In a short paragraph, describe Beatrice from Nathaniel Hawthorne's "Rappaccini's Daughter."  

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Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It is likely that your teacher or professor wants you to write a paragraph describing Beatrice in your own words and phrasing; however, I can remind you of some of her characteristics and attributes in order to help you write your paragraph.

Beatrice is the title character in Nathaniel Hawthorne's short story "Rappaccini's Daughter." Though she is not the protagonist of this story, her father, Doctor Giacomo Rappaccini, is the antagonist and she is his victim. He is a rather mad scientist who is more concerned about advancing his scientific studies than he is about his only child, whom he is raising by himself. 

Beatrice is 

a young girl, 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 voice inexplicably reminds Giovanni (the man she will come to love) of flowers, and her appearance is strikingly similar to one particular flowering bush in the garden Beatrice so loves. We learn later that Rappaccini planted that flower on the day Beatrice was born, so they are, in fact, close to being sisters, as Hawthorne so often describes them.

Beatrice is as beautiful inside as she is outside, and she is also quite skilled in the area of medicine. Hawthorne says she is "brilliant," and Doctor Pietro Baglioni tells Giovanni "she is already qualified to fill a professor's chair." Despite everyone's desire to see her, Beatrice is a recluse, almost always limited to the confines of her house and garden. 

When she and Giovanni become a couple, they only spend time together in the garden; however, they never touch. Beatrice is careful that even her dress does not touch her young lover. All is well with their romance until Giovanni sees an extraordinary and appalling sight one day. As he watches Beatrice from his window above the garden, he sees that this kind, thoughtful girl inadvertently kills an insect by breathing on it, and the bouquet of flowers he throws her withers immediately after she grasps it. 

Beatrice begins to realize that she and the garden have been infused (by her father) with a deadly poison which is capable of killing anything that comes in contact with either. She is horrified by the discovery. One day when Giovanni, who has come to virtually the same conclusion about her, tries to reach for a flower, Beatrice grabs his hand to protect him; the next day Giovanni sees that on "the back of that hand there was now a purple print like that of four small fingers, and the likeness of a slender thumb upon his wrist."

In a final confrontation between the two young lovers and Rappaccini, Giovanni is relieved to learn that Beatrice was an innocent regarding her father's sinister experiment, Beatrice is horrified at what her father has done to her, and Rappaccini is shocked that Beatrice is not more grateful for the "gift" he has given her. 

Realizing that she will never experience the "normal" kind love and happiness she so desires, Beatrice drinks the antidote which Baglioni gave Giovanni. Rather than saving her, it kills her. 

Read the study guide:
Rappaccini's Daughter

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