Nathaniel Hawthorne, “Rappaccini’s Daughter”

Another installment in the soon-to-be plethora of science fiction short story pieces. If that did not entice you to the fullest, I don’t know what will.

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Rappaccini’s Daughter” begins as Giovanni Gausconti arrives at the city of Padua, Italy and takes interested in a most beautiful and enchanting garden that lies just outside his window. He is informed by his landlord that the keeper of the garden is a man named Giacomo Rappaccini who is renowned for his remarkable medicinal talents involving the plants from that very garden. Not only that, he has a daughter who is said to be just as talented as he. Giovanni, understandably intrigued, observes Rappaccini and his daughter as they spend time in the garden. Yet he begins to notice a strangeness about the two of them in the ways in which they approach and act around the plants. They seem to leave dead and wilting plants in their wake every time they pass through the garden. Curiously, it is as if they themselves are completely poisonous.

Giovanni begins to develop a closeness with Rappaccini’s daughter, whom he later find to be named Beatrice, against the warnings of his friend Pietro Baglioni. Pietro tells him that Rappaccini is infamous for his work with the poisonous plants. Giovanni disregards Baglioni’s remark, surmising that if it is indeed Rappaccini who is up to no good, surely Beatrice is not involved. Yet the more time he spends with her the more he notices that he too, now possesses the fatalness of her being: small insects die in front of him when he breathes the slightest breath upon them, fresh flowers wilt in his hand within a matter of minutes, exactly as he had seen happen to Beatrice so many times. Pietro is convinced that Giovanni has surely been poisoned by Rappaccini, just as he has done to his own daughter. Pietro, a professor himself who has always been wary of Rappaccini and his practices, gives Giovanni an antidote for himself and Beatrice that will cure them of their poisonous shortcomings. But Rappaccini, convinced that he has given Beatrice a wonderful gift of the power of the poisonous plants, stops them and obliterates all of Giovanni’s hopes in saving Beatrice and being with her forever.

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