The Conflicts, Climax and Resolution in “The Rappaccini’s Daughter”
This essay will analyze Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Rappaccini’s Daughter” to determine the conflicts in the tale, their climax and resolution, using the essays of literary critics to help in this interpretation.
In the opinion of this reader, the central conflict – the relation between the protagonist and antagonist usually(Abrams 225) - in the tale is an internal one within Giovanni between his love for Beatrice and his Puritan belief in the depravity of man. His love for the beautiful daughter blinds him to various indications of her poisonous nature, to the evil nature of her father and to the intent of her father to involve Giovanni as a subject in his sinister experiment. An assortment of lesser conflicts ensue: Professor Baglioni’s battle against Rappaccini; Beatrice’s fight against her father; Beatrice’s battle against her power to kill and in favor of the power to love, etc.
The tale takes place in Padua, Italy, where a Naples student named Giovanni Guascanti has relocated in order to attend the medical school there. His modest room is in an old mansion watched over by the landlady, Dame Lisabetta, a two-dimensional character given to religious expletives like, ``Holy Virgin, signor!'' She seeks to make the customer content with his lodging; she answers Giovanni’s curiosity about a garden next-door: ``No; that garden is cultivated by the own hands of Signor Giacomo Rappaccini, the famous doctor. . . .”
Giovanni in his room can hear the water gurgling in Dr. Rappaccini’s garden, from an ancient marble fountain located in the center of the plants and bushes; of particular interest to Giovanni is “one shrub in particular, set in a marble vase in the midst of the pool, that bore a profusion of purple blossoms, each of which had the lustre and richness of a gem.” As striking as the plant of the purple gems is “a tall, emaciated, sallow, and sickly-looking man, dressed in a scholar's garb of black,” who is busy in the garden, scientifically examining the plants in a detached and cautious manner as if “walking among malignant influences, such as savage beasts, or deadly snakes, or evil spirits.” The depravity of human nature is inferred here because of the man’s close association with the garden.
The reader sees another character enter the tale with the doctor’s shout “in the infirm voice of a person affected with inward disease, -- `’Beatrice! Beatrice!’'' From his window Giovanni sees approaching the doctor’s daughter “beautiful as the day, and with a bloom so deep and vivid that one shade more would have been too much.” Her abilities are exceptional because it is apparent to Giovanni that “she handled and inhaled the odor of several of the plants which her father had most sedulously avoided.” Beatrice exhibits an especially close relationship to the purple gem plant, which Rappaccini is too fearful of tending...