Rappaccini’s Daughter

by

Nathaniel Hawthorne

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The Garden Symbol Analysis

The Garden Symbol Icon

Rappaccini’s garden shows the reader that it is dangerous for humans to interfere with nature. Upon his arrival in Padua, Giovanni is told that his neighbor, Dr. Rappaccini, tends a garden filled with scientifically modified plants from which Rappaccini extracts poison to make medicine. Peering into the garden, Giovanni notes that it is like a grim, modern version of the Garden of Eden from the Bible. By comparing Rappaccini’s poisonous plants with paradise, Giovanni highlights how much Rappaccini has distorted the natural order, making it impure as a result of his experiments. At the same time, the plants are vibrant, beautiful, and alluring. When Giovanni walks among the flowers, he observes, “The aspect of one and all of them dissatisfied him; their gorgeousness seemed fierce, passionate, and even unnatural.” Even though they are beautiful, Giovanni is affronted by their strangeness. Throughout the story, Rappaccini’s daughter, Beatrice, is compared with the flowers, from the sound of her voice to her scent. Both Beatrice and the flowers are beautiful yet deadly—they wound or kill anything with which they come into contact unless it is also poisonous. This dangerous power is a result of Rappaccini’s meddling with the plant. Ultimately, his interference proves disastrous. Beatrice becomes so fully poisoned that the potion she drinks to restore her health winds up killing her instead. Rappaccini’s garden shows that, while interfering with nature can be enticing initially, such interference results in unforeseen, dangerous consequences.

The Garden Quotes in Rappaccini’s Daughter

The Rappaccini’s Daughter quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Garden. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Science, Reason, and Humanity Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Vintage edition of Rappaccini’s Daughter published in 2011.
Rappaccini’s Daughter Quotes

It was strangely frightful to the young man’s imagination to see this air of insecurity in a person cultivating a garden, that most simple and innocent of human toils, and which had been alike the joy and labor of the unfallen parents of the race. Was this garden, then, the Eden of the present world? And this man, with such a perception of harm in what his own hands caused to grow,—was he the Adam?

Related Characters: Giovanni Guasconti, Giacomo Rappaccini
Related Symbols: The Garden
Page Number: 209
Explanation and Analysis:

Yes, my sister, my splendor, it shall be Beatrice’s task to nurse and serve thee; and thou shalt reward her with thy kisses and perfumed breath, which to her is as the breath of life.

Related Characters: Beatrice Rappaccini (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Garden
Page Number: 210
Explanation and Analysis:

For some purpose or other, this man of science is making a study of you. I know that look of his! It is the same that coldly illuminates his face as he bends over a bird, a mouse, or a butterfly, which, in pursuance of some experiment, he has killed by the perfume of a flower; a look as deep as Nature itself, but without Nature’s warmth of love. Signor Giovanni, I will stake my life upon it, you are the subject of one of Rappaccini’s experiments!

Related Characters: Pietro Baglioni (speaker), Giovanni Guasconti, Giacomo Rappaccini
Related Symbols: The Garden
Page Number: 217
Explanation and Analysis:

“I would fain have been loved, not feared,” murmured Beatrice, sinking down upon the ground. “But now it matters not. I am going, father, where the evil which thou hast striven to mingle with my being will pass away like a dream—like the fragrance of these poisonous flowers, which will no longer taint my breath among the flowers of Eden. Farewell, Giovanni! Thy words of hatred are like lead within my heart; but they, too, will fall away as I ascend. Oh, was there not, from the first, more poison in thy nature than in mine?”

Related Characters: Beatrice Rappaccini (speaker), Giacomo Rappaccini
Related Symbols: The Garden
Page Number: 233
Explanation and Analysis:
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The Garden Symbol Timeline in Rappaccini’s Daughter

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Garden appears in Rappaccini’s Daughter. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Rappaccini’s Daughter
Science, Reason, and Humanity Theme Icon
...chamber gloomy, she encourages Giovanni to look out the window for sunshine—outside, he sees a garden. Giovanni asks Lisabetta if the garden belongs to their building, but she replies that it... (full context)
Science, Reason, and Humanity Theme Icon
Knowledge and Sin Theme Icon
Gazing down into the garden, Giovanni notes that the property appears to have been the “pleasure-place of an opulent family”... (full context)
Science, Reason, and Humanity Theme Icon
Good, Evil, and Morality Theme Icon
Love, Passion, and Doubt Theme Icon
Knowledge and Sin Theme Icon
...to scrutinize each plant, but he cautiously avoids touching or smelling them. Giovanni compares Rappaccini’s gardening, the “most simple and innocent of human toils,” with that of Adam in the garden... (full context)
Good, Evil, and Morality Theme Icon
Love, Passion, and Doubt Theme Icon
Gender Theme Icon
When Rappaccini reaches the purple flowers hanging beside the fountain, he puts on a mask. However, he still hesitates to move... (full context)
Science, Reason, and Humanity Theme Icon
Knowledge and Sin Theme Icon
Giovanni continues to ruminate on the striking resemblance between Beatrice and the purple flowers, and that night, he dreams of the two being the same entity in different forms... (full context)
Good, Evil, and Morality Theme Icon
Gender Theme Icon
Walking home from dinner tipsy, Giovanni buys a bouquet. At home, glancing down at the garden, Giovanni again sees Beatrice, who looks so radiant... (full context)
Science, Reason, and Humanity Theme Icon
Good, Evil, and Morality Theme Icon
Love, Passion, and Doubt Theme Icon
Just then, a lizard or chameleon crawls by Beatrice’s feet as liquid drops from the flower’s stem. The creature “contort[s] itself violently” then dies. Beatrice “crosse[s] herself, sadly, but without surprise”... (full context)
Science, Reason, and Humanity Theme Icon
Good, Evil, and Morality Theme Icon
Love, Passion, and Doubt Theme Icon
Knowledge and Sin Theme Icon
After entering the garden, Giovanni resolves that seeing Beatrice is a matter of necessity—“It mattered not whether she were... (full context)
Science, Reason, and Humanity Theme Icon
Good, Evil, and Morality Theme Icon
Knowledge and Sin Theme Icon
Gender Theme Icon
...ease. Giovanni asks if the rumors are true that she knows the science behind the garden’s strange flowers, but Beatrice insists that she does not possess any advanced scientific knowledge, and... (full context)
Science, Reason, and Humanity Theme Icon
Good, Evil, and Morality Theme Icon
Knowledge and Sin Theme Icon
Gender Theme Icon
As they continue talking, Giovanni intuits from her naivety that Beatrice has never left the garden. They talk and walk through the garden together until they pass the purple flowers. Giovanni... (full context)
Science, Reason, and Humanity Theme Icon
Good, Evil, and Morality Theme Icon
Knowledge and Sin Theme Icon
Gender Theme Icon
...Baglioni states that Rappaccini may have created a similar monster using science. Baglioni notices a floral, vaguely poisonous scent in the air, but Giovanni dismisses this. Baglioni hands Giovanni a vial,... (full context)
Science, Reason, and Humanity Theme Icon
Good, Evil, and Morality Theme Icon
Love, Passion, and Doubt Theme Icon
Knowledge and Sin Theme Icon
Gender Theme Icon
Baglioni’s visit revives Giovanni’s doubts about Beatrice. Giovanni buys a bouquet, reasoning that if the flowers wilt in her hands, then she is surely evil. On... (full context)
Science, Reason, and Humanity Theme Icon
Good, Evil, and Morality Theme Icon
Love, Passion, and Doubt Theme Icon
Knowledge and Sin Theme Icon
Gender Theme Icon
Giovanni asks where the purple shrub originated, and Beatrice says her father made it. “It was my sister, and I loved... (full context)
Science, Reason, and Humanity Theme Icon
Good, Evil, and Morality Theme Icon
Love, Passion, and Doubt Theme Icon
Knowledge and Sin Theme Icon
Gender Theme Icon
Beatrice vows to leave “the flowers of Eden,” says goodbye to Giovanni, and asks him, “Oh, was there not, from the... (full context)