is there! No; though I have grown up among these flowers, I know no more of them than their hues and perfume; and sometimes, methinks I would fain rid myself of even that small knowledge" (Hawthorne). Beatrice sees the wisdom in her father, and understands he is a great scientist. This relationship is quite typical of the father-daughter relationships throughout time. The father worships and dotes on the daughter, and attempts to pass on his knowledge to her, while the daughter worships the father, and recognizes all of his strengths while ignoring his weaknesses. She does not see their relationship, or her lonely life, as unusual; in fact, she is quite comfortable with it. This is another measure of the father-daughter relationship. Both parties are quite comfortable in the relationship. Their bond is even more strong because there clearly is no mother to pull Beatrice in another direction. Her bond is directly and only with her father, and there is no outside influence that has come between them until the arrival of Giovanni.

The father has inflicted a terrible price on his daughter, but he does not recognize it. "Miserable!' exclaimed Rappaccini. 'What mean you, foolish girl? Dost thou deem it misery to be endowed with marvellous gifts, against which no power nor strength could avail an enemy? Misery, to be able to quell the mightiest with a breath?'" (Hawthorne). As she has grown, she understands her father…

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