Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “Rappaccini’s Daughter” Lesson Plans, Summary, and Analysis

There’s a fairly good chance you came across this post because you were searching for a “Rappaccini’s Daughter” Lesson Plan, so I’ll just get it out of the way. Of course, you’re welcome to peruse the entire post. It’s pretty good. It’s got an analysis of the short story, a little bit about theme, and a witty introduction.

American Romanticism Lesson Plan for Rappaccini’s Daughter

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Teacher’s Big Break

Rappaccini's Daughter Lesson PlansA young teacher, named Giovanni Guasconti, came, very long ago, from the more southern region of Italy, to pursue his teaching career at the High School of Padua. Giovanni, who had but a scanty supply of gold ducats and lesson plans in his pocket, took lodgings in a high and gloomy classroom of an old school, which looked not unworthy to have been the palace of a Paduan principal, and which, in fact, exhibited over its entrance the armorial bearings of an education system long since extinct. The young teacher, who was not unstudied in the great short stories of Nathaniel Hawthorne, recollected that one of his stories, and perhaps the subject of this very web page, had been taught by teachers, causing immortal agonies to students. These reminiscences and associations, together with the complete overwhelming nature of teaching American Romanticism to a young teacher for the first time out of his college dorm, caused Giovanni to sigh heavily, as he looked around the desolate and ill-furnished apartment.

“If only I had “Rappaccini’s Daughter” lesson plans and better at analyzing Rappaccini’s Daughter,” cried Giovanni. “I could get a better apartment!”

Summary of “Rappaccini’s Daughter”

Before teaching “Rappacini’s Daughter,” refamiliarize yourself with the story’s plot.

Giovanni Guasconti arrives in Padua and takes up residence in an apartment overlooking a garden belonging to Signor Rappaccini. Giovanni observes Rappaccini in his garden and comments on his intent study and obvious avoidance of the plants. He then watches as Rappaccini’s daughter, Beatrice, comes out, looking like and interacting with the flowers around her.

The next day, Giovanni mentions Rappaccini’s name to Signor Pietro Baglioni, who extols Rappaccini’s scientific knowledge, but criticizes his character, claiming that Rappacini’s love of science trumps his affection for human kind. Giovanni learns that Rappaccini specializes in creating poison from plants.

Giovanni returns to his apartment and observes Beatrice, once again, in the garden and marvels at her increased beauty and her resemblance to the shrubs of the garden. Beatrice embraces the flowers, picks one, attempts to pin it on her dress, and accidentally lets some of the liquid drip on to a lizard, which immediately contorts and dies. Giovanni shudders. He then witnesses an insect dying from Beatrice’s breath. Beatrice spots Giovanni who throws her a bouquet of healthy flowers. As Beatrice rushes inside, Giovanni thinks he sees the bouquet wither in her hands.

A while later, a changed Giovanni encounters Pietro Baglioni on the streets. Dr. Rappaccini passes. Baglioni warns Giovanni that he is part of one of Rappaccini’s experiments. Giovanni finds out from Lisabetta that there’s a private entrance into Rappaccini’s garden. He enters and before long encounters Beatrice. They talk. Giovanni discovers the plant at the center of the garden, the one Beatrice embraces, is fatal.

The next morning, Giovanni feels his hand, the one touched by Beatrice, tingle. The two meet in the garden on a regular basis. Pietro arrives at Giovanni’s apartment and tells a story about Alexander the Great and a girl who had been nurtured with poison and had become poisonous. Baglioni tells Giovanni that Beatrice is poison and gives him an antidote to give her. Giovanni discovers that his breath is poisonous.

Giovanni meats Beatrice in the garden. She confesses the truth and Giovanni scolds her. He gives her the antidote as Rappaccini enters the garden, pleased that he has brought Beatrice someone who can love her. Beatrice drinks the antidote and dies. Baglioni, from Giovanni’s apartment, talks trash.

Rappaccini’s Daughter” Symbols

Understanding these “Rappaccini’s Daughter symbols will enhance your understanding of the story.

  1. The deteriorating statue in the center of the garden symbolizes corruption. Its location represents the center of human goodness and feeling, the heart. The presence of the statue in the middle of the garden symbolizes the corrupting influence man and science has had on nature.
  2. The poisonous plant from which Beatrice imbibes life symbolizes the corrupting force of nature on humans.
  3. The garden itself is referred to as the Garden of Eden, yet paradoxically contains only poisonous plants and a poisonous Eve. Instead of God reigning in the garden there’s the satanic Rappaccini.
  4. Rappaccini and his black garb symbolizes the devil.
  5. Beatrice symbolizes feminine beauty, a beauty worth dying for.

Themes in Rappaccini’s Daughter

  1. Love vs. Lust It doesn’t take a teenager to figure out why Giovanni is attracted to Beatrice. Why else would a young man obsess over a girl with whom he’s never spoken, kills living things with her breath, and has a mad scientist father who cares less for human life than he does his science experiments. Giovanni isn’t the first or last young man to catch a disease after associating with a poisonous woman.
  2. Individual vs. Society – American Romantics, Hawthorne being a prominent one, celebrated the individual. The question Hawthorne addresses is does science have the right to sacrifice an individual for the betterment of society? Hawthorne recognizes the dangers of giving humans–be they scientists or not–power they are not intended to have.
  3. The Dangers of Science – Hawthorne demonstrates what happens when science attempts to solve societal problems by sacrificing individuals. Neither Baglioni nor Rappaccini have their subjects’ best interest in mind when they use them as part of their experiments.
  4. Nature vs. Nurture – The poisonous shrubs in Rappaccini’s garden are created from a mixture of good and bad herbs, symbolic of the good and bad that exists in all (note: the flowers are purple, a hybrid color). Her father’s decision to nurture her with poison make her posionous.

Rappaccini’s Daughter Lesson Plans

Teaching “Rappacini’s Daughter” is easier with good “Rappaccini’s Daughter” lesson plans.

  1. Many critics consider “Rappacini’s Daughter” an allegory, a work in which everything is a symbol for something else. Teach allegory in “Rappaccini’s Daughter” by creating a chart with “objects” in column 1, “symbolic meaning of objects” in column 2, “evidence of meaning” in column 3, and “what the symbol adds to the overall meaning of the story” in column 4. For example: write Rappaccini in column 1; The Devil in column 2; His devious nature and black attire in column 3; His presence adds a supernatural and evil mood to the story in column 4.
  2. Character ambiguity in “Rappaccini’s Daughter” frustrates and delights. You may want to do a character/psychological analysis of Giovanni, Rappaccini, and Pietro.
  3. If you want to get fired, you could do a lesson on venerial disease.
  4. Use this foreshadowing and suspense lesson plan to help students identify a common literary device employed by Hawthorne.


Last Updated on June 9, 2021 by Trenton Lorcher

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