Nathaniel Hawthorne was the author of multiple short stories and poems, all of them in the Dark Romantic genre. Hawthorne gained his inspiration at home with his mother, sisters, and his wife, Sophia Peabody who was a poet as well. In his writing, one of his strongest traits was his use of allegory. Hawthorne often uses allegory in his short stories to add a different perspective onto his many works. In his short story, “The Birthmark,” Hawthorne utilizes foreshadowing and symbolism to portray the allegorical lesson that striving for perfection results in troubling outcomes.
In “The Birthmark”, the relationships and behaviors of the characters play a significant role in the story by revealing more than the story itself does . Through the character’ different actions, characteristics, and behaviors, Nathaniel Hawthorne gives a deeper insight into his life, such as revealing his worldview to his readers, and also gives insight into a more relevant story. Hawthorne’s transcendentalist worldview is conveyed through Aylmer’s and Georgiana’s obsessions, Aylmer’s manipulation of nature, and the birthmark.
The Birthmark is a story by Nathaniel Hawthorne the carries vast amounts of symbolism in its pages. It’s a story that you can pretty much look at anything that is involved and see how it carries some type of underlying meaning that either helps the character development or means something entirely different. The basis of the story is similar to that of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, which only came out about 20 years before The Birthmark. For the most part the story is about human imperfection and how many can find the one thing wrong with anything even though others completely overlook it. Now let’s take a look at the plot, characters, and some of the symbolism that we find in The Birthmark.
Written by Nathaniel Hawthorne during the American Renaissance, the short story “The Birth-Mark” details the events of a brilliant scientist and natural philosopher named Aylmer who obsesses about his wife Georgiana’s birthmark in the shape of a tiny hand on her left cheek. The symbol of the birthmark causes the plot to advance in the story, as Aylmer is compelled by this red mark to act upon his emotions. Aylmer views his wife’s birthmark as an imperfection in her virtually flawless beauty and as a result, attempts to it via a potion that he strongly believes cannot fail. His interpretation of the birthmark creates conflict in the story, which is shaped by the symbolic meaning that he attributes it to. Aylmer’s failure to accept his wife’s appearance for who she is leads to misunderstandings, pain, and ultimately, death.
Too often in this world does man attempt to perfect nature. Tampering with this sort of element most commonly leads to a disaster to come extent. Because man is never satisfied, he is constantly vying for perfection, regardless of the outcome. Such is the case in Nathaniel Hawthorne's short story, 'The Birthmark.' Aylmer's persistent attempt to perfect nature is the cause of Georgiana's demise and the affirmation that when man tampers with such a powerful component terrible things may occur.
Hawthorne, Nathaniel “The Birthmark” Literature and the Writing Process, edited by Elizabeth McMahan, believed that Aylmer’s belief is that to have life there must be imperfection and losing imperfection was losing life. She explains as she shows us how “The Birthmark” which is a story filled with symbolisms and irony. Hawthorne displayed this belief in his short story "The Birthmark”, which is about a scientist named Aylmer who becomes disgusted by his wife, Georgiana’s tiny birthmark on her left cheek and kills her in the process of trying to remove it. He sees it as a flaw in his beautiful wife. Georgiana knows that her birthmark disgusts him. She began to feel disgusted by this birthmark when she realizes her husband’s disgust with it; she had never felt hate for herself until she realizes his feelings toward her birthmark. He asks if she has ever considered having it removed. This is not something she never looked at this way before, considering that other people in her life, especially men, had always seen it as a “charm”. Aylmer was not trying to just get rid of Georgiana's birthmark, rather, he was trying to change nature, He believed he had control over it. That's where things took a toll for and up for the worst. Aylmer had a hard time accepting imperfections in life.
“As the last crimson tint of the birthmark 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” (Hawthorne 13). In 1843, Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote “The Birthmark,” a tragic and unexpected short story. In the beginning of “The Birthmark,” Alymer, a man of science, marries a young beautiful woman named Georgiana. One day Alymer noticed a mark on Georgiana’s cheek, and over time his obsession with the thought of removing it scientifically caused the death of his wife. Therefore, in the short story “The Birthmark,” by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Alymer pushes the scientific boundaries too far and his experiment is unjustified.
In Hawthorne’s short story “The Birthmark”, Aylmer feels that his wife Georgiana is a miracle and that she is perfect. Her only flaw was the birthmark in the shape of a hand placed on her cheek. Instead of focusing on all her Georgiana’s perfections, Aylmer only focused on one of her flaws, the birthmark. Aylmer constructs a statement about her birthmark saying that, “It was the fatal flaw of humanity which Nature, in one shape or another, stamps ineffaceably on her productions, either to imply that they are temporary and finite, or that their perfection must be wrought by toil and pain.”(Meyer 345)
In “The Birthmark” we first learn about the main character named Aylmer. He is fascinated with science. “He has devoted himself, however, too unreservedly to scientific studies ever to be weaned from them by any second passion” (Hawthorne 952) He eventually finds love with his wife Georgianna, but there is something about her he just will not seem to take much longer. Georgianna has a red birthmark on her cheek which is the shape of a small hand. While she thinks it is beautiful, the most important person in her life doesn’t feel the same way. In fact, Aylmer is truly disgusted and in shock by her mark, claiming it is a “visible mark of earthly imperfection” (Hawthorne 953). Finally telling his wife how he feels, Georgianna is in disbelief. She is upset, hurt, and confused, even questioning their marriage as she tells him “You cannot love what shocks you!” (Hawthorne 953). The last thing she would have thought is that the person she planned to spend the rest of her life with doesn’t see her beauty mark the way she does.
When reading a story, people do not often think about how much it might relate to another story they have read in the past. In “The Birthmark” Georgiana simply wants her unique birthmark removed from her face. Similarly, in “Barbie Doll” the unnamed young lady wants her nose and legs removed. In both of these stories the reader can see that these women are chasing society’s idea of perfection. The short story “The Birthmark” written by Nathaniel Hawthorne and the poem “Barbie Doll” written by Marge Piercy have almost the exact same theme because both of these short works of fiction are about a woman that is influenced by her peers to become
In Nathaniel Hawthorne's short story "The Birthmark," there are many views on the need for science and its advances. Hawthorne's protagonist, Aylmer, illustrates his own personal assessment of science. The story is based on the idea that science can solve all of humanities ills and problems. Hawthorne believes that science is overrunning life. Aylmer is consumed by his passion of overtake Mother Nature. The story shows how Aylmer's passion leads to not only his downfall but that of his wife Georgiana as well. The belief that science can solve and do anything is one of ignorance because it totally disregards the human element of spirituality.
In literature a tragic flaw refers in plain words when the main character ends up dead or defeated a characteristic feature of the heroes of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short stories, “Young Goodman Brown,” “The Minister’s Black Veil”, and “The Birthmark”. However this concept is even more extensive and best explained in terms of “Hamartia”. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica that word can be understood as an inherent defect in the hero of a tragedy or a moral flaw, other sources point out “Hamartia” as an error in judgment or accident that may lead the hero to ruin as a result. From “The Birthmark” the reader can notice how the story starts with a happy romance
In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s text The Birth Mark, he expresses human nature and its drive for perfection. In this text, Aylmer is very persistent to remove his lover’s birthmark from her cheek. Hawthorne states, “‘Georgiana’, said he, ‘has it never occurred to you that the mark upon your cheek might be removed’” (Hawthorne 418). Aylmer’s drive for perfection causes him to turn to science to try and find the answers to remove the mark from his wife’s face, initially seeking to make her “perfect” in human natures belief. By the end of this text, his wife is corrupted by his persistence to make her “perfect” and ends up passing away due to the complications that Aylmer laid upon her. “‘Aylmer-dearest Aylmer-I am dying’” (Hawthorne 429), quotes Hawthorne. Aylmer’s drive for perfection for his wife was so overpowering that he aims too high and puts science ahead of his love for his wife. This drive for perfection is still a very prominent in human nature and why humans behave as they do today. The drive for perfection is the reason
Although “The Birthmark” by Nathaniel Hawthorne was written in the mid-1800s, its themes and ideas are still a part of society today. The 19th century was a time of change, just as this, the millennium, is a time of great change. Hawthorne’s ideas about science, beauty, and life still play a major part in our lives, despite many improvements. Even today, people try to play “God” and change things that nature has put in place. It’s human curiosity; how much can be changed, how many things can be perfected? The themes in this short story-- religion, gender, and science--were relevant in Hawthorne’s day, and still are many years later. The theme of religion is hidden in the desire to erase