This website uses cookies to ensure you have the best experience. Learn more

Rappaccini’s Daughter Essay: The Ambiguity

3435 words - 14 pages

The Ambiguity in “The Rappaccini’s Daughter”        

 
    The literary critics agree that there is considerable ambiguity in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Rappaccini’s Daughter.” This essay intends to illustrate this statement and to analyze the cause of this ambiguity.

 

Henry James in Hawthorne mentions how Hawthorne’s allegorical meanings should be expressed clearly:

 

I frankly confess that I have, as a general thing, but little enjoyment of it, and that it has never seemed to me to be, as it were, a first-rate literary form. . . . But it is apt to spoil two good things – a story and a moral, a meaning and a form; and the taste for it is responsible for a large part of the forcible-feeding writing that has been inflicted upon the world. The only cases in which it is endurable is when it is extremely spontaneous, when the analogy presents itself with eager promptitude. When it shows signs of having been groped and fumbled for, the needful illusion is of course absent, and the failure complete. Then the machinery alone is visible and the end to which it operates becomes a matter of indifference (50).

 

When one has to grope for, and fumble for, the meaning of a tale, then there is “failure” in the work, as Henry James says. This unfortunately is the case of “Rappaccini’s Daughter.” It is so ambiguous in so many occasions in the tale that a blur rather than a distinct image forms in the mind of the reader. The Norton Anthology: American Literature states in “Nathaniel Hawthorne”:

 

Above all, his theme was curiosity about the recesses of other men’s and women’s beings. About this theme he was always ambivalent [my italics], for he knew that his success as a writer depended upon his keen psychological analysis of people he met, while he could never forget that invasion of the sanctity of another’s personality may harden the heart even as it enriches the mind (548).

 

Ambivalence, or the simultaneous and contradictory attitude and/or feeling toward an object, etc., may well be the cause of the extreme ambiguity, doubt, uncertainty in the mind of the reader of “Rappaccini’s Daughter.”  Intentional ambivalence on the part of the author in order not to offend too many may be a plausible explanation for the author’s ambiguity. H.J. Lang in “How Ambiguous Is Hawthorne?” states:

 

In trying to measure the extent of their [Hawthorne’s short stories] ambiguity we must say what we mean by that word. Roughly, there are three sorts of ambiguity relevant to our theme: first, there is the ambiguity inherent in language, especially language used for poetic purposes; second, there is the ambiguity of human conduct, or, rather, the inescapable doubt we encounter once we try to get beneath the surface of the obvious in motivations. Both sorts of ambiguities are very important for Hawthorne. . . . third sort, which we might call ambiguity of external action. External action is paradoxically ambiguous only, since it...

Find Another Essay On Rappaccini’s Daughter Essay: The Ambiguity

Comparison between Anna Avalon and Her Daughter Essay About the short story, ``The Leap``

709 words - 3 pages Anna Avalon and her daughter have been through a lot in there life times. From bad weather causing the death of two loved ones and burning houses, they have survived it all. They both have interesting stories to tell. Anna’s daughter has grown up admiring her mom and wanting to be like her, she has not accomplished this, but she has not been given the chances to. She may feel guilty about not being like her mother because as she says she

The essay is about a mother and daughter who go to a restaurant and are in culture shock

934 words - 4 pages Esmeralda JimenezBlock 28/9/03"Big Bob's Place"It is five years later and I can still remember my first, and last, visit to Big Bob's Place. Stopping in to see if anyone could tell us where to locate the turn we had missed, my mom and I, saw the most disgusting place we had ever seen. I could tell my mother was in total disbelief because of her red face and the loud gagging sound coming from her sunburned neck. She was about to throw-up the

Science in Nathaniel Hawthorne's Rappaccini’s Daughter

1706 words - 7 pages The short story “Rappaccini’s Daughter” can be seen as a love story about young man determined to be with his beloved, despite the fact that she is poisonous. However, when examining the text, underlying theme about science arise. During the time in which this piece was written, science was rapidly evolving. “All biological sciences must first go through a taxonomic stage since their data must be put in order before they can be employed

Hawthorne Essay

966 words - 4 pages . Rappaccini, though possessing paternal sentiments for his daughter, cares infinitely more for science than for mankind. His patients are interesting to him only as subjects for some new experiment. He would sacrifice human life…of adding so much as a grain of mustard-seed to the great heap of his accumulated knowledge. (“Rappaccini’s Daughter”) Egotistic in nature, Rappaccini finds no harm in placing his desires before the welfare of

Science in Science Fiction

1480 words - 6 pages primary focus is science, it comes naturally that it becomes the main focus of the story. The way an author decides to depict the use of science varies greatly from story to story. Some may choose to use science in a good way, while others may show the negative impacts science could have. In “Nine Lives” by Ursula Le Guin and “Rappaccini’s Daughter” by Nathaniel Hawthorne each author shows how characters can be connected or driven apart by

The Role of Egotism in the Demise of Humanity

1584 words - 6 pages chapters of history, resulted out of Hitler’s necessity for sovereignty over others. Man obtains the inclination to use any possible means available in pursuit of personal gain, disregarding any negative consequences to others. The penalties of this are emphasized by Romantic author Nathaniel Hawthorne in his short stories “Rappaccini’s Daughter” and “The Birth-Mark”. The antagonists, Giovanni and Aylmer, demonstrate their manipulation of their

Nathaniel Hawthorne's Rappaccini's Daughter

1132 words - 5 pages Nathaniel Hawthorne's Rappaccini's Daughter        American author Nathaniel Hawthorne has been described as a "realist" and one who assesses the American character within the plot lines of his novels.  His story, Rappaccini’s Daughter, follows this style.  Its scenario encompasses the main character of Giovanni Guasconti, a young student who is studying at the University of Padua in a southern region of Italy

Hawthorne’s Quest for Perfection

1045 words - 5 pages (nature vs. science), any path the character takes will affect familial connections. The theme of “Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment” is quite similar except that it deals with old age. Usually people in their old age are considered wiser, while younger people are considered folly or foolish. The main character in this story struggles with the relationships created and destroyed by age. In “Rappaccini’s Daughter,” Dr. Rappaccini is a scientist that

Rappaccini's Daughter

1369 words - 6 pages Rappaccini’s Daughter was one of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s most popular works, written in 1844. Characterization is the process by which the writer reveals the personality of a character, without good execution, the author would not present the characters in an intriguing manor. In Rappaccini’s Daughter, there is a significant amount of characterization to qualify for well-rounded characters by author, Nathaniel Hawthorne. Rappaccini’s Daughter

Rappaccini’s Daughter - An Exploration of Human Nature

709 words - 3 pages Rappaccini’s Daughter - An Exploration of Human Nature The key to my understanding Hawthorne’s perspective on Science and Nature in Rappaccini’s Daughter was his cheeky introduction, when he placed himself somewhere between transcendentalists and "pen-and-ink men who address the intellect and sympathies of the multitude" - too unpopular for the multitude, and too popular for the transcendentalists. Choosing not to fit in either camp

Isolation from Society throughout Hawthorne’s Writings

1222 words - 5 pages isolation being The Minister’s Black Veil, Rappaccini’s Daughter, and The Scarlet Letter. Isolation with Hawthorne is not always something you choose to be. In The Minister’s Black Veil Hawthorne continues with his continuous use older times, and basises this story in 1836. As we all know this time period was very one with God. The story is set in first person point of view with Reverend Harper narrating the story. Reverend Harper being a well

Similar Essays

Essay On The Conflicts, Climax And Resolution In Rappaccini’s Daughter

2718 words - 11 pages 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

The Birthmark, Rappaccini’s Daughter, And Ethan Brand

2109 words - 8 pages The Birthmark, Rappaccini’s Daughter, and Ethan Brand Hawthorne marks his characters as potential usurpers of God who are undermined by an inability to negotiate with human chaos. Confronted with examples of imperfection or fragmentation, the scientific minds of "The Birthmark," "Rappaccini¹s Daughter," and "Ethan Brand" attempt to efface or fuse flaws as they seek an impossible ideal of total encapsulation and order. Unsatisfied with

Essay On The Women Of Young Goodman Brown, The Birthmark, And Rappaccini’s Daughter

1972 words - 8 pages The Women of Young Goodman Brown, The Birthmark, and Rappaccini’s Daughter   In his short stories, "Young Goodman Brown," "The Birthmark," and "Rappacciniâs Daughter," Nathaniel Hawthorne uses his female characters to illustrate the folly of demanding perfection in the flawed world of humanity. Although Hawthorneâs women appear to have dangerous aspects, they are true of heart, and thus, they cannot be fully possessed by the corrupt men

Critical Analysis Essay Of Scarlet Letter Discusses The Ambiguity Prevalent In The Novel, Including Hester And The A Itself

1009 words - 4 pages eternal" (91) in the kingdom of heaven. If we look at the A through this Puritan lens, it symbolizes the unwanted anomalies of their belief system: the sexuality, the disobedience of their rules, and the frowned-upon individuality that Hester possesses. McPherson specifically discusses these two contrasting interpretations to better display the ambiguity and various meanings one can derive from specific symbols in The Scarlet Letter.The iconic scarlet