An Interpretive "Crux" in "R'sD"
First read, if you haven't already, the definition of "crux" and the discussion of one found in "My Kinsman, Major Molineux." Then think about the macrostructure of "Rappaccini's Daughter" in the light of "MK,MM"'s macrostructure. First, notice the similar pattern of plot construction, apparently something Hawthorne found beautiful and useful. Do you see parallel testings of the young male protagonist? Do you see a mystery bound up in the identity and/or nature of the title character who is difficult to know until the story's conclusion? Finally, do you see Hawthorne bringing his tale's detective and the object of his investigation into a crisis in the final scene, a crisis which generates a question asked by a third party who observes the detective's surprise and amazement? Discussions of any one of these patterns as a clue to Hawthorne's technique as a writer, if they explain the available evidence with care, should produce a good paper.
Neither Baglioni's question to Rappaccini, nor the "gentleman"'s question to Robin, are simple. Answers to them would have to assume many things about how to interpret their language, especially the gentleman's usage of "dreaming" and Baglioni's "this" and "your experiment." The answers cannot be formed without knowledge from outside the protagonist's psychological experience, knowledge we can't have but dearly wish to have--we are tempted to assume it and many readers fall to that temptation. In the case of Baglioni's question to Rappacini, the question is directed toward someone other than the protagonist/detective, but wouldn't it be likely to have an effect on Giovanni, too? Notice, also, how Rappaccini is described in the moment when the question is being asked. That word choice appears to connect to some larger thematic issues in the tale.
Now that you've read closely two of Hawthorne's many short stories, you ought to be beginning to arrive at some generalizations about his style. Could you also use these same stories to draw conclusions about the development of that style over his lifetime? Look at the first publication dates for each of them, and think about each story's construction. What does the evidence suggest, and how might you go about testing your hypothesis? For such an ambitious paper to succeed in the limited time we have to build it, the paper's focus would have to be on a very small sample of evidence from each story, carefully considered. If you explain the evidence sequence carefully and draw insightful conclusions about what Hawthorne was learning to do as a writer, the result should be a good paper.
Remember that interpretive cruces are generally supercharged with the potential to mean, and fully unpacking their meanings may involve admitting several kinds of answers. However, reasonable literary analysts will negotiate with others of their kind to seek the most probable solution to these questions, one that acknowledges the most relevant evidence, rather than arguing for solutions which require us to violate basic linguistic rules, to ignore significant evidence to the contrary, to violate the rules of the genre in which the cruces occur, or to do anything else that results in an incoherent explanation. The author may have been a complex thinker, but he would not be likely to wish us to bend the tale into a mere chaos of irreconcilable meanings. Also remember that this site in the text is but one of many which may yield interpretive insights, some of which you may be the first to discover. Read curiously.