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Essay on The Birthmark by Nathaniel Hawthorne

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The Birthmark by Nathaniel Hawthorne


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.

The idea of hubris, which is a Greek word meaning excessive pride of a mortal who believes they are on the level of the gods, is very apparent in the story. In Ancient Greek myths, the gods usually punished those who acted with hubris. Aylmer, himself, believes that he is on the level of the gods. This is shown in the passage "Aylmer possessed this degree of faith in man's ultimate control over Nature" (44). Aylmer's arrogant belief that he can triumph over Nature can be found when he and Georgiana, are talking about the removal of the birthmark: " 'what will be my triumph when I shall have corrected what Nature left imperfect in her fairest work' " (47). Near the end Aylmer is so sure that he has beaten Nature that he mocks it: " 'Ah clod! ah, earthly mass' " (55). This shows Aylmer's arrogance because it shows that he believes that he is The Creator. Aylmer's delusions of grandeur are crushed at the end when Georgiana dies. He is, so to speak, struck down by the gods.

In the pursuit of scientific discovery, Hawthorne rai...


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...ssful! You are perfect' " (55). This perfectly shows that, although science can fix something, it cannot understand that it is repairing.

Will science, and the further development of technology suffice to take the place of Nature? Will it replace God in the human mind? Hawthorne leaves these questions open for the reader to ponder. Perhaps, it is the pure simplicity of life that Aminadab suggests in the story that will lead humankind to true happiness. Aylmer pursued seemingly impossible tasks that only further complicated his life, and inevitably destroyed his own spirit through the death of his wife Georgiana. "Alas! It was too true! The fatal hand had grappled with the mystery of life, and was the bond by which an angelic spirit kept itself in union with a mortal frame" (55).

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Short Story "The Birthmark" by Nathaniel Hawthorne


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