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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How can I compare and contrast a common element such as characterization, plot, tone, or symbolism in "A Rose for Emily" and "Rappaccini's Daughter"?

I thought about the symbolism of the "odors" or possibly that both women have a presence of death around them from "odors" but I seem to keep drawing blanks.

Expert Answers

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One element common to both Faulkner's "A Rose for Emily" and Hawthorne's "Rappaccini's Daughter" is that of patriarchal dominance.  For, both Emily Grierson and Beatrice Rappaccini are subugated by the desires of their fathers; in both Emily's and Beatrice's situations their lives are limited by the restrictions placed upon them.  As a result of the limitations of their lives, for instance, Emily has suitors turned away by her father because they do not meet his standards--"None of the suitors were quite good enough for Emily"--and Beatrice, of course, is unapproachable for suitors because she has been "nourished with [the poisonous purple flower's] breath" and will poison anyone who kisses her. 

However, while Beatrice is a femme fatale, she does not intend harm to anyone; in fact, she prefers death to harming Giovanni, telling her father that she is going "where the evil, which thou has striven to mingle with my being, will pass away like a dream." She asks Giovanni, "Oh was there not, from the first, more poison in thy nature than in mine?"  On the other hand, Emily "would not be denied," and has acted selfishlessly, unlike Beatrice, to preserve her lover.  The narrators state,

We remembered all the young men her father had driven away, and we knew that with nothing left, she would have to cling to that which had robbed her, as people will. 

So, while the two daughters of each story are similar in their having been controlled by patriarchs, they differ in their acts of free will. 

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