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In Nathaniel Hawthorne: a Study of the Short Fiction, Nancy Bungee comments on a thematic issue at the center of the tale.

"Baglioni and Rappaccini lack compassion, and both struggle to dominate others. Beatrice operates out of love and acceptance. Giovanni wavers between thee two stances, sometimes embracing one, sometimes the other, sometimes caught in ambivalence. The narrator favors Beatrice even though she has a fatal blindness: she watches things die when she breathes on them and crosses herself; she pulls herself away from Giovanni for fear her touch may harm him; but it never occurs to her, her breath may poison him as it does insects and lizards. Beatrice's toxicity presents a genuine problem, and her ignorance of it suggests a willful ignorance" (68-9). (courtesy of Twayne Publishers)

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