1. In Hawthorne's fiction he frequently uses older female characters to examine
connections to the past and the relationship between the past and present. Both
Hepzibah Pyncheon from The House of the Seven Gables and Old Esther Dudley
from "Old Esther Dudley" are characters who reflect this approach by Hawthorne.
To explore this theme more fully, you may consider the following:
a. Look at the excerpts about and images related to Hepzibah Pyncheon and Esther Dudley listed below and consider the questions that follow:
How do Hawthorne's descriptions of Hepzibah and Esther underscore their connections
to the past? What words does he use to describe their appearance, attire, and
environments to suggest the close ties they feel to the past? How do the illustrations
and images reinforce Hawthorne's ideas?
b. Both Seven Gables and the Province House contain mirrors that seem to reflect
the presence of figures from the past. Examine the passages in which Hawthorne
describes the mirrors. What appears in each? How does Esther feel about the
images she sees? What does the narrative suggest about the images that appear
in Seven Gables?
c. Hepzibah and Esther share certain qualities, but are also different from each other. What differences do you see? How does each woman feel
about the past and its legacy? Is this an important difference?
d. The endings of "Old Esther Dudley" and The House of the Seven Gables present different outcomes for these two women. Look closely at the excerpts
from the endings. How does each work offer a comment on the relationship between
past and present? Which outcome do you prefer and why?
To see what effect this might have, imagine that you are Beatrice. Since you have no one to talk to, you record your thoughts in a diary. Write the diary entries that describe your meeting with Giovanni and the way you feel as you continue to see him. What are your hopes for the future?
Compare what you have written to the story by Hawthorne. Has your view of Beatrice changed? Do you see Giovanni or Beatrice's father differently than you did before? How does point of view influence your perceptions?
3. Imagine yourself a detective in 16th century Padua. You have learned of the death of Beatrice Rappaccini, and heard that a family servant claims she died from unnatural causes. You have been asked to investigate whether a crime has occurred, and if so, to identify the perpetrator. You have three possible suspects to interrogate: Giovanni Guasconti, Giacomo Rappaccini, and Pietro Baglioni. To complete your investigation you must do the following:
a. write a list of questions that you will ask each suspect;
b. use the text
of the story to find answers to your questions
c. based on your interrogation, determine whether you will charge a suspect
with murder and write a list of reasons for your decision
4. As many of the images featured in this section suggest, the figures of Beatrice
from Dante's Divine Comedy (Purgatorio) and of Beatrice Cenci informed the characterization
of Beatrice Rappaccini in Hawthorne's story. Like many other nineteenth-century
artists and writers, Hawthorne was attracted to the image of woman as a redemptive
figure who transforms another through love (Dante's Beatrice). He was also fascinated
by ideas about woman as a mixed being who represented both innocence and danger
(Beatrice Cenci). Read material on the two Beatrices from the web sites "Dante's
'love' for Beatrice" and "Screaming
in the Castle" . How has Hawthorne drawn upon these two figures to shape
Beatrice Rappaccini? What important differences exist between Hawthorne's character
and her predecessors?
5. This learning activity was submitted by Donna Reiss, Professor of English
at Tidewater Community College, Virginia Beach, VA.
Two of Nathaniel Hawthorne's best-known short stories are excellent companions
to a reading of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein: "The
Birthmark" and "Rappaccini's
Daughter." Like Frankenstein, they dramatize the impact of science and technology
on human behavior and relationships. Although set in the nineteenth century,
these works provoke our thinking about similar issues in the current century
and help set the stage for an exploration of these issues throughout the twentieth
century. This Explore activity focuses on "Rappaccini's Daughter," but the topics
are also relevant for "The Birthmark."
As you read "Rappaccini's Daughter," consider the list of ideas and topics
below that are also related to Frankenstein. I recommend that you review the
Project Guidelines for suggestions such as the following:
Ethics and science (responsibility of scientists)
Relationship between creator/inventor and creations/inventions
Educational approaches and curricula
Relationships among families and friends
Impact of obsessions on self and others
∑ The Literature section of the Hawthorne in Salem Website has several topics
that you can relate to your reading of "Rappaccini's Daughter." Even when the
sources do not refer specifically to that story, sometimes the authors of the
online articles discuss other Hawthorne works in ways that you can recognize
as similar to "Rappaccini's Daughter." In particular, the sections titled "Women
in Hawthorne" and "Alienation"
might be of interest.
∑ In addition, the Explore section links to some graphical and resources and
other commentary that might interest you. Ideas of good and evil, for example,
are emphasized in the Faith
and Religion section.
6. This learning activity related to "Lady Eleanore's Mantle" was
developed by Dr. Melissa Pennell.