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Rappaccini’s Daughter Thesis Statements and Important Quotes

Below you will find five outstanding thesis statements for “Rappaccini's Daughter”by Nathaniel Hawthorne that can be used as essay starters or paper topics. All five incorporate at least one of the themes in “Rappaccini's Daughter” and are broad enough so that it will be easy to find textual support, yet narrow enough to provide a focused clear thesis statement. These thesis statements offer a short summary of “Rappaccini's Daughter” by Nathaniel Hawthorne in terms of  different elements that could be important in an essay. You are, of course, free to add your own analysis and understanding of the plot or themes to them for your essay. Using the essay topics below in conjunction with the list of important quotes from “Rappaccini's Daughter” at the bottom of the page, you should have no trouble connecting with the text and writing an excellent essay.

To refresh here is a full summary and analysis of “Rappaccini's Daughter” by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #1: The Metaphor of Eden in Rappaccini’s Daughter

The story of Rappaccini’s Daughter occurs in Rappaccini’s botanical garden. This beautiful and lush place can easily be compared to the Garden of Eden, whereby Beatrice plays Eve, and Giovanni is the Adam that is introduced and subsequently induces the Fall from grace. Although Beatrice’s life was lonely, she did not know the extent of her role in her father’s experiment. Like the case in other very similar plots in the works of Hawthorne, when Giovanni decides to breech her space, he is infected as well, however, it is his heartlessness that causes Beatrice to take the supposed antidote that leads to her death. What can be said for the possibility of Eden in this story? Do you suppose that Hawthorne really believes in such an idyllic place, given the results of Rappaccini’s garden? (more information on this topic can be gleaned from this open-access article on Rappaccini's Daughter themes compared with those in another work by Nathaniel Hawthorne)

Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #2: The Theme of Self Delusion in Rappaccini’s Daughter

Although Giovanni knows some of what Rappaccini is using his daughter for in his experiments, he is ignorant of the full extent. Indeed, once he meets Beatrice, he convinces himself that all of the things he had seen regarding her prior to his entry into the garden were figments of his imagination. He convinces himself that the insect that dies from her breath and the flowers that perish in her grasp are mere figments of his imagination. How does Giovanni’s refusal to see Beatrice as what she really is contribute to the story? Does it give Giovanni more blame when the reader knows that he was aware of Beatrice’s dangerous characteristics all along?

Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #4: The “Antidote” in Rappaccini’s Daughter

In “Rappaccini’s Daughter”, Giovanni falls in love with Beatrice, even after seeing what the effects of her touch are. In fact, he is so enamored of her that he goes to Professor Baglioni to obtain an antidote that will counteract the effects the poisons have had on her. The antidote works, however Rappaccini dies because the poisons in the plant were her life, and without them she cannot live. Do you suppose that Baglioni knew of the effects his poison would have on the young girl? Did Giovanni, given his last words to her, really love her, or was he perhaps as enamored with her poison as he was with the potential of her love? 

Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #3:  Rappaccini’s Daughter: Character Analysis

If Rappaccini’s garden can be seen as the Garden of Eden, in what role does that place Rappaccini? This brilliant scientist succeeded biologically in creating a beautiful and virtuous daughter, and he succeeded through his experiments in making her deadly to get close to. If one views Rappaccini as a God, creating his own Eden with his own impure purposes, what does this mean? It is clear that Rappaccini is the least innocent of all of the characters in this short story. Was he trying to destroy social and scientific convention, or was he merely trying to see how far he could push himself and the envelope of acceptable scientific practice?

An Important Note *  As with many other works by Nathaniel Hawthorne, many of the themes in different works remain consistent. This story can be easily compared to (most especially) “The Birthmark” as well as to other stories that involve themes of evil, sin, and other motifs such as “The Minister's Black Veil” and “Young Goodman Brown.” Although this is a departure in terms of setting, if you're writing a comparison essay on “Rappaccini's Daughter” using other works by Hawthorne should be simple. There are PaperStarter entries for all of these. *

• Click here for a full summary of “Rappaccini's Daughter” by Nathaniel Hawthorne  

This list of important quotations from “Rappaccini's Daughter” will help you work with the essay topics and thesis statements above by allowing you to support your claims. All of the important quotes from Hawthorne's “Rappaccini's Daughter” listed here correspond, at least in some way, to the paper topics above and by themselves can give you great ideas for an essay by offering quotes and explanations about other themes, symbols, imagery, and motifs than those already mentioned and explained.  Aside from the thesis statements for “Rappaccini's Daughter” above, these quotes alone can act as essay questions or study questions as they are all relevant to the text in an important way. All quotes contain page numbers as well. Look at the bottom of the page to identify which edition of the text by Nathaniel Hawthorne they are referring to. 

“Nothing could exceed the intentness with which this scientific gardener examined every shrub which grew in his path; it seemed as if he was looking into their innermost nature, making observations in regard to their creative essence, and discovering why one leaf grew in this shape, and another in that, and wherefore such and scuh flowers differed among themselves in hue and perfume.” (649)

“Every portion of the soil was peopled with plants and herbs, which, if less beautiful, still bore tokens of assiduous care; as if all had their individual virtues, known to the scientific mind that fostered them.” (649)

“He was beyond the middle term of life, with grey hair, a thin grey beard, and a face singularly marked with intellect and cultivation, but which could never, even in his more youthful days, have expressed much warmth of heart.” (649)

“But now, unless Giovanni’s draughts of wine had bewildered his senses, a singuolar incident occurred…a drop or two of moisture from the broken stem of the flower descended upon the lizard’s head. For an instant, the reptile contorted itself violently, then lay motionless in the sunshine. Beatrice observed this remarkable phenomenon, and crossed herself, sadly, but without surprise; nor did she therefore hesitate to arrange the fatal flower in her bosom.” (653) 

“’And must I believe all that I have seen with my own eyes?’ asked Giovanni pointedly, while the recollection of former scenes made him shrink.” (658)

“They stood, as it were, in an utter solitude, which would be made none the less solitary by the densest throng of human life. Ought not, then, the desrt of humanity around them to press this insulated pair together? If they should be cruel to one another, who was there to be kind to them?” (665)

“’Beatrice,’ asked he abruptly, ‘whence came this shrub?’ ‘My father created it,’ answered she, with simplicity. ‘Created it! created it!’ repeated Giovanni. ‘What mean you, Beatrice?’” (664)

“Miserable!”’ exclaimed Rappaccini. ‘What mean you, foolish girl? Dost thou deem it misery to be endowed with marvelous gifts, against which no power nor strength could avail an enemy? Misery, to be able to quell the mightiest with a breath? Misery, to be as terrible as thou art beautiful? Woudst thou, then, have preferred the condition of a weak woman, exposed to all evil and capable of none?” (666)

“To Beatrice—so radically had her earthly part been wrought upon by Rappaccini’s skill—as poison had been life, so the powerful antidote was death. And thus the poor victim of man’s ingenuity and of thwarted nature, and of the fatality that attends all such efforts of perverted wisdom, perished there, at the feet of her father and Giovanni.” (667)

Source : Baym, Nina, ed. The Norton Anthology of American Literature. Shorter 6 ed. New York,  NY: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. 2003


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