http://www.helium.com/items/2270217-nathaniel-hawthorne-rappaccinis-daughter-science-destroys-nature-mad-scientist-eden-garden by Allienne Becker Created on: December 21, 2011
“Rappaccini’s Daughter,” Nathaniel Hawthorne’s fantastic tale of love and death in an Italian garden, is written with a rich mixture of Romantic irony, the grotesque, and ambiguity and can be read as symbolizing the destruction of nature by science. The tale begins with the author playfully teasing the reader about his identity. Setting the tone for the story to follow, Hawthorne attributes authorship of “Rappaccini’s Daughter” to M. de l’Aubepine, French for hawthorn, with these words: "We do not remember to have seen any translated specimens of the productions of M. de l’Aubepine; a fact the less to be wondered at, as his very name is unknown to many of his own countrymen, as well as to the student of foreign literature." Jokingly, M. de l’Aubepine has his fun at the reader’s expense. Playing with the form of his tale, he includes such extraneous material in which he demonstrates the Romantic ironist’s ambivalent attitude toward his works. "His writings, to do them justice, are not altogether destitute of fancy and originality; they might have won him greater reputation but for an inveterate love of allegory, which is apt to invest his plots and characters with the aspect of scenery and people in the clouds, and to steal away the human warmth out of his conceptions." After a reference to his “fantastic imagery,” he continues his ruse of being a French author, M. de l’Aubepine, by citing the names of previous works he has written, giving their names in French, such as “’Le Voyage Celeste à Chemin de Fer,’ 3 tom., 1838,” or “’Roderic: ou le Serpent à l’estomac,’ 2 tom., 1840,” and the ridiculous “’La Culte du Feu,’ a folio volume of ponderous research into the religion and ritual of the old Persian Ghebers, published in 1841.” He presents his latest story with this notice: "The ensuing tale is a translation of his “Beatrice: ou la Belle Empoisonneuse,” recently published in “La Revue Anti-Aristocratique.” This journal, edited by Comte de Bearhaven, has for some years past led the defense of liberal principles and popular rights, with a faithfulness and ability worthy of all praise."
“Rappaccini’s Daughter,” an arabesque containing an embedded story reflecting the main narrative, presents the perspective of Giovanni, Beatrice, and Baglioni. The latter is an unreliable narrator because of his envy and deceit that cause him to manipulate Giovanni into poisoning Beatrice. Baglioni and Rappaccini are caricatures of two men of science. The author treats his hero ironically by making him a country bumpkin who goes to the big city to be taken advantage of by the sophisticated people he encounters. Romantic irony is also seen in the dual nature of Beatrice who is beautiful but poisonous. Her paradoxical situation comes to a synthesis when in death her spiritual beauty transcends the evil with which her father has contaminated her flesh. The grotesque plays an important part in creating the fantastic in the tale. Beatrice is identified with the garden plants, especially the poisonous one with the purple flowers. "Yet Giovanni’s fancy must have grown morbid while he looked down into the garden; for the impression which the fair stranger made upon him was as if here were another flower, the human sister of those vegetable ones, as beautiful as they—more beautiful than the richest of them—but still to be touched only with a glove, not to be approached without a mask." The garden plants in themselves are grotesque because of their strangeness. ". . .their gorgeousness seemed fierce, passionate, and even unnatural. There was hardly an individual shrub which a wanderer straying by himself through a forest would not have been startled to find growing wild, as if an unearthly face had glared at him out of the thicket." Another touch of the grotesque...
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