From the short story "Rappaccini's Daughter," what inferences can you make about Beatrice and the garden? 

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amarang9 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Both Beatrice and the garden are poisonous. This much is obvious. But both are also innocent. The garden is clearly not a conscious being with malicious intent. It just happens to be beautiful and deadly. Beatrice is also innocent. She has no malicious intent. She just happens to be beautiful and deadly, like the garden, through no fault of her own. 

Rappaccini has created what we might call a reverse Garden of Eden. Instead of healthy plants as God had created, Rappaccinni has created poisonous ones. Instead of starting with a man (Adam), Rappaccinni has started with a woman. And Rappaccinni is in opposition to a benevolent God. Rappaccinni has not created a paradise for his daughter. He's created a prison; therefore, something more like Hell in the disguise of a Heavenly garden. The narrator makes it clear that the garden (flower in particular) and Beatrice are similar: 

Flower and maiden were different, and yet the same, and fraught with some strange peril in either shape. 

Beatrice refers to the shrubs and flowers as "sisters." She seems to have sympathy and/or empathy with these beautiful and deadly plants because they share the same predicament. She and the garden are marked by these paradoxical notions of immortal beauty and death. So, there is this sense of evil juxtaposed to heavenly beauty. But neither Beatrice nor the garden are inherently evil. They represent the folly of a man who tries to be God. Beatrice and the garden are Rappaccinni's creations. He has endeavored to be like God in creating an immortal and beautiful world for his daughter. Beatrice and the garden are symbols of temptation, but both are innocent in and of themselves. It is Rappaccinni that imbues them with evil and death. 

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Rappaccini's Daughter

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