Rappaccini’s Daughter is a short story written by Nathaniel Hawthorne and published in 1844. Rappaccini is a scientist who has lived for some time away from society, with his daughter Beatrice Rappaccini who he raised through the same form of extreme isolation and unique education as himself. His unique methods have made Rappaccini infamous among the population, but Rappaccini has created a unique plant that he calls his masterwork.
Beatrice Rappaccini lives in isolation with her father and is forced to leave home after she imbibes Rappaccini’s masterwork. Rappaccini learns of this when he discovers her within his lab, surrounded by his poisonous flowers. Rappatchi captures Beatrice Rappaccini and locks her up in a high tower where no one can reach her or harm her without being poisoned by the plants growing on the tower itself.
Along comes Giovanni Guasconti, who is researching Rappatchi for his dissertation on Italian scientists. Guasconti runs into Beatrice while visiting Rappatchi and begins an affair with her. Rappatchi realizes this and feeds Guasconti a poison, but fails to kill him as he intended. Rappatchi dies from the same poison eating away at his own flesh. Beatrice Rappaccini is allowed to leave with Giovanni Guasconti as the antidote is administered by a doctor who was called in as Rappatchi’s demise became more apparent.
It takes the form of a journal entry written by Giovanni Guasconti, an Italian student visiting Padua, Italy to study botany under Dr. Rappaccini. As he studies Rappaccini’s daughter Beatrice Rappacinni and also becomes acquainted with Rappaccini himself, he realizes that their standards and practices for botany are unorthodox and disturbing.
Rappaccini explains to Giovanni why his techniques for cultivating poison plants differ from other gardeners: “I do not seek to hide my methods, but point them out plainly; and I challenge all the world to improve upon them [the aim of my research is a beneficial one], or even to equal them. ” Rappaccini’s extensive studies enable him to manipulate vines and flowers into poisonous weapons—spikes, thorns, and succulent-looking but deadly blooms.
He defends his offensiveness by saying that such poison plants could also be used for good purposes: “The qualities assigned to these plants as hurtful are as applicable to the purposes of medicine as those which are prized as wholesome. It must not be forgotten that all our knowledge, either of action or of utility, arises from observation of effects; and that we cannot learn one thing by means of another unless it has in some way or other a relation (of sequence), or at least an analogy, with it. Rappaccini believes that his poisonous plants are the key to a better future for humanity where man can control nature instead of being controlled by it—a theme found in much Romantic literature during this time. As Giovanni gets to know Beatrice Rappacinni he finds himself falling deeply in love with her, but Rappaccini forbids him from talking to or seeing her.
He warns his daughter not to associate herself with Giovanni because even the tiniest amount of Rappaccini’s poison could kill Giovanni due to their close relationship: “My science would be equally blighted if contaminated by its interchange with human passions and opinions. I will never consent to bestow my on any man, much less on one with whom I have so intimate a relation. ” Rappaccini places Beatrice in her own greenhouse, away from Giovanni, to nurture her isolation and dependence upon Rappaccini for survival.
Giovanni becomes so enamored with Rappaccini’s daughter that he proposes marriage to Rappaccini who immediately refuses him: “I am not blind to the interests of my reputation as a man of science. ” Rappaccini tells his disheartened friend Giovanni that he will allow him one day with Beatrice because Rappaccini does not wish for his influence over Giovanni to fade quickly—in an attempt to further strengthen their relationship Rappaccini warns Giovanni against any other by saying, “All men are my enemies, by whomsoever they may be assailed… Beware of Giovanni Guasconti! Rappaccini refuses to allow an intimacy between Beatrice and Giovanni by isolating them from one another.
Rappaccini attempts to nurture a poisonous relationship with his daughter and friend because Rappaccini believes that the only way he can prove the excellence of his research is through its immortalization in art: “The productions of your mind would adorn mine,” Rappaccini says. In Rappaccini’s opinion, Rappaccini must manufacture a perfect masterpiece for him to pass down through generations.
In order to keep Rappaccini from killing Giovanni, Beatrice confesses everything to her father, explaining how Rappaccini’s poison has already made its way to Giovanni through the air he breathes and a single touch from Rappaccini’s hand: “I thought only of awakening your sympathies. I did not reflect that you had irrevocably determined not to bestow your daughter on Signor Guasconti, nor could I hope to prevail with you, however strongly my conviction might be that his influence over me was beneficial.
You desired that I should be happy… In this I have been gratified… Hitherto my life has been very peaceful and happy [and Rappaccini has robbed Giovanni of enjoying these same pleasures]. It is only since I knew him [Giovanni] that my existence has been turned into a dreary wilderness…” Rappaccini, when told of Rappaccini’s sinister plot to kill Giovanni, becomes outraged and tells his daughter “I would not have you unhappy for all the treasures of the world. There is no sacrifice I would not make to ensure your happiness. Trust yourself implicitly to me. You shall yet be happy. Rappaccini vows never to harm Giovanni again. Rappaccini, realizing he cannot keep Beatrice away from Giovanni any longer decides it is time for them both to die together in their own greenhouse—far away from other people where Rappaccini can end his life after he takes his daughter’s life: “I will trust you with a secret,” Rappaccini says.
“You are aware that my boasted science is the merest charlatanry;—the truth is, I took advantage of some gleams of success which I obtained by an accident, to impose on the popular mind… Rappaccini’s daughter cannot live long. Rappaccini takes away Beatrice and Giovanni’s future together by killing them both with his poisonous touch. The Rappaccinis believed that their practice was justifiable because it grew out of love for each other: Rappaccini “loved [his] child with so much affection that he daily risked his life in her service; while she repaid this paternal care by loving him with an intensity nearly approaching to frenzy.
Her temper had never been remarkable for softness; and now it was said that Rappaccini alone could manage her, and even his influence was always needed to calm her rage, when the dominions which she disputed with her step-mother were at stake. ” Rappaccini’s daughter is still Rappaccini’s property because Rappaccini believes “women are just as much slaves as children are… there can be no freedom or beauty about them unless they are content to do nothing but what they are told. ” Rappaccini owns Beatrice because he has devoted so much time to her development—he bears all the responsibility of somebody who owns something or somebody else.