Analysis Of Hawthorne 's ' The Birth Mark '

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Major (Research) Essay 3: Hawthorne’s “The Birth-Mark” In this story, a husband sacrifices his wife’s life over a birthmark, which he feels to be the only thing that stands in the way of her and perfection. (46) The deficient scientist, Aylmer is very much in love with his dear wife, Georgiana. However, only a few days soon following their marriage, Aylmer takes notice of a peculiar mark which sat on the left side of Georgiana’s cheek. After discovering the birthmark, Aylmer hastily digs for ways to rid Georgiana of this defect in which he calls an, “earthly imperfection” to her beauty. Aylmer 's failures arise from his confusion about spirit and matter. In 1841, Hawthorne had written to Sophia, at that time his fiancee, regarding mesmerism: ". . . what delusion can be more lamentable and mischievous, than to mistake the physical and material for the spiritual?" In Aylmer 's "delusion," he mistakes Georgiana 's physical imperfection for a spiritual one, and, in trying to cure her of her human nature, he kills her. As the story precedes, Aylmer and his servant, Aminadab conduct an experiment to relieve Georgiana of this remarkable birthmark only to discover in the end, that the mark symbolizes mortality. Alchemical references and imagery recur throughout "The Birth-mark," as has been amply documented by Shannon Burns, David Van Leer and others. (36). Mary E. Rucker argues that, “Although some critics have asserted that Aylmer is a “scholar-idealist” and a “refraction of the
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