In the short story, “The Birthmark” Nathaniel Hawthorne uses the characters, foreshadowing, symbolism, and other rhetorical devices to alert people of the consequences of man having the power to control and alter nature. Additionally, through his skillful usage of diction, Hawthorne warns of the effects of seeking perfection through science. In “The Birthmark”, Aylmer, a man devoted entirely to science, marries Georgiana, a beautiful young woman with a single imperfection. Georgiana’s imperfection bears the resemblance of a tiny crimson hand and is visible on her left cheek. The birthmark 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.” He succeeds in removing the birthmark; however, he unfortunately causes his wife’s death in the process. Through “The Birthmark”, Hawthorne suggests that nothing paradisiacal can exist on this earth, and that being imperfect is just part of being human.
Being a man of science, Aylmer rendered 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. Through the birthmark on Georgiana, Hawthorne is able to portray that nature didn’t intend for things to be perfect. People are not perfect because the human condition is imperfect. Aylmer’s desire to make his wife perfect is doomed to failure because perfection, Hawthorne suggests, is the exclusive province of heaven that cannot b...
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Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote the birthmark to show just what happens when someone falls into the pressures of society and yearns for something which is not attainable through human intervention; perfection. It is through this character Aylmer, that Hawthorne shows the disillusion that science is the ultimate control of nature. Through Aylmer, he shows the consequences of the human strive for perfection, and the willingness to play God to reach it. Aylmer was willing to risk Georgiana’s life in order to gain scientific knowledge and create perfection. This obsession shows how the thirst for scientific knowledge and perfection can be a dangerous and deadly course.
I could not find “The Birthmark” in the Norton Reader. There was only a downloadable excerpt in Unit 4. Due to this, I found the full text of the birthmark online. Here is the source and the link.
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