Essay on Solitude/Isolation in The Birthmark and in Hawthorne’s Life

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Solitude/Isolation in “The Birthmark” and in Hawthorne’s Life

In the Nathaniel Hawthorne tale, “The Birthmark,” we see and feel the solitude/isolation of the scientist, Aylmer, in his laboratory; also of Georgiana in the totally separated lab apartment; also of Aminadab, who lives by himself in a room off of the laboratory. Are these examples of solitude not a reflection of the very life of the author?

According to A.N. Kaul in his Introduction to Hawthorne – A Collection of Critical Essays, the themes of isolation and alienation were ones which Hawthorne was “deeply preoccupied with” in his writings (2). Hawthorne’s personal isolation from people from 1825 to 1837 was probably due to his lifelong shyness
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Hawthorne himself took pains to propagate the notion that he had lived as a hermit who left his upstairs room only for nighttime walks and hardly communicated even with his mother and sisters (547).

Henry James, a contemporary of Nathaniel Hawthorne, who knew him socially, had lots to say about Hawthorne’s isolation and shyness in his book Hawthorne:

. . . this region to be of a "weird and woodsy" character; and Hawthorne, later in life, spoke of it to a friend as the place where "I first got my cursed habits of solitude." . . . But for a boy with a relish for solitude there were many natural resources, and we can understand that Hawthorne should in after years have spoken very tenderly of this episode: "I lived in Maine like a bird of the air, so perfect was the freedom I enjoyed." During the long summer days he roamed, gun in hand, through the great woods and during the moonlight nights of winter, says his biographer, quoting another informant, "he would skate until midnight, all alone. . . . " (14)

And the same writer alludes to a touching passage in the English Note-Books, which I shall quote entire:--. . . This dream, recurring all through these twenty or thirty years, must be one of the effects of that heavy seclusion in which I shut myself up for twelve years after leaving college, when everybody moved onward and left me

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