Home > Books > Rappaccini’s Daughter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne: a review

Rappaccini’s Daughter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne: a review

My aunt, recently sent my grandmother, Classic American Short Stories, edited by Clarence C. Strowbridge. While I was in Australia, I started reading it.

How do they figure out which stories to put into a book like this?

The story of Rappaccini’s Daughter is pretty intriguing. It starts with a young science student, Giovanni Guasconti, who comes to Padua to study but becomes entranced by the daughter of his neighbor, Rappaccini. He observes her by chance through his open window, and despite being warned by a friend of his father’s, Professor Pietro Baglioni, who is acting as a mentor of sorts, he pursues Beatrice.

He is somewhat concerned when he notices that living things seem to die in her presence—well most living things, there is one flower in her garden that doesn’t. She calls it her ‘sister’.

As the story progresses, Hawthorne proscribes the too-familiar storyline where the love-lorne young man (Giovanni) ignores his purpose for being in Padua and devotes himself entirely to thoughts and moments with Beatrice. Until suddenly, it dawns on him that she is poisonous – well, it dawns on him with the help of Professor Baglioni: Rappaccini has, according to Baglioni, put science above all else and brought up his daughter on poison so that her very essence is poison.  On reflection, Giovanni knows this to be true. He recognizes that he has also become poisonous merely through his contact with her. So he takes a draft (antidote) to her that will supposedly cure her. Instead, in a dramatic scene where Giovanni confronts Rappaccini and Beatrice drinks the draft, she dies, abruptly. The story ends there.

You are left wondering what happened to Giovanni and his love? Yes, Nathaniel, you left me hanging.

Categories: Books
  1. jyoti
    October 16, 2011 at 17:48

    I love the way your write and your topics are always interesting. Keep up the good work.
    I look forward to your next piece! Mum

    • Fiona Cox
      October 18, 2011 at 21:50

      Thanks, Mom 😉

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