Hawthorne's Rappaccini's Daughter Essay

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Hawthorne's Rappaccini's Daughter

This essay focuses on the way Hawthorne’s “Rappaccini’s Daughter” articulates the tension between the spirit and the empirical world. Hawthorne challenges the empirical world Rappaccini, both malevolent for his experimentation with human nature and sympathetic for his love for his daughter, represents, by raising an aesthetic question Rappaccini implicitly asks. Hawthorne never conclusively answers this question in his quest to preserve spiritual beauty in an empirical world, offering the most disturbing possibility of all: could art and the artist prove as fatal to the human spirit as empiricism?

Hawthorne’s sinister representation of Rappaccini early in the story belies this self-isolating
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But, as the tale reveals, Baglioni’s envy emerges in the “professional warfare” in which Rappaccini, not Baglioni, has “gained the advantage” (928).

Baglioni’s description of Beatrice and Rappaccini, as Beatrice will later reveal to Giovanni, prove at least somewhat false because his intentions are tainted by a desire that Rappaccini not “snatch the lad [Giovanni] out of [his] hands…and make use of him for his infernal experiments” (932). Rather, Baglioni approaches Giovanni for the sole purpose of deprecating his rival’s character and daughter, with an obvious jealousy that motivates him and ultimately destroys Giovanni’s faith in the beauty, innocence, and spiritual essence Beatrice represents.

Giovanni’s first impressions of Beatrice support Baglioni’s view of Rappaccini and his daughter, who “looked redundant with life, health, and energy; all of which attributes were bound down and compressed, as it were, and girdled tensely, in their luxuriance, by her virgin zone” (926). Like one of the flowers in the garden, Rappaccini tends his daughter with a “watchful eye,” which binds and compresses her, protecting her chastity from lustful intentions. Giovanni immediately senses this protection, even oppression, and his “fancy must have grown
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