The Scientific Experimentation That Destroys Beatrice in Rappacinis Daughter



The Scientific Experimentation That Destroys Beatrice in “Rappacini’s Daughter”
Most parents would put their children ahead of their occupation at all costs. In many cases this is true, but for Rappacini in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Rappacini’s Daughter,” his scientific experiments prove to be more important to him than his daughter Beatrice’s wellbeing. His selfishness leads to both the physical and emotional destruction of Beatrice’s romantic aspirations for Giovanni Guasconti. The unique situations encountered in “Rappacini’s Daughter”, represent an emotional struggle for Beatrice, which relates to the different interpretations of scientific advancement during this Romantic Era.
An important theme in “Rappacini’s Daughter” is the fear of change and progress, and how Beatrice becomes intertwined with both science and nature. During this Romantic Era, many people thought that scientific advancements would destroy nature. Rappacini symbolizes the destructiveness of science, whereas Beatrice represents the beauty of nature. Outwardly Rappacini has made Beatrice a threat to nature and humanity by making her poisonous, but inwardly she thrives on nature’s existence. Beatrice’s inability to interact with any individuals besides her father and Giovanni result in her own isolationism from nature and society. Professor Pietro Baglioni also symbolizes the fear of change through his intense rivalry with Rappacini. Baglioni is a conventional doctor who practices conservative methods, whereas, Rappacini practices unconventional methods by creating medicines from poisonous plants. The competition between these two scientific doctors escalates to such an immense degree, that Beatrice’s death becomes the ultimate result. Their constant rivalry and human interference in nature’s physical and psychological processes depicts the obvious account of how nature becomes destroyed. (Citizen Q 1)
Another struggle for Beatrice is the unattainable love that becomes intertwined between Giovanni and her. Rappacini destroys her one and only love, Giovanni, by making him a part of his self-centered scientific experiment. Giovanni exhibits the same poisonous qualities as Beatrice, and cannot return to his ordinary way of life within society. Beatrice learns that the things she desires can never be attained by limits outside of her reach. After coming to this realization, she drinks the deathly potion created by Baglioni, to help ease her sorrow and isolationism. This romantic ideal expresses the concept that having nothing left to love is a fate more devastating than death. Beatrice’s death seems justified since she is finally released from the desolation of her previous life which held her captive to science and her father. (Citizen Q 1)
A deeper interpretation of Beatrice’s role as a woman is romantically depicted through mythology. Hawthorne, who was concerned with women’s rights, represents classical mythology by explaining that women are the solitary explanation for humanity’s downfall. This decline is seen through the eyes of the gods, but as partners in humanity’s spiritual deterioration, and martyrs for the benefits of humanity (McNeill 1). When Baglioni describes the mystery behind Beatrice to Giovanni he says, “You haven’t heard of this daughter, whom all the good men in Padua are wild about, though not half a dozen have ever had the good hap to see her face” (Hawthorne 1642). Beatrice and the mythological character Medusa are associated with one another (McNeill 4). Many men attempted to conquer Medusa, but only few of them lived to see her face because she turned them into stone at first sight (McNeill 4). Beatrice is also associated with another evil mythological creature, the Minotaur. This mythological tale relates to “Rappacini’s Daughter”, when Giovanni is taken “along several obscure passages” to the garden, and when he and Beatrice are walking together and stop “after many turns among its avenues” (Hawthorne 1646). The passages refer to the Minotaurs’s labyrinth in Hawthorne’s “The Minotaur” (McNeill 5). The conqueror of the Minotaur, Theseus, voyages on, as Giovanni challenges to meet the beast (Beatrice) (McNeill 5). King Minos, who created the Minotaur, takes care of his health and comfort only for the sake of being mischievous (McNeill 5). Rappacini takes care of Beatrice, his dangerous experiment, for similar reasons. Both the Minotaur and Beatrice are abominations, are created by their father, and are pursued by a hero figure who is closely involved with their death (McNeill 5). Beatrice’s feminist role is interconnected with these evil mythological characters that help to reaffirm the notion that women during the Romantic Era