According to the following passage from "Rappaccini's Daughter," how can Rappaccini’s love for his daughter as a father be explained?             “Miserable!” “exclaimed...

According to the following passage from "Rappaccini's Daughter," how can Rappaccini’s love for his daughter as a father be explained?

            “Miserable!” “exclaimed Rappaccini. ‘What mean you, foolish girl? Dost thou deem it misery to be endowned with marvelous gifts, against which no power nor strength could avail an enemy? Misery, to be able to quell the mightiest with a breath? Misery, to be as terrible as thou art beautiful? Woudst thou, then, have preferred the condition of a weak woman, exposed to all evil and capable of none?”

Expert Answers
mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Rappacini's name is connotative of the adjective rapacious which means excessively grasping or greedy. Using his daughter, who looks "redundant with life, health, and energy" Rappacini, a ruthless scientist, has given her superhuman powers as she has grown up surrounded by bizarre flowers of both poisonous and exotic qualities from which she draws unnatural powers such as immunity from the deadly effects of these plants.

In essence, Rappacini's daughter has become a part of her father's garden herself. For, she has developed a sisterly relationship with one particular plant that bears a "profusion of purple blossoms" that possess the luster of precious gems. Beatrice embraces this plant that her father is cautious around, never touching it.

"Yes, my sister, my splendor, it shall be Beatrices's task to nurse and to serve thee; and thou shalt reward her with thy kisses and perfumed breath, which to her is as the breath of life."

But, when Giovanni, who is smitten with her, enters the garden, she must deny him the promise of one of the "gems" from the exotic purple plant, warning him that to touch the plant if fatal. Thus, because it does not harm her, Beatrice has become an anomaly and a victim of her father's insane zeal for science. For, because of her unnatural powers, she is alienated from the rest of the world.

However, because Giovanni has breathed her poisonous breath so much, he now can be with her without harm. Unfortunately, he is not aware of this; instead, he convinces Beatrice that she can take a potion that Professor Baglioni has given him and she will no longer be poisonous. He tells her, "Shall we not quaff it together, and thus be purified from evil?"

When Rapaccini spots his daughter in the garden with Giovanni, he comes forward to tell her that he has devised a method for her to be with Giovanni. But, as he spreads his hands over the two of them, Giovanni trembles and Beatrice shudders; for, they are the hands that have "thrown poison into the stream of their lives."  Beatrice feebly asks her father why he has inflicted a miserable doom upon her. 

At this point, in the passage cited above, Rapaccini, asks her why she claims to be miserable. Why is it misery to have the powers he has endowed her with, he asks. He cannot understand why Beatrice would rather be a “weak woman” like all others when she can be so puissant that she can strike down any enemy. He has made her invulnerable in order to preserve her life, he tells his daughter.

But, Beatrice asks him, “Oh, was there not, from the first, more poison in thy nature than in mine?” because he has selfishly kept her for himself. She has not been able to love a man without harming him. Truly, Rappacini's love has been selfish as he has kept Beatrice for his own in his deadly perfection of her; he has valued his scientific powers over consideration for Beatrice's feelings and her need to be like others.

Read the study guide:
Rappaccini's Daughter

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question