RAPPACCINI’S DAUGHTER (Short Story) By Nathaniel Hawthorne

Discuss the theme of the story.
By Sir Naeem
The theme of the story is man’s inhuman lust 1 for knowledge and power. Scientists work for power through knowledge. They are ambitious to rule over the rulers through their power of knowledge. They do not bother about human aspects of their work. Prof. Rappaccini is a typical scientist. His lust for power leads him to experimenting with poisons. The result of his work is a horrible variety of deadly poisons.

The poisonous herbs developed by him make his garden a zone of death. Some of the herbs are so lethal that even their smell can kill a man. Breathing the poisonous air of the garden makes the professor and his daughter immune to poison. No poison can kill them. But any antidote can kill them because poison is the breath of their life. So the professor’s daughter dies the moment she drinks a few drops of Baglioni’s antidote. The death of the professor’s only daughter is the moral lesson of the story.

The old Professor learns the lesson at the cost of his only daughter —–a very heavy cost, no doubt. Thus the story carries a note of warning not only against too much love for science but also against selfishness of all kinds. Some critics have pointed out another moral aspect of the story. They say that it is not the professor’s love for science but it is his love for his daughter that leads him to his dangerous exploits. He does not like to be separated from his daughter by her marriage. That is why he makes her dangerous for all other human beings. Whatever the case, the story cuts both ways equally well.

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