Rappaccini's Daughter B.A English Short Story Complete Note Punjab University

Saif Ullah Zahid

1.     Rappaccini’s Daughter

Nathaniel Hawthorne

Q.1. Discuss the theme of the story.
The theme of the story is man’s wild hunger for knowledge and power. Scientists work for more power and knowledge. They are ambitious to rule over the rulers through their power of knowledge. They do not bother about human side of emotions and feelings.

Prof. Rappaccini is a typical scientist. His lust for power leads him to make various experiments with poisons. The result of his work is a horrible variety of deadly poisons. The poisonous herbs developed by him make his garden a zone of death. Some of the herbs are so lethal that even their smell can kill a man. Breathing the poisonous air of the garden makes the professor and his daughter immune to poison. No poison can kill them. But any antidote can kill them because poison is the breath of their life. So the professor’s daughter dies the moment she drinks a few drops of Baglioni’s antidote. The death of the professor’s only daughter is the moral lesson of the story.

The old Professor learns the lesson at the cost of his only daughter -----a very heavy cost, no doubt. Thus the story carries a note of warning not only against too much love for science but also against selfishness of all kinds.

Some critics have pointed out another moral aspect of the story. They say that it is not the professor’s love for science but it is his love for his daughter that leads him to his dangerous exploits. Whatever the case is, the story cuts both ways equally well. (257 words)

Giovanni’s Character
Giovanni is a handsome Neapolitan student enrolled in the medical curriculum at the University of Padua. He lives in an apartment overlooking Rappaccini's garden and makes the acquaintance of the doctor's daughter, Beatrice, whose beauty and mysterious powers fascinate him He falls in love with her. But he is shocked to discover that the girl’s breath is poisonous. He tries to cure her and make her a normal human being. But the well-meant attempt ends in the girl’s death. The cure for poison kills her because poison was her life.

Giovanni deserves respect and pity because he tries to prevent the harm caused by the old professor’s love and work for science with a negative purpose. He has a positive and constructive approach to life and love. He deserves pity for the tragic end of his love affair. The irony of his fate is that his well-meant efforts to save Beatrice end in her death. He has been a hard working student. Although he is not the central figure in the story, yet he is a lovable character for these qualities.

Character Sketch of Beatrice
Beatrice is the daughter of Dr. Rappaccini. Over the years, her father has exposed her to toxins in his plants and flowers as part of his experimentation. As a result, she becomes poisonous like the flowers, capable of killing an insect or an animal merely by breathing on it. However, she herself is immune to the effects of the toxins. She lives a life of isolation in the doctor's house and garden. 

She begins to love Giovanni, a young man living in an apartment next to their garden. She is afraid of her own poisonous body. She dies by the antidote given by her lover Giovanni, but actually she is a victim of her father‟s thoughtless love and jealousy. She is to be pitied more for her unhappy isolation and of her only love affair.

The character of Beatrice inspires love as well as pity. She is a lonely girl deprived of true happiness and love. Her character has symbolic significance. She stands for the beautiful world of nature that is being corrupted and polluted by the science.

What is Fantasy?
Fantasy: (also spelled phantasy )

It is an Imaginative fiction dependent for effect on strangeness of setting (such as other worlds or times) and of characters (such as supernatural or unnatural beings). Science fiction can be seen as a form of fantasy, but the terms are not interchangeable, as science fiction usually is set in the future and is based on some aspect of science or technology, while fantasy is set in an imaginary world and features the magic of mythical beings.

Explain the following lines
“I would rather have been loved, not feared”, says Beatrice before dying.
“Believe it though my body be fed with poison, my spirit is God’s creature, and needs love as its daily food”

Rappaccini’s Daughter by Hawthorne is a fantastic Love story that has tragic end. It emphasizes the importance of love in human life. Through these lines, the writer wants to show that love is a spiritual bond between young lovers. It is a spontaneous impulse that makes life charming purposeful and enjoyable.

Beatrice is a love-thirsty girl because her father had kept her secluded from human society. She readily used Professor Baglioni’s medicine to assure her lover that she was sincere in her love. Before death she admitted to Giovanni that though her body had been poisoned by her father, yet her soul was God’s creation that needed love for its nourishment and growth.

Thus Beatrice serves as the mouthpiece of Hawthorn to convey his moral message that love makes life charming, and that it is better to make oneself lovable and loving than to be dangerous and awful for his fellowmen.

The story ‘Rappaccini’s Daughter is a criticism on modern scientists that manipulate scientific knowledge for their power. Comment
OR Does science have a right to endanger the life of one human being in order to improve or save the lives of many human beings? 

Rappaccini far exceeds the bounds of morality when he ruins the life of his daughter—and jeopardizes his own life—for the sake of achieving scientific breakthroughs. His fictional research foreshadows the experimentation of historical figures such as the infamous Dr. Joseph Mengele. a member of the Institute for Hereditary Biology and Racial Hygiene, founded in Nazi Germany in 1934. He performed cruel experiments on live human beings for which he is known as the “Angel of Death”. Here in the 21st Century scientists are experimenting with the possibility of cloning human beings, an activity which theologians generally condemn as unethical and immoral.

The story ‘Rappaccini’s Daughter is a criticism on such types of scientific experiments as are unsafe for human being. The writer has plotted such an end that the scientist Rappaccini has to lose his own daughter due to his experiments. Life of one person is of the same worth as the life of whole human beings. So science does not have the right to endanger the life of one human being in order to improve or save the lives of many human beings. 

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