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 would you describe the character of Dr. Rappaccini?

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Dr. Rappaccini is an esteemed and skilled physician, but "he cares infinitely more for science than for mankind." He treats his patients as interesting medical experiments rather than human beings, and he would sacrifice a human life to advance science. He examines every creature with coldness, merely as a sample for trying out one of his poisons. The doctor seems to have a supernatural access to nature's secrets and a supernatural ability to grow beautiful but deadly flowers and plants. Physically, the doctor has a sallow hue, but he has an air of intellect and energy. He spends his time growing vegetable poisons, and he has dedicated his life to cultivating his garden and to his daughter, Beatrice, who he has schooled in growing the garden. He is ultimately selfish, as he assumes his daughter would rather remain pure than enjoy love. In the end, his selfishness causes him to lose his daughter forever.

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Dr. Rappaccini is an ambitious doctor who seems to care a great deal more about his research than he does about people. Dr. Baglioni's claim that Rappaccini would gladly sacrifice a human life in order to add to his research and knowledge is confirmed by his daughter's poisonous existence as well as Rappaccini's involvement in converting the protagonist, Giovanni, into a poisonous person who can serve as a companion to his daughter. Rappaccini has sacrificed any possibility of his daughter's having a normal life, raising her alongside a poisonous plant she cares for and refers to as her "sister."

Rappaccini also ruthlessly, and without care for Giovanni's feelings, makes him the subject of an experiment, as he did his daughter, and removes the possibility that Giovanni could live a normal life. He has alienated his colleagues and peers, so much so that Baglioni is anxious to exact his revenge on Rappaccini. To be fair, he does seem to love his daughter, Beatrice, since he entraps Giovanni in order to make her happy, but he is not ultimately a good judge of Giovanni's character; Giovanni speaks so harshly to Beatrice once he realizes that he has become poisonous as well that he renders her willing to take her own life rather than live with his suspicions.

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