Summary With Comments
Giovanni Guasconti arrives in Padua and takes up residence in an apartment overlooking a garden belonging to Signor Rappaccini. Giovanni observes Rappaccini in his garden and comments on his intent study and obvious avoidance of the plants. He then watches as Rappaccini's daughter, Beatrice, comes out, looking like and interacting with the flowers around her.
The next day, Giovanni mentions Rappaccini's name to Signor Pietro Baglioni, who extols Rappaccini's scientific knowledge, but criticizes his character, claiming that Rappacini's love of science trumps his affection for human kind. Giovanni learns that Rappaccini specializes in creating poison from plants.
Giovanni returns to his apartment and observes Beatrice (we call this stalking in modern times) in the garden and marvels at her increased beauty and her resemblance to the shrubs of the garden. Beatrice embraces the flowers, picks one, attempts to pin it on her dress, and accidentally lets some of the liquid drip on to a lizard, which immediately contorts and dies. Giovanni shudders. He then witnesses an insect dying from Beatrice's breath (Don't you hate it when you talk to a really hot chick that has bad breath). Beatrice spots Giovanni who throws her a bouquet of healthy flowers. As Beatrice rushes inside, Giovanni thinks he sees the bouquet wither in her hands (Guys, I don't care how hot the girl is, getting a disease is not worth it).
Baglioni warns Giovanni that he is part of one of Rappaccini's experiments. Giovanni finds out from Lisabetta that there's a private entrance into Rappaccini's garden. He enters and before long encounters Beatrice. They talk. Giovanni discovers the plant at the center of the garden, the one Beatrice embraces, is fatal.
The next morning, Giovanni feels his hand, the one touched by Beatrice, tingle (Girls who cause appendages to tingle should be avoided at all costs). The two meet in the garden on a regular basis. Pietro arrives at Giovanni's apartment and tells a story about Alexander the Great and a girl who had been nurtured with poison and had become poisonous. Baglioni tells Giovanni that Beatrice is poison and gives him an antidote to give her. Giovanni discovers that his breath is poisonous.
Giovanni meats Beatrice in the garden. She confesses the truth and Giovanni scolds her. He gives her the antidote as Rappaccini enters the garden, pleased that he has brought Beatrice someone who can love her. Beatrice drinks the antidote and dies. Baglioni, from Giovanni's apartment, talks trash.
“Rappaccini’s Daughter,” set in Italy, significantly combines the biblical Garden of Eden with Dante’s medieval conception of Hell. Rappaccini’s garden is an inverse of Eden, a heavenly hell. God’s garden is positive, centered by a tree of life. Adam and Eve are expelled because they undertake to know good and evil. A plant of death centers Rappaccini’s garden, the product of his quest to know more than humans should. The snake in this garden is the will to probe forbidden depths, including the human heart and the material world.
Aspiring to be the god of his garden, Rappaccini reverses God’s creation. God created salubrious plants. Rappaccini creates poisonous ones. God created a male first, Adam, and—when the creatures around him proved inadequate—created Adam’s female mate, Eve. Rappaccini creates a female first and—when the plants around her prove insufficient—undertakes to provide her with a male mate. What Rappaccini conceives of as an invaluable haven, safe because it is poisonous, is actually a hell of isolation to which he has condemned his child. He does not seek to rescue her from that hell, attempting instead to bring her happiness by supplying an equally poisonous companion.
Nathaniel Hawthorne’s loose allegory is subtle. His characters, their feelings, and their perceptions have human qualities as well as figurative significance. Physically, Beatrice is an inverted Eve in a perverse Eden, a less effectual Beatrice than the one who leads Dante through Paradise, and there is an echo about her of Beatrice Cenci (1577-1599), who—with the help of her stepmother, brothers, and lover—effected the murder of the cruel father...
(The entire section is 689 words.)