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Aylmer's Struggle for Perfection in Nathaniel Hawthome's, The Birthmark

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Aylmer's Struggle for Perfection in Nathaniel Hawthome's, The Birthmark


Aylmer's struggle for scientific perfection transcends human possibility in Nathaniel Hawthome's "The Birthmark." He attempts to perfect that which nature rendered imperfect. When the quest for human achievement opposes divine design it has no chance of succeeding. This key element in Aylmer's twisted love leads to the demise of what he seeks so desperately to perfect, his beautiful wife. Georgianna's "fatal flaw of humanity" (Hawthorne 167), the birthmark, blocks her from perfection in his eyes, and thus blemishes Aylmer's prideful ideals. Her alleged inferiority to science leads to her death and Aylmer's complete failure as both a scientist and a spouse.

From the beginning of "The Birthmark, " Hawthorne describes Aylmer as a man with some degree of physical finery that alludes to perfection "... cleared his fine countenance ... " (164). He is described as a man with a passionate and ardent interest in science; in fact, he devotes almost his entire life in this pursuit. "He had devoted himself... too unreservedly to scientific studies ever to be weaned from them..." (165). This scientific background shows that Aylmer's love for Georgianna is his "second passion" (165). Georgianna comes second in his pursuit of happiness whereas science could be called his first love. He becomes obsessed with the idea of changing his beloved to suit his fancy.

Georgianna possesses a mark upon her cheek, hardly a cause for concern to the average human. The mark is "deeply interwoven ... with the texture and substance of her face" (165). The minuscule mark is crimson and in the peculiar shape of a tiny hand. It changes with Georgianna's moods. When she is rosy che...


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...horne Question. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1963.

Brooks, Cleanth and Robert Penn Warren. "Interpretation of the Birthmark." Donohue 185-188.

Fogle, Richard Harter. Hawthorne's Fiction: The Light and the Dark. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1964.

Heileman, P, B. "Hawthorne's The Birthmark: Science as Religion." Donohue 180-195.

Rucker, Mary E. "Science and Art in Hawthorne's 'The Birthmark', " Nineteenth Century Literature 41 (1987)- 445-61.

Wagoner, Hyatt H. Hawthorne: A Critical Study. Cambridge: Belknap Press, 1963.

Weinstein, Cindy. "The Invisible Hand Made Visible: 'The Birthmark'." Nineteenth Century Literature.. 48 (1993), 44- 73.

Zanger, Jules. " Speaking of the Unspeakable: Hawthorne's 'The Birthmark'. "Modern Philology: A Journal Devoted to Research Medieval and Modem Literature. 80 (1983): 364- 371.


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