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 is the message of "Rappaccini's Daughter"?

Quick answer:

There are many messages that can be derived from "Rappaccini's Daughter," including the ideas that science is dehumanizing, sexuality is mysterious and dangerous, and ego and vanity will cause men to do harm to others.

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As an allegory, the story is open to many interpretations, so there is no single "message" or moral to the story. A few themes do stand out, however, including the following.

Science is dehumanizing: the central problem of the story is how Rappaccini's obsession with acquiring scientific knowledge causes him to literally poison his daughter. Beatrice, beautiful on the outside but deadly to anyone who comes into contact with her, is an emblem of this dehumanization.

Sex is dangerous: the main driver of the plot is Giovanni's desire for the beautiful Beatrice. Giovanni's infatuation with her and their secret meetings awaken her desire, which neither she nor Giovanni fully understands. This leads to Beatrice's death.

Hubris: All the male characters in the story are driven by lust, envy, and ambition. Rappaccini is driven by his need for knowledge; Baglioni is driven by his need to surpass Rappaccini; Giovanni is driven by his need to possess Beatrice. Each is more concerned with "winning" than with caring for Beatrice.

The fallen world: as in the Garden of Eden story, knowledge perverts nature. In the garden, the most beautiful plant is also the most deadly; Beatrice herself is a victim of this inversion. Rappaccini's "science" has made Beatrice into something impossible to love. In this fallen world, it is Beatrice's death than finally frees her from her plight.

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