The Birthmark Essay: The Theme

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“The Birthmark” – The Theme

In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s tale, “The Birthmark,” the dominant theme is love conquering self, though there is also present the theme of alienation resulting from the evil within mankind. This essay intends to explore, exemplify and develop this topic.

Hyatt Waggoner in “Nathaniel Hawthorne” states:

Alienation is perhaps the theme he handles with greatest power. “Insulation,” he sometimes called it – which suggests not only isolation but imperviousness. It is the opposite of that “osmosis of being” that Warren has written of, that ability to respond and relate to others and the world. . . . it puts one outside the ‘magic circle’ or the ‘magnetic chain’ of humanity, where
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The narrator seeks to justify this error or lack in Aylmer by explaining that “it was not unusual for the love of science to rival the love of woman in its depth and absorbing energy.” Already at the outset of the tale, the reader perceives that Georgiana is going to be shortchanged in this marriage. She is exposed to the problem initially when her husband asks whether “it never occurred to you that the mark upon your cheek might be removed?'' Aylmer is in quest of physical perfection in his wife; unfortunately he discounts her inner, spiritual value so clearly manifested in her comment: ``To tell you the truth it has been so often called a charm that I was simple enough to imagine it might be so.'' In using the word “simple” she is being honest and not sarcastic; she is being humble and respectful of others’ evaluation of herself. The reply comes from a loving, virtuous woman.

But Aylmer overlooks the precious and pursues the superficial by asserting that the birthmark is “the visible mark of earthly imperfection,” and that it “shocks” him. This appears to him as a “a stain upon the soul” (Williams 43). Georgiana perceives a lack of love in his overdone negative reaction to the birthmark: ``Then why did you take me from
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