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Rappaccini’s Daughter Essay: The Irony

“Rappaccini’s Daughter” – the Irony

In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s tale, “Rappaccini’s Daughter,” the reader finds numerous ironies, many of which are explained in this essay.

Morse Peckham in “The Development of Hawthorne’s Romanticism” gives an explanation of how Hawthorne uses historicism in his early short stories [“Rappaccini’s Daughter” was in Twice-Told Tales in 1836] for an ironic effect:

The Romantic historicist used the past for a double, interconnected purpose. On the one hand it was a means for separating oneself from society. . . .He can be aware of the failure of the institution to fulfill its avowed intentions and its social function. . . . Romantic historicism, therefore, is never an end in itself but a strategy for placing the current social conditions in an ironic perspective. . . .(91-92)

In “Rappaccini’s Daughter” the “failure of the institution” relaates to the medical establishment, which is traditionally sworn to uphold the health of people, but in this story Dr. Rappaccini, out of scientific zeal, has been skewed away from the fundamental purpose of medicine. It is indeed ironic that he poisons his own daughter and her boyfriend, alienating them from society and dooming them.

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 modest room is in an old mansion watched over by the landlady, Dame Lisabetta, a two-dimensional character given to religious expletives like, “Holy Virgin, signor!” She seeks to make the customer content with his lodging; she answers Giovanni’s curiosity about a garden next-door: “No; that garden is cultivated by the own hands of…

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Hawthorne, Nathaniel. “Rappaccini’s Daughter.” ElectronicText Center. University of Virginia Library. http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/etcbin/browse-mixed-new?id=”HawRapp”

Nathaniel Hawthorne

Nathaniel Hawthorne The 19th century had many great achievements happen within its 100-year time period. From the building of the Erie Canal, to the steel plow being invented. From the invention of the telegraph, to Thomas Edison creating the first light bulb. While all of these inventions have stood the test of time, one has lasted just as long; the inspiring tales a novel written by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Nathaniel Hawthorne was born in Salem, Massachusetts, in 1804. His name by birth was Nathaniel Hawthorne. He added the w to his name when he began to sign his stories. (

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