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The Dark and Twisted “Rappaccini’s Daughter” by Nathaniel Hawthorne

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Flowers are thought to be beautiful and breathtaking, but Rappaccini’s garden is something deadly and evil. It’s certainly breathtaking, but while one is there, it may be the last breath taken. Rappaccini (antagonist) was a fine scientist, but just like it’s said in the story, “he cares infinitely more for science than for mankind” (5). The conflict is, why would such a wonderful scientist forget about his whole career to attend to his beloved garden? Why would he make his beautiful daughter Beatrice (protagonist) immune to the poison and make it impossible to be in love with Giovanni (the young student living in the old edifice)? The twisted and dark story of “Rappaccini’s Daughter” by Nathaniel Hawthorne definitely covers almost every aspect of Dark Romanticism. These are all examples of negative imagery, gothic elements, and harmful nature relations shown throughout the story and how Dark Romanticism is very much present.

“Rappaccini’s Daughter,” uses a great number of negative imagery. I found over 13 of them. In the story it is said that as Rappaccini was in his garden he was “…emaciated, sallow, and sickly-looking” (2). Emaciated means to be very thin especially from disease, hunger or cold. This is negative imagery because it describes Rappaccini in a horrible way. Also, in the story, it describes his garden as something “…ugly and monstrous” (6). This is negative in a sense that it shows that his garden is not only dark and twisted but at the same time he is also. These were only a few of the examples of negative imagery used in the story.

Dark Romanticism has a lot to do with gothic elements. In “Rappaccini’s Daughter,” it demonstrates many examples of Gothicism. Gothic means something very mysterious, and desolate. An example from the story is, “It is said that he distils these plants into medicines that are a potent as a charm” (1). Anything that is made into a so called “charm” especially plants, is very strange. Also, in the story it’s quoted that, “…of one walking among malignant influences, such as savage beast, or deadly snakes, or evil spirits…would wreak upon him some terrible fatality” (2). Secrets or hidden things are also a part of gothic elements. An example of this in the story is when Giovanni is talking to Dame Lisabetta and she says, “Listen signor! There is a private entrance into the garden!” (8). No one knew about the secret passage, so therefore it is a gothic element.

“Rappaccini’s Daughter” also includes nature related traits. Dark romanticism says that truth can be found in nature, but it’s not always harmless. In “Rappaccini’s garden,” this trait is found many times. An example would be, “…and is said to have produced new varieties of poison, more horribly deleterious than nature…” (4). Deleterious means harmful in subtle or unexpected ways. In addition to it says “…a drop or two of moisture from the broken stem of the flower descended upon the lizards head. ..and then lay motionless…” (6). When something is dropped on an insect from what you would think is a harmless plant, and kills it, this is definitely strange. Nature viewed in this way, certainly isn’t good, nor harmless.

In “Rappaccini’s Daughter,” many examples of negative imagery, gothic elements and nature related traits were found. These though, were only a few of them. Others included found are, good vs. evil, light vs. dark contrast, crazy and twisted traits, and much more negative imagery traits. So, in this story it seems that Dark Romanticism is demonstrated very well. Its easily seen that Rappaccini and his beloved garden posses something very evil indeed. “Rappaccini’s Daughter” to a great extent is a wonderful example of Dark Romanticism. What would it be like to you to imagine walking into a garden, but never walking out…?

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