Young Goodman Brown and Other Hawthorne Short Stories

rappaccini daughter by nathaniel Hawthorne

Explain briefy how three characters in rappaccini daughter are gulity of intellectual pride.

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The story’s tragic end demonstrates that Beatrice’s death is the product of the ambitions of three men. Her father, Doctor Rappaccini, may be considered a callous scientist who, as Baglioni would have us believe, offered his daughter up as a scientific experiment. Rappaccini’s true motivations, however, are revealed in his final words to his daughter:

"My daughter, thou art no longer lonely in the world! Pluck one of those precious gems from thy sister shrub, and bid thy bridegroom wear it in his bosom. It will not harm him now! My science, and the sympathy between thee and him, have so wrought within his system, that he now stands apart from common men, as thou dost, daughter of my pride and triumph, from ordinary women. Pass on, then, through the world, most dear to one another, and dreadful to all besides!"

Beatrice, however, laments her condition, to which Rappaccini replies:

"What mean you, foolish girl? Dost thou deem it misery to be endowed with marvellous gifts, against which no power nor strength could avail an enemy? Misery, to be able to quell the mightiest with a breath? Misery, to be as terrible as thou art beautiful? Wouldst thou, then, have preferred the condition of a weak woman, exposed to all evil, and capable of none?"

In these words, Rappaccini demonstrates that he meant not to harm his daughter, but rather protect her from the evils of the world. In a sense, he can be regarded as the most dedicated of fathers, using his ingenuity and expertise to fashion a lasting defense mechanism for his daughter. On the other hand, in his final exchange with Beatrice, he does not seem to understand why his daughter would prefer to live a normal and defense-free human being. Instead, he naively believed that bringing Giovanni into her same state so that the two could live an insulated life together could make her happy. How could such an intelligent scientist misunderstand the needs of the human heart?

Giovanni, too, is not what we originally see. Instead of a youth in love, he is merely overtaken with curiosity, lust, and vanity. In fact, his interest in Beatrice can, in a way, be compared to Rappaccini’s interest in science, and Baglioni’s interest in the old rules of medicine. All these men care for one thing, but in pursuing it, neglect its true foundation. Giovanni rashly lashes out at Beatrice, demonstrating that his love for her was ridden with doubt and distrust, demonstrating his own shallow and selfish nature. Rappaccini aims to protect his daughter, but in doing so, overlooks her personal interests. And Baglioni, while claiming to uphold the good rules of medicine that protect human life, invest suspicions into Giovanni’s mind and presents him with the very “medicine” that kills Beatrice, making him just as evil as Rappaccini in the end.

This story bears a similar lesson to those learned in many of Hawthorne's other works. Specifically, it warns against what may happen to man when, in the quest for scientific or intellectual development, he "attempts to usurp the function of God," a lesson observed in “The Birthmark" and "Ethan Brand". Some have argued that the story is an allegory for the Fall of Man in the Garden of Eden, with Rappaccini as Adam, and Beatrice as Eve. Although in Hawthorne's tale Rappaccini infects Beatrice and not the other way around, the argument has been made that perhaps Hawthorne transferred some of Eve's role to Adam as he did not fully accept the Scriptural description. As is the case with Georgiana in "The Birthmark", Beatrice does not have agency over her own life - only her death. Here, Hawthorne is subtly critiquing the gender roles of his time. Rappaccini and Giovanni's desires to control or change Beatrice lead to her ruin, a fate she accepts.