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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What makes Giovanni sigh in "Rappaccini's Daughter"?

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Giovanni sighs in the opening of the story from a mixture of emotions. He is “a young man for the first time out of his sphere,” so he has never been away from home before, and he is homesick. He knows the history, or “the poem,” of his country, and he knows something of the history of the family whose ancient mansion he has taken lodgings in, and he has been reminiscing about what he knows. He remembers that one of the ancestors of the family whose crest is above the door was shown as being in one of the circles of Hell in Dante’s Inferno. He also notes that the family is long extinct. All of this melancholy nostalgia coupled with missing his home leads to his heavy sigh.

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Giovanni Guasconti has moved to northern Italy in order to attend classes at the University of Padua, though he is originally from the southern part of the country. It sounds as though he finds the north somewhat dreary in comparison to his home. First, the climate is very different: the sun does not seem to shine as brightly in his eyes. Second, Giovanni clearly misses his home, and this is the first time he has ever really been away. Third, he recollects that a member of the family to whom the armorial crest above the door to his building once belonged was mentioned in Dante's Inferno, adding to the dismal mood of this place. Finally, the narrator describes Giovanni's apartment as "desolate and ill-furnished," unlike his home. Therefore, he has a number of reasons for which to sigh.

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