The Birthmark Term Paper

This essay has a total of 1080 words and 7 pages.

The Birthmark

 A Story of Love and Science








Derek Schroeder









Accelerated English 11
Miss Burns
May 3, 1999
A Story of Love and Science
Nathaniel Hawthorne is a nineteenth century American
Novelist whose works are deeply concerned with the ethical
problems of sin, punishment, and atonement (Adams 168). The New
England writer also handles the romantic theme very well and is a
master of historical fiction. Hawthorne was a descendant of one
of the judges at the Salem witch trials, and he set many of his
works in Puritan New England and during early crises in American
history (Encarta).
"The Birthmark," like many of Hawthorne's stories deals with
the relationship between men and women. It is a love story where
the quest for perfection leads to a tragic end. The protagonist,
a scientist named Aylmer, attempts to attain perfection for his
new wife Georgiana, by removing a birthmark resembling a small
hand from her left cheek. Written in 1843, it was Hawthorne's
first work of fiction right after he married his wife, Sophia
(Encarta). This adds depth to the story in a way that Hawthorne
can relate to it in a more direct manner. It was written during
the Old Manse period in Hawthorne's life (July 1842 to October
1845) when he was becoming interested in the place in society of
the artist. In "The Birthmark" Hawthorne finishes by giving
credit to the flaws and imperfections of human nature.
The story shows Hawthorne's opinion that some things that
were created by God cannot be changed. This can be seen from an
article in the American Magazine of Useful and Entertaining
Knowledge in 1836 where he stated "the Creator has absolutely
debarred mankind from all inventions and discoveries, the results
of which would counter act the general laws, that He has
established over human affairs," (Adams 169).
In "The Birthmark," Hawthorne uses the obsession of the
scientist Aylmer who wishes to combine the love he has for
science with the love for his wife. Aylmer sees the birthmark on
his wife's cheek of an imperfection and a symbol of man's
mortality. Aylmer is described in terms of high praise, praise
for his aspiration toward the infinite, for his pure and
honorable love that will accept nothing less than perfection
(Jones 193). Aylmer's effort in removing the birthmark reflects
his vain attempt at attaining perfection.
In the story, the protagonist, Aylmer is married to
Georgiana, a woman of almost perfect beauty. Her only defect is
a birthmark, shaped like a tiny reddish hand, on her cheek.
Aylmer is obsessed with this imperfection and longs to get rid of
it. He would sooner have Georgiana dead than impure (Jones 194).
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