man and woman looking at one another and the woman is filled with plants and vines that are creeping into the man's body

Rappaccini's Daughter

by Nathaniel Hawthorne

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Who has unselfish love in "Rappaccini's Daughter"? Explain.

Beatrice has unselfish love in "Rappaccini's Daughter" because she is willing to sacrifice herself for others. Her father's love for her is selfish because he is willing to use her for his scientific experiments. Giovanni's love is selfish because he resents her physical flaws and tries to fix her for his own benefit. While Beatrice's love is pure, today we might critique it as overly sacrificial and self-destructive.

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Beatrice is the character in the story who shows unselfish love. Her father's love for her is tainted with selfishness because he uses her for his scientific experiments. Giovanni's love for her is shallow and selfish. He resents her for her poisonous body and is not willing to sacrifice himself to be with her. He wants to fix her instead of accepting her as she is. He cannot see that her soul is pure.

Beatrice, however, is willing to sacrifice herself for others. Because she loves Giovanni, she is willing to risk taking the antidote that she knows might kill her. This purity of love reveals the purity of her soul.

Beatrice is unfortunately the victim of men who want more from her than she can offer. Giovanni wants her to be unflawed in both body and soul. He speaks to her cruelly because loving her has a cost for him. She says to him:

Giovanni, believe it, though my body be nourished with poison, my spirit is God’s creature and craves love as its daily food.

She also says: "I would fain have been loved, not feared."

Beatrice is the ideal Victorian woman, the angel of the home. She is endlessly willing to put others ahead of herself and accept the limitations of her situation and the people around her. All she asks for in return is to be loved. Today, we might critique such gender-based self sacrifice but Hawthorne means for us to admire Beatrice, who finds her happiness in the afterlife.

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