Wednesday, September 17, 2014

"Rappaccini's Daughter" by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Deal Me In Lite, R.I.P. Edition, Week 3: "Rappaccini's Daughter" by Nathaniel Hawthorne (Story 3 of 13)

For week 3 of the R.I.P. version of Deal Me In Lite, I drew the 10 of spades, which led me to the classic "Rappaccini's Daughter" by Nathaniel Hawthorne.  Although I have no doubt this story is widely available online, I read it out of The Arbor House Treasury of Horror and the Supernatural, an anthology I have owned for many years and which has always served me well at this time of year.


I have read this story before -- I think maybe in high school or college -- but I didn't remember it at all, so I thought it was a worthy choice for my R.I.P. short story list.  Plus, there seemed to be a chance at some synchronicity since I am also reading my way through The House of the Seven Gables as part of the Castle Macabre readalong.  I have never had so much Hawthorne in my diet (ha) and I'll say one thing about him: good old Nathaniel never used one word when he could use ten.  But in spite of all his verbosity, the man can tell a story.  By the way, did you know that the villainess Poison Ivy from the Batman comics is based in part on this story?  It's true (according to Google!).

The story opens as a young student, Giovanni Guasconti, procures lodgings for himself in Padua.  His window overlooks a beautiful garden which he later learns is owned and tended by a certain Dr. Rappaccini.  Not only does Rappaccini own this beautiful garden, he also has a beautiful daughter named Beatrice.  Once Giovanni sees her, it's love at first sight, of course.  However, there's something not quite right about the garden or Beatrice.  The flowers and plants in the garden look strange to Giovanni, and he eventually learns that they are the products of Dr. Rappaccini's unusual experiments, as is Beatrice herself.  Giovanni sees some things in the garden that alarm him (I'm not going to spoil it for anyone who has not read this story), but like the proverbial moth and flame, he cannot stay away from his window and eventually makes his way into the garden and into Beatrice's heart, with tragic consequences.

Although this is one of the classic short stories, it's not particularly scary.  Creepy and suspenseful, maybe, but not scary.  However, it's only the middle of September, so there's still plenty of time to fire up the big guns of horror and the things that go bump in the night.

1 comment:

  1. I've really gotten to appreciate Nathaniel Hawthorne. I never realized that some of his stories can be just as scary and suspenseful as Edgar Allan Poe's.