The Spiritual and Physical Dimensions in The Birthmark Essay

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The Spiritual and Physical Dimensions in The Birthmark

Fred Allen Wolf notes in Taking the Quantum Leap that it was not until the 20th century that scientists realized that “to observe is to disturb, for observation breaks the wholeness of nature.” If observing disturbs, then when a scientist tampers and tries to perfect nature the result can only be disastrous. The goal of most scientists is to observe and understand the mysteries of nature. Nathaniel Hawthorne realized that the scientists of the 19th century were beginning to challenge the traditional views of science and man. The traditional view of man holds that man is both material and spiritual. Advancements in science led some scientists to begin to think that man was only
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This is evidenced when the narrator makes reference to the fact that Aylmer “had studied the wonders of the human frame, and attempted to fathom the very process by which Nature assimilates all her precious influences from earth and air,” (2). Aylmer did not want to accept the reality that there was a mystery of life that was beyond our understanding and ability to manipulate. According to the narrator, “Aylmer had long laid aside in unwilling recognition of the truth” that “our great creative Mother, while she amuses us with apparently working in the broadest sunshine, is careful to keep her own secrets,” (2). He laid aside the reality of the real spiritual world that lies beyond the grasp of man because he was unwilling to face his own limitations as a man and scientist. As he embarked on his plan to perfect Georgiana, he continued to lay aside the truth because the truth lay in “the path of his proposed scheme for the treatment of Georgiana,” (2). William E. Grant comments that Aylmer “is the archetype for all Hawthorne’s scientists, since he represents both what is best and what is worst about all of them,” (3). His goal was honorable, that is to rid Georgiana of her defect, his denial of the truth, that his abilities were in fact limited, was his downfall. It isn’t till later, that we see a glimpse that he has begun to recognize his limitations as he faces the reality of a real and powerful spiritual world.
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