How does the story reflect the tale of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden?"Rappaccini's Daughter" by Nathaniel Hawthorne

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Nathaniel Hawthorne's "Rappaccini's Daughter," a young innocent man, Giovanni Guasconti, comes from southern Italy to the University of Paudua, and finds lodgings  that overlook a respledent garden.  Lisabetta, the old woman who own the lodging, tells him to beware of this garden that is cultivated by the infamous Dr. Rappaccini.  Still mesmerized by the beauty of the garden, Giovanni sees a fountain that makes him feel as if it "were an immortal spirit that sang its song unceasingly, and without heeding the vicissitudes around it."  Indeed, much of this garden has an ethereal atmosphere about it, much like the Garden of Eden.  In fact, at one point Hawthorne writes that as Beatrice calls to Giovanni and the words "reverberate throughout his heart," he "hastened into that Eden of poisonous flowers." 

As he notices that every part of the soil is covered with plants and herbs, a "sallow and sickly-looking man" emerges to tend the plants, and places a kind of mask over his mouth and nostrils as he approaches a magnificent purple plant.  He then calls to his daughter, Beatrice, who emerges, "redundant with life, health, and energy."  The father places her in charge of caring for the magnificent plant, charging that he man die if he touches it.  Beatrice says that she will gladly care for her "sister."

The "oppressive exhalations seemed to proceed from the plants, and steal upward past the open window" where Giovanni watches.  He closes the lattice and falls asleep, dreaming of a rich flower and beautiful girl.  Just as in the Garden of Eden, where the devil lurks and ensnares Eve, the father hands over the care of the purple plant to Beatrice who embraces it.  This temptation wafts into Giovanni's window and he is tempted with the delight of it and smitten with Beatrice.  Despite the warnings of Professor Baglioni that Dr. Rappacini cares infinitely more for science than for mankind, and that the garden and Beatrice are dangerous, Giovanni succumbs to the temptation and enters Rappacini's garden with "Passion choos[ing] his own time to rush upon the scene."  Like Adam with Eve, Giovanni is "irrevocalby within her sphere and must obey the law that whirled him onward."  While Beatrice does prevent him from touching the plant, Giovanni in his passion continues to visit her each day.  In a desperate attempt to defy fate, Giovanni gives her a potion that he tells her is an antidote from the evil of the plant so that she can be with him; however, Beatrice perishes bbecause "there could be no such hope."  So, as with Adam and Eve, there is punishment for seeking to defy nature.

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Rappaccini's Daughter

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