Rappacini’s Daughter by Nathaniel Hawthorne



Part fairy tale, part Gothic horror story, “Rappaccini’s Daughter” is an inspired tale of creation and control. Giovanni Guasconti, a student at the University of Padua, is enchanted to discover a nearby garden of the most exquisite beauty. In it abides a young woman, perhaps the most beautiful Giovanni has ever seen; yet as he looks out from an upstairs window, he soon learns that the garden–and the matchless Beatrice–are not the work of Mother Nature but rather the result of a monstrous abomination of creativity.


“Does this garden belong to the house?” asked Giovanni. “Heaven forbid, signor, unless it were fruitful of better pot herbs than any that grow there now,” answered old Lisabetta. “No; that garden is cultivated by the own hands of Signor Giacomo Rappaccini, the famous doctor, who, I warrant him, has been heard of as far as Naples.” (Rappaccini’s Daughter)

“Rappaccini’s Daughter” is the story of Beatrice, the daughter of Giacomo Rappaccini, who is in turn a medical researcher in medieval Padua and grows a garden of poisonous plants.

American novelist and short story writer Nathaniel Hawthorne’s (1804–1864) writing centers on New England, many works featuring moral allegories with a Puritan inspiration. Hawthorne has also written a few poems which many people are not aware of. His works are considered to be part of the Romantic movement and, more specifically, Dark romanticism. His themes often centre on the inherent evil and sin of humanity, and his works often have moral messages and deep psychological complexity.

My sister suggested this short story to me. She’s a huge Fleetwood Mac fan. I love Fleetwood Mac too, I feel they’re one of the greatest bands ever.

My sister is a die hard fan. She has the demos of their songs and knows the inspiration for them. She read a book about the making of Rumors written by one of its producers. She knows her stuff.

So Rappacini’s Daughter is the inspiration for this song:
Running Through The Garden on the album Say You Will.

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I like it. Sister says the album version is better than the demo, which is “SO 80’s”. I have to ask her to play the demo for me. I love 80’s music.

Review of the story:

I only read Hawthorne’s A Scarlett Letter in high school. I don’t remember much, but I know I liked it.

Rappacini’s Daughter is so poetically sad. The prose is beautiful and I highlighted many passages.

“But there is an influence in the light of morning that tends to rectify whatever errors of fancy, or even of judgement, we may have incurred during the sun’s decline, or among the shadows of night, or in the less wholesome glow of moonshine.”

“Give me thy breath, my sister, for I am faint with common air.”

“Giovanni knew not what to dread; still less did he know what to hope; yet hope and dread kept a continual warfare in his breast, alternately vanquishing one another and starting up afresh to renew the contest.” 

I felt the most for Beatrice. She had a good soul and was so lonely because she was poisoned from birth. She could have had a happy ending but was punished for her father’s sin.

How sad is this: “… though my body be nourished with poison, my spirit is God’s creature, and craves love as its daily food.”

Giovanni is quick to anger at the end. He could have had a happy ending with Beatrice if Baglioni had not meddled. Baglioni is a manipulator and a triumphant bragger.

Being a short story, 27 pages long, there is not much character or plot development. It’s very straight forward.

However, I love the concept and prose. It’s a classic and timeless gothic story.

5 out 5 poisonous gardens.