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In the literal sense, Nathaniel Hawthorn’s Rappaccini’s
Daughter is the story about the rivalry between two scientists that ultimately
causes the destruction of an innocent young woman. However, when the story is
examined on a symbolic level, the reader sees that Rappaccini’s Daughter is an
allegorical reenactment of the original fall from innocence and purity in the
Garden of Eden. Rappaccini’s garden sets the stage of this allegory, while the
characters of the story each represent the important figures from the Genesis
account. Through the literary devices of poetic and descriptive diction,
Nathaniel Hawthorne conveys the symbolism of these characters, as well as the
setting. The story takes place in mid-nineteenth century in Padua, Italy and
revolves around two major settings; the mansion of an old Paduan family, and
Rappaccini’s lush garden. The mansion is described as, "high and
gloomy?the palace of a Paduan noble? desolate and ill-furnished?"
This description establishes a dark mood throughout the story. Hawthorne writes,
"One of the ancestors of this family?had been pictured by Dante as a
partaker of the immortal agonies of his Inferno?" The allusion of Dante
refers to The Divine Comedy and the Inferno describes the souls in Hell.
Furthermore, Baglioni converses with Giovanni in this mansion chamber and tries
to manipulate him in his attempt to destroy Rappaccini. In a sense, the dark and
gloomy mansion symbolizes the domain of evil. The second major setting is the
garden. The author uses poetic diction to describe Rappaccini’s garden.
Hawthorne writes, "There was one shrub in particular?that bore a
profusion of purple blossoms, each of which had the luster and richness of a
gem?seemed enough to illuminate the garden, even had there been no
sunshine?some crept serpentlike along the ground or climbed on high?"
In this passage, the author depicts the liveliness and beauty of the garden in
an almost fantasy-like way, a fantasy too good to be true and destined to end
tragically. Hawthorne directly compares this beautiful garden to Eden when he
writes, "Was this garden, then the Eden of the present world?" Thus,
Rappaccini’s garden symbolizes the setting of the initial fall of man. In
Rappaccini’s Daughter, the original sinners, Adam and Eve, are represented by
Giovanni Guasconti and Beatrice Rappaccini. Giovanni symbolizes Adam in the
sense that he is shallow and insincere. When Giovanni first sees Beatrice, he is
love struck. Hawthorne uses poetic diction when he writes, "?the
impression which the fair stranger made upon him was as if here were another
flower?as beautiful as they, more beautiful than the richest of them."
This passage describes Giovanni’s feelings towards the beautiful Beatrice.
However, later we see that Giovanni’s love was actually lust when the student
discovers that he has been infected by Beatrice. The author writes,
"Giovanni’s rage broke forth from his sullen gloom like a lightning flash
out of a dark cloud. ‘Accursed one!’ cried he, with venomous scorn and
anger" Giovanni becomes enraged and blames Beatrice of this accidental
infection. Similarly, Adam blames Eve of their disobedience when he is
confronted by God. Adam does not show compassion towards his wife but instead,
like Giovanni, lashes out with anger against Eve. Hawthorne’s critical and
unsympathetic tones toward Giovanni are evident when he uses descriptive diction
to explain him. Hawthorne writes, "?his spirit was incapable of
sustaining itself at the height to which the early enthusiasm of passion had
exalted it; he fell down groveling among earthly doubts, and defiled there with
the pure whiteness of Beatrice’s image." In this passage, Hawthorne shows
that Giovanni’s love was actually lust and his tone toward Giovanni is critical.
In contrast, Hawthorne portrays sympathetic and reverent tones towards Beatrice.
The author uses poetic diction to describe the beautiful young woman. He writes,
"?arrayed with as much richness of taste as the most splendid of the
flowers?bloom so deep and vivid that one shade more would have been too
much?redundant with life, health, and energy?" Beatrice is described as
a part of nature and vivacious. She has been isolated from the world and the
world she lives in only consists of the garden. She has a child like innocence
and is very na?ve. She even states, "I dreamed only to love thee and be
with thee a little time, and so let thee pass away, leaving but thine image in
mine heart." This passage shows the purity of her love for Giovanni. Thus,
Beatrice symbolizes the innocence of Eve and Giovanni symbolizes the pride and
shallowness of Adam. In Rappiccini’s Daughter, the major conflict is between the
famous doctor of Italy, Giacomo Rappaccini, and his rival, the professor of the
university, Pietro Baglioni. This conflict correlates to the conflict between
the Grand Creator, God, and Satan the Devil in the Garden of Eden. Rappaccini
symbolizes God in the sense that he had created the beautiful garden and is the
father to Beatrice, the caretaker. Rappaccini states, "My daughter, thou
art no longer lonely in the world?my science and the sympathy between thee and
him have so wrought within his system that he now stands apart from common
men?" In this passage, Rappaccini has provided his daughter with a
partner as God provided the lonely Adam with a companion. Another reason
Rappaccini symbolizes God is that he endowed Beatrice and Giovanni with a
"marvelous gift". In the same sense, God had given the gift of
everlasting life to Adam and Eve to "subdue the earth". Hawthorne’s
tones towards Rappaccini are somber yet reverent. Through descriptive diction,
he writes, " His figure soon emerged into view, and showed itself to be
that of no common laborer, but a tall, emaciated, sallow, and sickly looking
man, dressed in a scholar’s garb of black?with gray hair, a thin, gray beard,
and a face singularly marked with intellect and cultivation?" Hawthorne
describes Rappaccini as a dark and gloomy figure but he recognizes his intellect
and shows reverence towards it. Similarly, Hawthorne is reverent towards
Baglioni but is unsympathetic to the jealous scientist. Pietro Baglioni
symbolizes Satan the Devil. Baglioni continually conveys an evil image of
Rappaccini to Giovanni. Baglioni states, "’He would sacrifice human life,
his own among the rest, or whatever else was dearest to him, for the sake of
adding so much as a grain of mustard seed to the great heap of his accumulated
knowledge.’" Similarly, Satan the Devil attempts to lure Adam’s companion
into disobedience by stating, "Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know
that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be
as gods, knowing good and evil." In both accounts, they try to create the
illusion that Rappiccini/God is acting on his own interests. When Beatrice
drinks the so called antidote and perishes, Baglioni looks from the mansion
window and calls out, "’Rappaccini! Rappaccini! And is this the upshot of
your experiment!’" Baglioni, like the Devil, taunts Rappaccini/God when his
Eden has been destroyed. Thus, Rappaccini symbolizes God, while the Devil is
depicted by Baglioni. Rappaccini’s Daughter conveys the theme of loss of
innocence and purity. In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve lost their purity and
innocence when they disobeyed God and ate the fruit from the "tree of the
knowledge of good and evil". This disobedience was the result of their
pride and the desire to become like gods. In the story, the loss of innocence
and purity resulted when the perverse scientific rivalry between Rappaccini and
Baglioni took the life of the passionate and innocent Beatrice. Through the
literary devices of poetic and descriptive diction, Nathaniel Hawthorne depicted
the symbolism of the characters and the setting. Through the allegory of the
Garden of Eden, the dangers of the misuse of power are strongly portrayed.
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