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.


What does the story tell us about American Society?
By Sir Naeem
The story is a realistic picture of American social life at the lower level of society. It is a movie picture. We can see the characters in action and can hear what they say. We learn a lot from what we see and hear. We learn that Americans are very practical and business like. They are neither romantic nor emotional. They do not try to sugar coat their bad deeds. They do not waste time in excuses and explanations.

The killers in the story just announce that they are going to kill a man. They do not bother about excuses. They are callous like machines— horror proof and even shame proof. We see that crime is no longer a horror in American society. For some people it is just business. You can hire a killer as easily as you can engage a taxi. This is, of course, the bottom of moral decline.

American society of the present day is a purely materialistic society. The people have lost their softer human side. They think only in terms of money and power. Everybody lives for himself. Therefore nobody cares for what another does. Nobody is interested in the affairs of the man next-door. Nobody likes anybody to stand in his way. Therefore they do not hesitate from doing away with their rivals. This purely selfish attitude of individuals results in the collapse of society. And American society is now on the verge of a terrible collapse.


Describe the scene in Henry’s Lunchroom on the arrival of the Killers
by Sir Naeem

Henry’s Lunch-room was a small restaurant. It was visited regularly by middle and lower-middle class people. At the time of the incident the lunch- room was making preparations for dinner. The killers Al and Max entered the lunchroom. It was almost empty at that moment. They asked for some food that was not ready at that moment.

They were provided with the available food. They ate with their gloves on. Their faces were different but they were dressed like twins. They were wearing derby hats, tight over coats, silk mufflers and gloves. They talked vulgarly. They covered the staff with guns and started setting the scene for

murder. They gagged the staff. 
They declared that they had come to kill a man named Ole Anderson. They looked quite calm and composed because they were professionals. The atmosphere in the lunchroom was charged with horror and suspense. It could be sworn that a murder was in the offing. Then, slowly the suspense began to dissolve, as the victim did not turn up at his usual time. The killers decided to go back. They left, and the atmosphere came back to normal. After the killers had gone away, the proprietor sent one of the servants to Ole Anderson’s residence to warn him against the danger to his life.
The business in the lunchroom resumed. The shadow of terror cast by the presence of the killers vanished with their departure. The scene at the lunchroom during the presence of the killers is not unusual. In the slums of all big cities scenes of violence, drunken brawls and dacoaties are quite common. Restaurants and lunchrooms are usual venues of such events. That is why there is no unusual commotion or panic in the lunchroom during or after the scene.