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Essay on The Theme of Rappaccini’s Daughter

“Rappaccini’s Daughter” – The Theme

In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s tale, “Rappaccini’s Daughter,” the dominanat theme is the evil within mankind. This essay intends to explore, exemplify and develop this topic.

Hyatt Waggoner in “Nathaniel Hawthorne” states:

Alienation is perhaps the theme he handles with greatest power. “Insulation,” he sometimes called it – which suggests not only isolation but imperviousness. It is the opposite of that “osmosis of being” that Warren has written of, that ability to respond and relate to others and the world. . . . it puts one outside the ‘magic circle’ or the ‘magnetic chain’ of humanity, where there is neither love nor reality (54).

Waggoner’s theme of alienation does play a part in “Rappaccini’s Daughter” in reference to the doctor and Beatrice, and Giovanni after he has been rendered poisonous by prolonged contact with Beatrice. But alienation is not, in the opinion of this reader, the dominant theme in the tale. The overriding theme would be the evil residing within human beings, regardless of how attractive they appear outwardly. “Everything he has to say is related, finally, to ‘that inward sphere’” (McPherson 68-69).

Giovanni’s 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. At the climax his blindness is removed and he sees, with Beatrice’s help, the truth of the situation; he sees the evil within man.

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 modes…

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…es Press, 1968.

Hawthorne, Nathaniel. “Rappaccini’s Daughter.” ElectronicText Center. University of Virginia Library.”HawRapp”

Roger Malvin’s Burial and History

“Roger Malvin’s Burial” and History

Q. D. Leavis states that Hawthorne had among his forbears a “witch-hanging judge and the Quaker-whipping Major” (30). This is a reference to one instance of historical allusion in Hawthorne’s short stories. This essay will explore a variety of historical incidences referred to in his short story, “Roger Malvin’s Burial.”

Clarice Swisher in “Nathaniel Hawthorne: a Biography” states the author’s deep historical ties:

William Hathorne was a colonial magistrate involved in the persecution of Quakers, another Protestant religious group. Hawthorne later described him as “grave, bearded, sable-cloaked, and steeple-crowned,” a hard, dark man. His son John Hathorne was well known as a Puritan judge who condemned women as witches in 1692 during the Salem witchcraft trials, and who later expressed no remorse for his actions. . . . Of his ancestors, especially Judge John, Hawthorne later said, “I . . . hereby take shame upon myself for their sakes, and pray that any curse incurred by them . . . may be now and henceforth removed (14).

Is it any wonder then, that Hawthorne in “Roger Malvin’s Burial” should use history as a source for this tale. Wagenknecht notes in Nathaniel Hawthorne a reliance on history (60). Some other critics comment on Hawthorne’s incorporation of history into his literary works. Stanley T. Williams in “Hawthorne’s Puritan Mind” states: What he wrote of New England was not merely “local color”; rather it was the subconscious mind of New England. It was this memorable art of his which distinguished him from Emerson and Thoreau, an art which included his distillations of historical episodes into moods.” (43) Sculley Bradley, Richmond Croom Beatty and E. Hudson Long i…

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