The Birthmark by Nathaniel Hawthorne


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The Birthmark by Nathaniel Hawthorne



Women's roles during the time of Nathaniel Hawthorne's writings were that of the submissive housewife. The male dominated society made all women feel inferior and oppressed. They were told to believe that the male, their husband was the ruler of the house. What he said went and a proper lady would obey his orders and do every thing possible to make his wishes come true. The role of Georgiana in The Birthmark takes on one of the traditional subservient woman of the time.
It is obvious by Hawthorne's descriptions that Georgiana is a beautiful woman. Any man would be glad to have her. Many fought for her attention before she selected Alymer. It is hard to say why she chooses him but whatever the reason he is the lucky suitor that wins her charms. Instead of feeling lucky and loving Georgiana as she is, Alymar finds some imperfection in her. This reflects mans desire to have the perfect woman to fit the role of the perfect companion. The tiny birthmark, which Georgiana possessed on her cheek, was considered a flaw by Alymer and caused him to shudder when he looked upon it. Other suitors said the birthmark was proof that a "fairy at her birth hour had laid her tiny hand upon the infant's cheek", since the mark looked like a tiny hand. All of Alymer's focus is put on how the mark makes Georgiana less then perfect. So much is his concentration put on how the birthmark looks appalling that Georgiana feels as if she can never be the complete woman for him.
Georgiana understandably feels bad about her appearance since her own husband can not stand to look upon her with out shaking. After Aylmer calls out during a dream that is obviously about Georgiana's mark, she asks him if there is any way that he can remove it. As Alymer talks to her about it he seems very excited that she is willing to go forward with removing the birthmark. He happily makes plans to get his procedure under way. Once Georgiana gets to the lab Aylmer tells her that there is a risk associated with the operation. She is so desperate to win her husbands approval that she dispels the risk as nothing compared to her husband's attitude of her.

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Once Georgiana drinks the liquid that will rid her of her birthmark she falls into a deep sleep. The birthmark recedes and Alymer yells excitedly waking Georgiana. Only instead of her being happy that the mark is gone she seems to be weak and can hardly talk. When she does talk however, it is to tell Alymer that she is dying. She mutters a few short words and then passes away.
Georgiana's death was caused by her need to satisfy her husband's image of her. She felt so obligated to please him that she gave no thought of the consequences to her. Figuring that once her birthmark was removed Alymer would be satisfied gave her the desire to continue with the operation. It is questionable however if Alymer would have ever been satisfied even if Georgiana had lived through her operation. While trying her best to appease her husband and be the perfect model of a woman Georgiana ended up putting her self last.


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