Study of Rappaccini’s Daughter

Topics: Adam and Eve, Garden of Eden, Serpent Pages: 9 (3854 words) Published: September 19, 2011
Abstract: Calvinist Puritanism had deeply engraved in Hawthorne’s ideology through his living condition and experience. Therefore, Hawthorne firmly believed the so-called “original sin” was the source of evil, which would provoke all kinds of crimes in the human lives. Bible is the material source of Puritanism. When composing works, Hawthorne often uses the biblical archetypes in terms of characters, theme and structures, to show his Puritanism ideology. This paper attempts to make a study of the novel from the perspective of biblical archetypes, using the methods of textual analysis and contrast, and to reveal the theme of this novel that the “original sin” is the source of evil. To get the salvation from the sin, the only way is atonement and purifying the inner heart. Key Words: puritanism; original sin; biblical archetypes; human nature 1 Introduction

Born on the Fourth of July in 1804, Nathaniel Hawthorne is honored as one of the greatest novelist, short story writer, and essayist in the American literature, leaving 5 novels and hundreds of short stories to the world. Living in the American Romantic period of which the major literary figure was Ralf Waldo Emerson, Hawthorne did not exercise as a faithful follower of him, rather kept a respectable distance from Emerson and his optimistic view of life. Hawthorne and his works has been a subject of serious study ever since Henry James’s 1879 book (Hawthorne) in the America Men of Letters series and critics have approached his writing from many angles (Person, 114). Being deeply influenced by the puritan family background and the action of his ancestors, Hawthorne is certainly at his best when writing about evil, although his works are often capable of more than one interpretation. Young Hawthorne was intensely aware of the misdeeds of his Puritan ancestors, and this awareness led to his understanding of evil being at the core of human life, to “that blackness in Hawthorne,” as Herman Melville put it (Chang, 70). All his life, Hawthorne seems to be haunted by the sense of sin and evil in life (Chang, 71). Therefore, reading his works, one can not but overwhelmed by the “black vision” which these works reveal. When composing his works, Hawthorne often uses the biblical archetypes to show his Puritanism ideology. Although Hawthorne hold the Puritanism viewpoint of life and behavior standard, he seriously criticizes the Puritanism’s ruthless attack on human’s spirit. Northrop Frye argues that literary criticism is an independent activity. The archetypes of literature exist as an order of words, providing criticism with a conceptual framework and a body of knowledge derived not from an ideological system but rooted in the imagination itself (http// Therefore, Hawthorne’s wide acquaintance with Bible enables him to create Rappaccini’s Daughter, in which the main characters are associated metaphorically with biblical figures. Rappaccini’s Daughter is an appalling fictional vision of Hawthorne’s belief that “original sin” is the source of evil and the inner evil causes the huge obstacle in people’s relations, which seriously damages the communication among the people. Doctor Rappaccini plants many plants and flowers with toxin in his garden with the aim to endow his daughter with ability to resist the evil. Giovanni comes to study at the University of Padua and lodges next door to the house of Rappaccini. In Rappaccini’s garden, he sees and falls in love with Rappaccini’s beautiful daughter, Beatrice. Giovanni enters the garden and meets with Beatrice a number of times regardless of the warning of Professor Baglioni that Rappaccini and his daughter are up to no good. After being her lover, Giovanni discovers that Beatrice, having been raised in the presence of poison, was poisonous herself and he himself is infected with something poisonous. In order to get rid of the poison of Beatrice and...

Cited: [1]Hawthorne, Nathaniel. “Rappaccini’s Daughter”, Chen Lin. Ed. Selected Readings in American Short Stories [M]. Liaoning: Dalian University of Technology Press, 2009. 78—106
[2]Holly Bible [M]. New King James Version. Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1982.
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[4]常耀信,《美国文学简史》[M]. 天津:南开大学出版社 2003.
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