Rappiccini's Daughter

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In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short story, “Rappaccini’s Daughter,” the central female character, Beatrice Rappaccini, is controlled by three male figures in the story. The male characters, Giovanni, Baglioni, and her father all exploit Beatrice for individual reasons. Ironically, each male character claims to have her best interest at heart, but ultimately they all play a vital role in her demise. While Beatrice may have been superficially poisonous, the true poisoners in the story are the male characters, and their motives for seeking power and control. Beatrice’s father, Dr. Rappaccini, can be seen as the original poisoner in the story. He alone is responsible for Beatrice’s poisonous nature, and she is undeniably his creation. Dr. Rappaccini is also the creator of the purple plant which Beatrice refers to as her “sister” (2454). Baglioni later explains that because of Dr. Rappaccini’s “insane zeal for science” (2466) he exposed his daughter to the poison which ultimately led to her living a life of complete isolation. This life of isolation which Beatrice is forced into is direct result from her father’s science and quest for knowledge. Dr. Rappaccini takes advantage of Beatrice and uses her isolation as way of maintaining control of her. By making her poisonous, Beatrice is completely dependent upon her father, and is unable to live life on her own terms. At the end of the story when Beatrice asks her father why he would “inflict this miserable doom” (2470) upon her, his reply reveals his true motives. Rappaccini remarks, “What mean you, foolish girl? Dost thou deem it misery to be endowed with marvelous gifts, against which no power nor strength could avail an enemy…Wouldst thou, then, have preferred he condition of a weak woman..” (2470). Truthfully, Beatrice never desired the power that her poisonous nature. It was Dr. Rappaccini’s quest for power and Beatrice merely served as a tool for him to acquire it. Giovanni, the central male character...
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