The plot of “Rappaccini’s Daughter" by Nathaniel Hawthorne is linear and follows the tale of a young man who falls in love with a woman he sees in a garden who resembles a flower in more ways than one but thanks to the intervention of science in nature, he and his love meet a disastrous end. The short story by Nathaniel Hawthorne, “Rappaccini’s Daughter” is a tragic love story but also, like some other works by Nathaniel Hawthorne, involves the persistent themes of humanity and its need to manipulate nature or attempt to perfect it (as seen, most famously in the short story by Nathaniel Hawthorne called “The Birthmark” which is the best point of comparison for a story like “Rappaccini’s Daughter”) as well as the nature of romantic love, not to mention the very effect a beautiful woman seems to have on the male characters of Hawthorne’s stories.
To offer a more complete plot summary of “Rappaccini’s Daughter” by Nathaniel Hawthorne, the story opens with a brief description of Giovanni, the main character, as the setting is established. Giovanni Guasconti is a student at the University of Padua in Italty. The main character in “Rappaccini’s Daughter” by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Giovanni, lives in a grand old mansion that, had once housed a man who had been" pictured by Dante as a partaker of the immortal agonies of his Inferno" (1314). While Giovanni recognizes the beauty of the setting he is nonetheless little unsettled by it and despite the attempts of Dame Lisabetta to make the place cheery, a sense of foreboding pervades. As Giovanni looks out onto the Gardens he notices how carefully all the plants have been meticulously aligned at how lush and verdant the gardens are. He asks his housekeeper who maintains these Gardens she seemed surprised he is not heard of the doctor, telling him that him the important information in one of the important quotes from “Rappaccini’s Daughter” by Nathaniel Hawthorne, that Doctor Rappaccini “distills these plants and medicines that are as potent as a charm" (1315) that is he is careful and looks out he may see his beautiful daughter.
For a while Giovanni continues to examine the garden, this time in more detail and it is at this point that the supernatural elements of the garden below his room begin to become clear to the reader. He notes, for instance how, “if that weren’t immortal spirit, but so had sought unceasingly, without heeding the vicissitudes around it; while one century embodied it in marble, and another scattered the garniture on the soil" (1315). It is also at this point in the story the Giovanni notices “one shrub in particular, set the marble vase in the midst of the pool, and with profusion of purple blossoms, each of which had the luster and richness of a gem" (1315). It is after he notes these amazing things about the garden that he becomes aware of the presence of Doctor Rappaccini, whom he watches for a while, noticing the meticulousness care with which the doctor works.
Upon observing Doctor Rappaccini for some time however, he begins to notice that he is not savoring the blossoms that he is cultivated, but is rather treated them as if they carry some deadly toxin are poison. In one of the important quotes from “Rappaccini’s Daughter” by Nathaniel Hawthorne, “the man’s demeanor was that of one walking among will malignant influences, such as savage beasts, or deadly snakes, or evil spirits, which should he allow them one moment of license would wreak upon him some terrible fatality" (1316). At one point, the gardner Rappaccini decides to approach the bush with the purple blossoms, and again, we ask as if they carry some deadly toxin. He simply removes his mask and calls out “Beatrice Beatrice!" At which a voice responds, “as rich as a tropical sunset, and which may Giovanni, though he knew not why, think of deep use of purple or Crimson, and perfumes heavily delectable" (1316). At this point, the reader is first introduced to the doctor’s daughter, Beatrice, who will serve as a tormenting love interest throughout the story.
Beatrice is described as one of the most beautiful creatures Giovanni has ever laid eyes upon. According to the narrator of the story, “she looked redundant with life, health, and energy; while which attributes were bound down and compressed, as it were, and girdled tensely, and their luxuriance, by her virgin zone" (1316) and Giovanni suddenly recognizes that this woman appears to him as “another flower, the human sister of those vegetable ones, as beautiful as they– more beautiful than the richest of them– but still to be touched only with the glove, nor to be approached without a mask." (1316). She immediately takes over caring for the large purple blossomed plant her father seemed afraid of, seeming very cheery until he leads her back inside.