Posted in Short Stories

Nathaniel Hawthorne: Rappaccini’s Daughter (Deal Me In 2016 – Week 45)

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It was not love, although her rich beauty was a madness to him; nor horror, even while he fancied her spirit to be imbued with the same baneful essence that seemed to pervade her physical frame; but a wild offspring of both love and horror that had each parent in it, and burned like one and shivered like the other. Giovanni knew not what to dread; still less did he know warfare in his breast, alternately vanquishing one another and starting up afresh to review the contest. Blessed are all simple emotions, be they dark or bright! It is the lurid intermixture of the two that produces the illuminating blaze of the infernal regions.

This pretty much sums up Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short story “Rappaccini’s Daughter”. If anyone can mix love and horror, it’s Hawthorne. I suppose Edgar Allan Poe could do it, too. And maybe even Stephen King but I haven’t read much of his work.

What makes the love and horror mix in this story so great is Hawthorne’s eloquent writing. It’s what I’ve come to expect from him and I don’t think I’ve ever been disappointed. Definitely not with this story. In fact I would take the writing over the plot.

It’s not a bad plot. Dr. Rappaccini reminds me of Dr. Frankenstein if he were a botanist presiding over his own Garden of Eden. His desire to go beyond science into the supernatural provides the horror to his daughter Beatrice and Giovanni’s love.

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I read this story when I selected the Seven of Spades for Week 45 of my Deal Me In 2016 short story project. It’s included in my copy of The Celestial Railroad and Other Stories. My Deal Me In 2016 list can be found here. Deal Me In is sponsored by Jay at Bibliophilopolis.

5 thoughts on “Nathaniel Hawthorne: Rappaccini’s Daughter (Deal Me In 2016 – Week 45)

  1. This is such a dark story. I remember being impressed with it when I first read it >20 years ago. Not so long ago, I listed to an audio version – or production – of it. Might be worth googling, as it was pretty good. I can’t remember now where I learned of it, though.

    P.S. Hawthorne Rules.

    1. Yes, Hawthorne does rule! As far as 19th century American authors, he’s one of if not my favorite. Mark Twain probably ranks up there, too. And Poe.

    2. And it’s been a long time since I’ve read one of Hawthorne’s novels. The House of the Seven Gables might have to be on my agenda in 2017. It’s been on my shelf for a very long time.

  2. Hi Dale,

    Just wanted to share that I re-read this story on my lunch hours yesterday and today. Blown. Away. (again). I too thought of Dr. Frankenstein, and was reminded of other great “literary poisonings” and even those in film or tv (that deadly kiss of Myrcella by whatshername in Game of Thrones/Song of Ice and Fire comes to mind, e.g.)

    I also am considering making one of my 2019 reading initiatives a “The Year of Hawthorne” project, since there are a couple of novels of his that I haven’t read yet, and quite a few stories too. His oeuvre is large but not so much so that I couldn’t read it all over the course of a year, I think, and I wouldn’t mind re-reading what I’ve read to date either. Stay tuned…

    -Jay

    1. That sounds like a great idea, Jay! I’ve got The House of the Seven Gables on my shelf. I think I read it a long time ago before I could really appreciate it. I want to read that next year. I read The Scarlet Letter not that long ago but before I started blogging. That seems to always be a “high school” read but I was much older before I read it. His short stories have been the best, though.

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