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2018/19 Group Reads - Archives > 098. Rappaccini's Daughter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

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message 1: by Gem , Moderator (new)

Gem  | 828 comments Mod
This is the discussion for Rappaccini's Daughter being read as a companion to the June read of The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne.

READING SCHEDULE
August 12 through September 8.

AVAILABILITY
Project Gutenberg (various formats) as part of Mosses from an Old Manse and Other Stories
pdf (Columbia University)
online text (Rutgers University)


BACKGROUND

This story is about Giacomo Rappaccini, a medical researcher in medieval Padua who grows a garden of poisonous plants. He brings up his daughter to tend the plants, and she becomes resistant to the poisons, but in the process she herself becomes poisonous to others. The traditional story of a poisonous maiden has been traced back to India, and Hawthorne's version has been adopted in contemporary works.


message 2: by Linda2 (new)

Linda2 | 3744 comments Poor Gem, this story hasn't made many fans in this group ;-) I read it years ago and saw a TV version on PBS. I'm slogging through the story online.

This sounds like a variation on stories of mad scientists, who misuse their talent to create something evil. Very popular in films of the 1940's-60's. And Shelly's "Frankenstein."


message 3: by Inkspill (new)

Inkspill (runinkspill) I'm planning to read this soon - hopefully the weekend.

And Linda, your post has got me intrigued.


message 4: by Jeremy (new)

Jeremy | 108 comments I reread this last night. It had probably been 15 years since I last read it. I didn't care for the story the first time I read it. It was better the second time, but I still prefer Young Goodman Brown.

Like Linda, I made a connection to Frankenstein. To Rappaccini's credit (?) though he at least provided his creation a companion. And he didn't abandon his creation like Dr. Frankenstein did.

What struck me this reading was how neither scientist comes off well. Rappaccini's fault's are obvious, but Baglioni is no hero. I don't have the text in front of me, but after Beatrice drinks the "antidote" Baglioni is described as having a look of "horror and triumph." Baglioni has just killed someone, but there's still a sense of having bested his rival. Certainly not an unambiguously admirable character.

As for why this isn't a story I enjoy - I have limited experience with Hawthorne, but for me his works fall into two categories. Those that feel heavy, oppressive, overly pedantic, and/or just difficult to get through, like this story and The House of the Seven Gables. And then there are stories like Young Goodman Brown and The Scarlet Letter where the action flows more smoothly, the characters are developed better, and the tone is a little lighter. I know someone may object that the tone isn't light in The Scarlet Letter, but I think Pearl adds a lightheartedness not present in The House of the Seven Gables.


message 5: by Rosemarie, Moderator (new)

Rosemarie | 3003 comments Mod
I will be reading this one next week. It sounds creepy.


message 6: by Linda2 (new)

Linda2 | 3744 comments I find all his work heavy, oppressive, overly pedantic, and/or just difficult to get through.


message 7: by Rosemarie, Moderator (new)

Rosemarie | 3003 comments Mod
It takes a while to get into his style, but once I do I enjoy his books. I liked The House of the Seven Gables.


message 8: by Roman Clodia (new)

Roman Clodia I hadn't read this before and liked it. Hawthorne is very heavy-handed with his symbolism though, no? I read it as a twisted Gothic version of the garden of Eden, though probably Milton's version in Paradise Lost. The connection to Dante's Divine Comedy is also made abundantly clear with the name Beatrice as a guide: though here it's not to paradise!

The lush imagery, like the fleshy purple flowers of the 'sister' shrub made me think of Poe and Baudelaire. And there's also a hint of Italian folk and fairy tales which often use themes of gardens, plants, and issues of trespass.

I don't want to say more yet as people are still reading it...


message 9: by Gem , Moderator (new)

Gem  | 828 comments Mod
I'm hoping to read this over the weekend.


message 10: by Linda2 (last edited Aug 17, 2018 01:54PM) (new)

Linda2 | 3744 comments This was probably the TV version I saw years ago, unfortunately videoed from the TV screen:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KG-zo...

A Librivox version, w/o having to download from Librivox, but the reader is lifeless:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JtNrd...

I remember now, I read it in college as part of my American lit course. Time to reread.


message 11: by Gem , Moderator (last edited Aug 19, 2018 12:42PM) (new)

Gem  | 828 comments Mod
There was a lot of symbolism in this story, I found it quite interesting.

I didn't make the connection to Frankenstein, but now that you mention it...

I felt sorry for Beatrice, she came across as a pawn to me, never making decisions for herself but having her father make them for her or reaction to him and to Giovanni as well.

The story left me wondering what happens to Giovanni. Is he doomed to the same kind of isolation that Beatrice was or do he "recover" and resume a normal life?

I would have ended the story differently. If I was Hawthorne I would have had Beatrice reach other to her father, touching him. Her last act of poisoning would have given me a sense of justice.


message 12: by Inkspill (new)

Inkspill (runinkspill) Roman Clodia wrote: "I hadn't read this before and liked it. Hawthorne is very heavy-handed with his symbolism though, no? I read it as a twisted Gothic version of the garden of Eden, though probably Milton's version i..."

I've finished reading this - yeah, I also linked Beatrice to Dante, and the garden to Eden

as for the imagery - you said it - incredible


message 13: by Inkspill (new)

Inkspill (runinkspill) ⊱✿Gem✿⊰ wrote: "I felt sorry for Beatrice, she came across as a pawn to me, never making decisions for herself but having her father make them for her or reaction to him and to Giovanni as well."

Me too, interesting alternative ending, I got the sense that Hawthorne was underlining her goodness, so she would never act like this - but that's just how I read it


message 14: by Haaze (new)

Haaze | 86 comments I found the story somewhat predictable, but another reader pointed to the conflict between humanism and science well worth exploring. In a sense the two lovers seem to be trapped in the conflict between the two scientists (especially considering the last line in the story which completely jarred me). A fairy tale for adults with an agenda?

However, I was charmed by the setting and truly admired Hawthorne's writing. It was intricate and swirly throughout making me want to explore other stories from his "Tales and Sketches". :) Hawthorne seems a bit neglected apart from "The Scarlet Letter".


message 15: by Rosemarie, Moderator (new)

Rosemarie | 3003 comments Mod
I have just finished it and found his description of the garden created a sinister mood. Poor Giovanni and Beatrice. Both were pawns in the hands of the evil Dr. Rappacinni, who did not care for anything but science.
I don't think Beatrice was aware of the transformation of Giovanni until it was too late.
As for the fate of Giovanni, I don't see how he could live.
If I were to write an ending, he would embrace Dr. Rappacinni and.......?


message 16: by Haaze (new)

Haaze | 86 comments Hmm I think Dr. Rappacinni's colleague was just as evil. It seems like he was proving his point at the end and Giovanni/Beatrice had to pay the prize?


message 17: by Inkspill (new)

Inkspill (runinkspill) Yeah, Haaze, wasn't he just

I thought this story was not as straightforward as it looks -- loads of grey areas


message 18: by Suki (last edited Sep 08, 2018 06:34AM) (new)

Suki St Charles (goodreadscomsuki_stcharles) | 31 comments I liked the story a lot. As Haaze and Rosemarie commented above, Giovanni and Beatrice were both pawns in the story-- Beatrice was Rappaccini's experiment, and Giovanni was (view spoiler)


message 19: by Rosemarie, Moderator (new)

Rosemarie | 3003 comments Mod
That makes a lot of sense, Suki.
Hawthorne has given us lots of food for thought in this short story.


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