The Birthmark By Nathaniel Hawthorne Essay examples

The Birthmark By Nathaniel Hawthorne Essay examples

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In the short story, “The Birthmark”, Nathaniel Hawthorne tells the story of Aylmer, a man devoted entirely to science, who marries Georgiana, a beautiful young woman with a single imperfection. Georgiana’s imperfection is merely a birthmark on her cheek that bears the resemblance of a tiny crimson hand. Still, this mark becomes the object of Aylmer’s obsession, and he resolves to use his scientific prowess to correct “what Nature left imperfect in her fairest work.” Aylmer succeeds in removing the birthmark; however, he unfortunately causes his wife’s death in the process. Through his skillful use of diction, foreshadowing, symbolism, irony, paradox, allusion, and antithesis, Hawthorne warns of the consequences of man having the desire and power to control and alter nature, and suggests that nothing paradisiacal can exist on this earth; that being imperfect is just part of being human.
Clearly obsessed with perfection, Aylmer perceived Georgiana 's birthmark "as a symbol of his wife 's liability to sin, sorrow, decay, and death." Aylmer mistakenly believed that the birthmark represented Georgiana’s moral decrepitude and spiritual flaws. But, in reality, the birthmark represents mortality. One of the major themes in "The Birthmark" is man’s obsession with perfection. By utilizing the birthmark symbolically, Hawthorne is able to portray nature as not intending for things to be perfect, at least not in man’s eye. People are not perfect because the human condition is to have variety; not infinite sameness. According to the narrator, every living thing is flawed in some way, which is nature’s way of reminding us that every living thing eventually dies. The beauty mark on Georgiana’s cheek merely marks her as being mortal. Aylmer’s revu...


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Hawthorne’s effective use of diction and rhetorical devices help portray the effects of man attempting to alter nature and striving to achieve one’s worldly interpretation of perfection. It is through the character Aylmer, that Hawthorne shows the disillusion that science is the ultimate control of nature. Through Aylmer, he shows the consequences of striving for perfection, and playing God to reach it. Aylmer was willing to risk Georgiana’s life in order to gain scientific knowledge and create perfection. This obsession shows that the thirst for scientific knowledge and perfection can be a hazardous elixir. Aylmer’s attempt to make his wife flawless was destined to fail, because perfection is, as Hawthorne suggests, exclusive to Heaven. When Georgiana becomes a perfect being, she is no longer able to exist on earth, so she passes from this world into the Heavens.

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