“The 'Birthmark” that was written a little over a century ago by Nathaniel Hawthorne, seems to be an early story of our modern fascination with physical flawlessness. In looking at today's society, it is simple to see that humans are fascinated with perfection. This fascination may be for physical perfection, emotional perfection, or career perfection. Unlike today's society, where flawlessness is wanted by the person directly involved, the character in this story looks for flawlessness in the one he should love without condition.
The character becomes so obsessed with wanting perfection that he gives up true happiness. Thus, we can say that "The Birthmark" expresses a very profound meaning; men make an effort to change nature in order to make it more flawless than it already is. Even though “The Birthmark” by Nathaniel Hawthorne was written in the mid-1800s, its subject and ideas still play a part in today’s society. “In the late eighteenth century, where the story took place, science was still somehow associated with magic. ”(1) And Aylmer's 'science', could be called alchemy, which is somewhere between science and magic.
It can be stated that Aylmer, the scientist in "The Birthmark," is very much a result of this age of invention. Aylmer could have been a scientist or maybe even a magician. But we can definitely say he was in pursuit of control. He seeks control. The story starts off with a scientist who finds a bride. As the story continues on the freshly married couple starts to make discoveries about each other. Aylmer who is a man of perfection bases his decision to marry Georgiana believing that she is nothing but perfect. Nevertheless, his bride, Georgiana, appears to have a birthmark on her face that Aylmer wants to remove.
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Aylmer believes that the birth mark is a symbol of flawlessness on a beauty. On the other hand, Georgiana believes it is a blessing. To me Aylmer made the mistake of marrying Georgiana because of perfection. In life we must understand that not everyone is perfect. Everyone has flaws including ourselves, and in this story Aylmer did not understand this. Georgiana’s birthmark on her face made her very different and special from other women. Aminadab said, “If she were my wife, I’d never part with that birth-mark” (Hawthorne 6). This quote opposes what Aylmer thinks; that the birthmark is ugly and needs to be removed.
Aminadab tells Aylmer that the birthmark is unique, and he would not want to remove it because it makes her different. The birthmark has a very unique shade and shape to it, “In the usual state of her complexion- a healthy, though delicate bloom; - the mark wore a tint of deeper crimson, which imperfectly defined its shape amid the surrounding rosiness” (Hawthorne 2). Hawthorne often refers to the birthmark as the “Crimson Hand. ” Not only is the color of the birthmark unique, but the shape is unique, as well. Not all birthmarks are crimson and look like a hand, and few people have a birthmark as unique as Georgiana did.
Although Georgiana birthmark is unique, it is also a human flawlessness to Aylmer. Aylmer wanted to prove to Georgiana it was flawlessness to her face. Aylmer convincingly said, “No dearest Georgiana, you came so nearly perfect from the hand of Nature, that this slightest possible defect- which we hesitate whether to term a defect or a beauty- shocks me, as being the visible mark of earthly imperfection” (Hawthorne 2). Aylmer thinks the birthmark makes Georgiana ugly and wants to do whatever it takes to remove it from her face. Aylmer cannot stand to look at his wife with this horrible birthmark on her face.
I feel as though everybody has their own beauty that’s within them that can’t be changed. I understand that nobody can change the inner or outer beauty of a person it will always be there no matter what changes they make or try to hide. Beauty is something unique and it shouldn’t be altered by any one, each individual has something that is beautiful about them even if there outer appearance is not so beautiful. In the end of the story we understand that the symbolism of the birth-mark had represented death because, Georgiana died at the end of the story because, Aylmer was trying to change something that was meant to be left alone.
Hawthorne said,” As the last crimson tint of the birth-mark that sole token of human imperfection-faded from her cheek, the parting breath of the now perfect woman passed into the atmosphere, and her soul, lingering a moment near her husband, took its heavenward flight. ” (p. 650) Had Aylmer would have accepted his wife as she was she probably wouldn’t have died of the death of his hands. So it was his fault really because, he made her felt as if her birth-mark was an ugly thing on her face. When it really was not ugly it brought her appearance out it made her even more beautiful and special.
As individual we must learn sometimes to let things be, as I like to say “let and let God. We must know that everything is not meant to be change. “The Birthmark” is very psychological, rigorously dealing with the plain mind of the characters as if the portentous narrator told the story from within their mind, other than observes it from the outside. The description by a person outside of the story, other than a character from within, does not inspire the reader to understand with one character more than the other. It also allows the reader to understand the story and its characters based on how the audience feels.
Using third person point of view, Hawthorne defines the characters and lets the audience to try to understand what each of them is thinking. Hawthorne wrote a great story in this story Hawthorne sends a message that we as individuals have always made every effort for perfection in all aspects of our life, but sometimes our own pleasant perception of it dominates the possibilities that some people will take to achieve those aspects of perfection. Whether an athlete decide to us drugs in order to be able to run faster or to hit harder, for them to be able to reach a greater level than anyone else to that unachievable goal of perfection.
Better yet, surgeons who try and play God and perform plastic surgery on patients to make the patient believe and feel that they have the perfect look and smile or appearance. “The Birthmark” was a very interesting book, in that Hawthorne explores a person’s sense of perfection and how far they will go to reach it.
- Booth, Alison and Kelly J. Mays. The Norton Introduction to Literature, Shorter Tenth Edition. New York, London: W. W. Norton & Company, 2010.
- SparkNotes Editors. “SparkNote on The Birthmark. ” SparkNotes. com. SparkNotes
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