Hawthorne’s short story “Dr. Heidegger’s Experiment” highlights four major vices that humanity as a whole struggles with. For each of the four vices there is an elderly character that has failed at life due to them. The first such character is Widow Wycherly; her vice is vanity, the next is Mr. Medbourne; his vice is greed, after him is Colonel Killigrew; his vice is lust, and finally Mr. Gascoigne; his vice is corruption. All four of these characters are invited into Dr. Heidegger’s lab to partake in an experiment. They are given water that is believed to be from the fountain of youth. They will be given another chance to right their wrongs and fix their vices. Upon consumption of the water, the four elderly people begin to act young again and return to their old ways of vanity, greed, lust, and corruption. Dr. Heidegger said that, “if the fountain gushed at
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.
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.
Nathaniel Hawthorne was one of the representatives of the Dark Romanticism genre. The cultural and literal context, stylistic features and main themes of the Hawthorne’s short story The Birthmark will be discussed in this essay.
“The Birthmark” is a short story authored by Nathaniel Hawthorne and published in 1848. The story is about Aylmer, a brilliant scientist who is obsessed with science and is planning to use his experiments to remove a birthmark on the face of his wife Georgiana. Aylmer’s love for science made him yearn to obtain control of the entire divinity. His wife was among his victims of science that was stronger in him than the love he had for Georgiana. Aylmer became blind to science to the extent that he could not realize that he was damaging his wife and putting his marriage at risk. It examines the obsession with science and human perfection that often cause problems if not controlled as seen in the story. Hawthorne’s aim with this tale was to warn its readers regarding the dangers of science and knowledge with the story, and this is analyzed below.
In his short story "Dr. Heidegger's Experiment", Nathaniel Hawthorne makes a point to grant all of the characters varying human vices to try and instill in the reader a lesson about learning from their mistakes. When the reader is first introduced to Dr. Heidegger and his guests, the author gives some background on all of the characters. It becomes clear that Mr. Medbourne is known for his love of money, Widow Wycherly for her pride, Colonel Killigrew for lusting after sinful pleasures, and Mr. Gascoigne for his abuse of power and hypocrisy. From what is shown, all of the characters possess the trait of greed. When given the chance to return to their youth, they repeat the same mistakes.
people through the relationships of the story's main characters. The lovely and yet poisonous Beatrice, the
In Nathaniel Hawthorne 's “The Birthmark”, we find the tragic story of a woman named Georgiana who sacrificed her life for the sake of appeasing her husband, Aylmer. What did Georgiana do that it was more favorable for her to die than to continuing to displease her husband? Georgiana, who was otherwise hailed as incomparably beautiful, had a birthmark on her face. Aylmer desired this to remove this birthmark, which he considered the one thing keeping her from being “perfect”, from her face. In an attempt to remedy his wife’s “imperfection”, Aylmer makes an elixir for her to drink. While this elixir successfully removes the birthmark, the same elixir also causes Georgiana to die soon after. This story brings to light several examples of how society belittles women and puts their desires below the desires of men.
Psychoanalytical criticism analyzes motivations, which are the compelling force behind life’s myriad of decisions. Mary Shelley inventively evaluates the incentives which are responsible for propelling the characters of Frankenstein into their fatal downfall; making Frankenstein a prime source for psychoanalytical study. Shelley’s novel follows the work of a promising chemist, Victor Frankenstein, who makes a remarkable discovery that has the potential to forever alter the scientific study and nature of human life. Ultimately, this science becomes liable for Victor’s tragic fate. Previous to Victor’s revolutionary breakthrough, he had begun a process of detaching himself from the rest of humankind; following the completion of his
Nathaniel Hawthorne like many other writers during the nineteenth century focused their writings on the darker aspects of life. “The Birthmark,” is set in New England and has a Puritan perspective. Aylmer, a well-known scientist, marries Georgiana who has a hand shaped birthmark upon her face. After some time during their marriage Aylmer and Georgiana decided to remove the mark through scientific means. Advancements in science and the ability to change nature were at the center of plots throughout their short stories and poems. Hawthorne believed that it was not unusual for science and women to rival for one man’s love (Hawthorne 12). Hawthorne used his critical thinking to write about taboos and dissention not spoken of during his lifetime to the forefront. In “The Birthmark,” Hawthorne focuses on science verses nature. Hawthorne attempted to create the perfect human being through science by using setting, character, and symbolism to undo the imperfections he saw within God’s work in “The Birthmark”. With all of his intellectual and spiritual qualities, Aylmer still does not have wisdom.
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 his 1843 didactic short story "The Birthmark," Nathaniel Hawthorne writes about the shortcomings and negligence of those who seek perfection throughout their lives. Aylmer, mad scientist and main character, is greatly encouraged by a romantic reverie to seek the removal of an aggravating birthmark from his wife Georgiana's face. Aylmer becomes trapped in a trance by his aspirations to the point where "he had not been aware of the tyrannizing influence acquired by one idea over his mind, and of the lengths which he might find in his heart to go for the sake of giving himself peace" (Hawthorne 74). Similarity, in the short story "Editha," William Howells portrays how romantic ideals instill false confidence and support an unrealistic perception of the outside world. The powerful persuasion by an unrealistic psyche is illustrated through the phrase "pocket providence", showing to be nothing more than a contagion, creating uncertainty and untenable expectations in all that encounter it.
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.
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