Rappaccini’s Daughter


Nathaniel Hawthorne

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Themes and Colors
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
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Rappaccini’s Daughter, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

Science, Reason, and Humanity

Set during the Age of Enlightenment—a movement that glorified science and reason—“Rappaccini’s Daughter” is the story of three scientists: the young medical student Giovanni, his family friend and fellow doctor Baglioni, and Baglioni’s arch-rival, the “famous doctor” Rappaccini. Given that all three characters are doctors, one might think that their life’s work would be to use scientific processes to heal others. However, as each of these men tries to impact and understand…

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Good, Evil, and Morality

In “Rappaccini’s Daughter,” Hawthorne presents the full spectrum of human morality: Rappaccini seems pure evil, Beatrice seems pure good, and Giovanni and Baglioni have conflicted intentions. As Giovanni, Baglioni, and Rappaccini all try to manipulate Beatrice to serve their own ends, it becomes clear that Beatrice’s naïve goodness cannot prevail in a world whose morality is inferior to hers. She dies as a result of the other characters’ immorality, showing that morality as pure as…

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Love, Passion, and Doubt

In “Rappaccini’s Daughter,” reason and doubt lead characters astray while passion and intuition point towards truth. This is clearest in Giovanni’s wavering over whether Beatrice is good or evil: his intuition tells him that she is good and his passion urges him to love her, while his rational mind is full of doubts—doubts that ultimately poison their relationship and lead to her death. Throughout the story, each character’s relationship to love (be it earnest…

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Knowledge and Sin

Hawthorne twice compares Rappaccini’s garden to Eden, calling to mind the Biblical story of man’s fall from grace in the Garden of Eden. In that story, Adam and Eve live in a utopian garden and God’s only rule for them is not to eat the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Unfortunately, they eat the fruit, and God makes them mortal and banishes them from Eden. Hawthorne’s story parallels this Bible…

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“Rappaccini’s Daughter” depicts numerous differences between how men and women interact with the world around them. All the men (Giovanni, Baglioni, and Rappaccini) have professions, while the women (Beatrice and Lisabetta) manage their households. Men have formal educations, while women have knowledge that they have learned from going about their daily lives. Male characters get to move throughout the city, while the two female characters are only spotted at…

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