man and woman looking at one another and the woman is filled with plants and vines that are creeping into the man's body

Rappaccini's Daughter

by Nathaniel Hawthorne
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A quality of Romanticism is a belief that the beauties and mysteries of nature are a source of moral lessons. What is the moral lesson in the story "Rappaccini's Daughter"?

The moral lesson in the story "Rappaccini's Daughter" is that true love accepts a person the way they are and sees through bodily flaws to the purity of the beloved's soul. Giovanni kills Beatrice because his love is too shallow. He wants to fix her body and, in doing so, destroys her. The poison in Giovanni's soul is more destructive than the poison in Beatrice's body.

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Because of her father's evil experiment, his lovely daughter Beatrice poisons all that she breathes on and touches. This means she has to stay inside her father's garden, otherwise she might harm or kill other humans.

Giovanni sees her from afar and falls in love with her. He makes his way into the garden and learns her secret. However, he too begins to turn into a being who poisons all around him.

Giovanni becomes angry, thinking Beatrice lured him into the garden to make him like herself. Now, he fears he is trapped with her: he accuses her of orchestrating this to have a companion. He will not believe her protests and speaks to her with bitter accusation.

When he comes to her with an antidote, she drinks it and dies—as with everything else in her life, her body reacts in the wrong way, so the antidote is poison to her.

The moral of the story, as with other Hawthorne stories, is that true love accepts a person the way they are. What Giovanni objected to was only a superficial bodily problem. He should have been able to see through her poisonous body to her pure soul—but he could not. As the narrator says, Giovanni only had the "cunning semblance" of love, not the depth of real love.

If Giovanni's love for Beatrice had not been shallow, he would have accepted her the way he found her, trusted her words, joined her in the garden, and not tried to fix her. Her soul would have mattered more to him than any physical issues. Instead, his lack of true love and poisonous accusations lead to her death. As Beatrice says to him, isn't there

more poison in thy nature than in mine?

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