Describe the character of Beatrice in Nathaniel Hawthorne's short story "Rappaccini's Daughter."

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Rappaccini’s daughter, Beatrice, first appears as a devoted and dutiful daughter who seems to have accepted her fate as “sister” of a toxic flowering plant. (Note, for example, how she sighs and crosses herself after the drops of sap from the plant kill first a lizard, then an insect.) This...

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Rappaccini’s daughter, Beatrice, first appears as a devoted and dutiful daughter who seems to have accepted her fate as “sister” of a toxic flowering plant. (Note, for example, how she sighs and crosses herself after the drops of sap from the plant kill first a lizard, then an insect.) This is something she has become accustomed to, although she claims to not have a knowledge of the science of plants like her father. Beatrice speaks lovingly to her father and also to the plant, which she embraces as if to escape the dreariness of common life.

She acts like a coy maiden when Giovanni tosses her a bouquet. However, just as the flowers and plants in Rappaccini’s garden appear somewhat artificial, one detects this in Beatrice as well. She is almost too good to be true and seems to have something unnatural about her. Indeed, she does. Her father’s love for her has led him to make her poisonous and unlovable by others. She lives for her “sister” plant and surprises herself when, while walking with Giovanni, she neglects the plant for a moment. As she grows fond of Giovanni, she becomes more and more despondent, knowing that a single touch or breath could kill him, and realizing that her father’s science has caused her great misery. Her despair leads to her death, which in the end she welcomes. The supposed antidote kills her as she utters her last words:

“I would fain have been loved, not feared,” murmured Beatrice, sinking down upon the ground.—“But now it matters not; I am going, father, where the evil, which thou hast striven to mingle with my being, will pass away like a dream—like the fragrance of these poisonous flowers, which will no longer taint my breath among the flowers of Eden. Farewell, Giovanni!”

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Nathaniel Hawthorne's short story "Rappaccini's Daughter" only has four characters, and Beatrice is one of them. She is the daughter of Dr. Giacomo Rappaccini, and she is his only child. Her mother has died, so it is just she and her father who live in a house with a glorious and grotesque garden, which both of them tend.

Beatrice is a beautiful young girl who loves her father very much. The first time Hawthorne introduces her, he says she is 

arrayed with as much richness of taste as the most splendid of the flowers, beautiful as the day, and with a bloom so deep and vivid that one shade more would have been too much. She 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.

Her face radiates "simplicity and sweetness," and she lovingly cares for the plants in the garden.

At the same time, there is something rather "too much" about her, just like so many of the plants and flowers of the garden. While they are colorful and luxuriant, they are also rather grotesque in their exaggerated effulgence. They are just a bit too vivid and brilliant in their coloring. The same is true of Beatrice. 

Beatrice resembles, in a startling way, one of the most beautiful plants in the garden. In fact, Hawthorne many times uses the word "sisters" when he talks about both this plant and Beatrice. Later we learn that both Beatrice and this plant were "born" on the same day,  actually making them sisters of a sort.

Beatrice lives an isolated life because her father insists upon it. Unbeknown to Beatrice, Rappaccini (an unfeeling, "mad scientist" type) has gradually exposed Beatrice to a poison in hopes of making her indestructible, immune to the potential dangers in the world. What he actually created was a girl who inadvertently hurts or kills everything she touches or breathes upon--including the young man she loves. 

When Beatrice discovers what her father has done and what she has lost because of it, she no longer wants to live. She swallows what is supposed to be the antidote; however, "as poison had been [to her in] life, so the powerful antidote was [to her in] death." Beatrice dies before she ever had a chance to really live. 

 

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