The Birthmark

The Birthmark

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Every relationship is different. Weather one may be in a relationship with a boy, or just a friend, it is different. Even though they are different, the characters in “The Birthmark” by Nathaniel Hawthorne and “IND AFF” by Fay Weldon are in similar relationships. That is, the male is dominant over the female, and the woman thinks the man is her knight in shining armor. In the beginning of “IND AFF” the unnamed woman thinks her professor, Peter, who she is having an affair with, is her ticket to creating a good thesis and higher standings. Similarly, in “The Birthmark,” Georgiana thinks her husband is her ticket to flawless beauty because he tells her he will remove her birthmark. Obviously, this is not how relationships operate in today’s society. These two relationships compare and contrast with each other as well as with relationships in today’s day-and-age.
“IND AFF” takes place in Sarajevo, which is where Princip assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife. This is a key aspect to the story because Peter is superb in history and thinks that he knows everything there is to know about history. Likewise, “The Birthmark” takes place in a laboratory. This is where the Georgiana’s husband, Aylmer, spends most of his spare time. Aylmer thinks he either knows or will be able to discover everything this is to know about science. So, in each story, the man takes the woman to somewhere he knows more about (and is therefore seen as superior) than she does. In both stories, the man is seen as intelligent. In “IND AFF” Peter says he is a professor of classical history and has a “first-class mind” (Weldon page 202). In “The Birthmark” Aylmer is referred to as “a man of science” (Hawthorne page 416) and a “genius” (Hawthorne page 423).
Like the men, the women have similarities and differences. For example, in the beginning of both stories, the women seem confident in themselves. Then, the men tell them otherwise. In “IND AFF,” Peter tells the woman she does not have a first-class mind (Weldon 202). In, “The Birthmark” Georgiana is accepting of her birthmark and in fact comes to think of it as a touch from an angel (Hawthorne page 417). Then, her husband tells her birthmark is nature’s slightest possible defect (Hawthorne page 417).

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It is not until the men point out these women’s flaws (which are not actual flaws) that they begin to second guess themselves. In this way, it gives the men a sense of superiority, and makes the women feel like they need the men to counteract or fix their flaws.
Of course, even with similarities, the relationships have differences. For example, Peter and the woman in “IND AFF” are not married. They are having an affair. Also, it seems to me that the woman in “IND AFF” is using Peter and Georgiana in “The Birthmark” genuinely loves her husband. I think this because Peter is supervising the woman’s thesis “on varying concepts of morality and duty” (Weldon page 202). Then, on page 204, Weldon has the woman compare Peter with her sister’s husband. Weldon writes about Peter being “six foot and grizzled and muscled…dark-eyed, intelligent” and her sister’s husband, a Harvard Professor, is intelligent but not attractive. In this way, the woman is using Peter so she can feel as if she has something better than her sister. The woman uses Peter for her own personal gain. Georgiana, however, does not use Aylmer for personal gain. In fact, she only decides to get the birthmark removed to please Aylmer. Georgiana says to him “this hateful mark makes me the object of your horror and disgust” (Hawthorne page 419).
Both men use the women. Peter uses his mistress to have someone to “shack- up” with (Weldon page 202). She also helps him feel smart. Aylmer uses Georgiana as a tool of science. Aylmer tells her “Georgiana, you have led me deeper than ever into the heart of science” (Hawthorne page 419). This means he has been thinking about her as a “guinea pig,” and he has been planning his experiment for quite some time.
Both Weldon and Hawthorne write stories which give women lack of power in relationships. In fact, Hawthorne has Aylmer tell his wife “doubt not my power” (Hawthorne, 419). Today, these relationships are not considered “normal” this could possibly be because they were not written to be up-to-date stories. Weldon wrote “IND AFF” in 1988. Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote “The Birthmark” in 1843. In today’s society, men have less “power” than Hawthorne and Weldon allow these men to have. For example, if a man sees a flaw in woman and then proceeds to tell her, the woman would most likely leave him or tell him to deal with it. In this way, “IND AFF” is more realistic to today’s readers because the woman eventually leaves Peter.
Both stories demonstrate relationships that the man has control over the woman. In the end, both men lose their woman. In Weldon’s story, the woman realizes her relationship with Peter is unhealthy and that she would be happier without him. She then leaves him (Weldon 206). In Hawthorne’s story, the Aylmer becomes so consumed in his power of removing Georgiana’s birthmark that it takes away her life (Hawthorne 427).

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