Abstract

When Hawthorne set “Rappaccini's Daughter” in Italy, he recreated a country he had known, at that stage of his life, only through his reading and his perusal of prints. Unable to leave his native country, he had traveled to Italy imaginatively, and he had further emphasized the distance between the Italian tale and his American productions by attributing it to his French alter ego M. de l’Aubépine. Although “Rappaccini's Daughter” is one of Hawthorne's most widely discussed tales, the provenance of its male protagonist, Giovanni Guasconti, has received but scant attention. This essay will concentrate on the precise identification of Giovanni as a Neapolitan student who has left his home and has traveled a great distance to study at the University of Padua, in the north. Given the story's setting, namely, Renaissance Italy, Giovanni has traveled from what was then the Kingdom of Naples to the territory of the Republic of Venice. To all intents and purposes, Giovanni is a foreigner in a city where everything is unfamiliar and mysterious. The estrangement he experiences inevitably colors his perception of places, people, and events. Giovanni feels ill at ease in the stony urban center of Padua and longs for the sunny vistas of seaside Naples. It is precisely his longing that renders him particularly vulnerable to the lure of Dr. Rappaccini's luxuriant garden (a sort of microclimate, a southern oasis in the north), which he can see from his window. He hungers, one might say, for greenery, and that need exposes him to danger.

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