“The Birthmark” by Nathaniel Hawthorn Essay
“The Birthmark” by Nathaniel Hawthorn
Essay Thesis: This essay is generally about how the author of the short story, Hawthorne, wants to show the world that perfection is not beauty and that science should not alter the way that nature set man on this world to be. He was a major asset to the transcendental movement, and this short story is a perfect example why.
In Nathaniel Hawthorne’sThe Birthmark, the main character, Aylmer, wants to have a perfect wife. His wife, Georgiana, is a very beautiful woman with just one flaw, the Birthmark on her face. As a scientist, Aylmer tries to create an elixir that will rid Georgiana of her birthmark, thus making her perfect. According to Hawthorne, however, this is not possible.
During the transcendental phase of American life, which included literature from Hawthorne, transcendental writers would promote Nature and its importance. In The Birthmark, Nathaniel Hawthorne tries to show the people that nature does not make anything flawless, and that this is the beauty of it. “Nature, in one shape or another, stamps ineffaceably on all her productions.” (Hawthorne) Nathaniel Hawthorne tries to pass a message to the world that science should not interfere with nature’s way of having people live. Hawthorne portrays Aylmer as being stupid for trying to create formulas that would extend life. “Aylmer appeared to believe that, by the plainest scientific logic, it was altogether within the limits of possibility to discover this long-sought medium.” (Hawthorne)
Unlike Aylmer, Georgiana is signified as an image of both physical and intellectual beauty. Hawthorne shows physical beauty in her by showing her beautiful attributes, while adding that flaws can make somebody even more perfect, as this shows nature’s effect on this person. Hawthorne also shows a great amount of faith and transcendentalism in Georgiana. He does this by showing Georgiana to love the mistakes and flaws of her husband, as she looks through all of the failures in Aylmer’s scientific books.
It seems as though Hawthorne almost wants to make Georgiana the protagonist, as he wants readers to take attributes from her and let her set good examples, while Aylmer is the bad one. Hawthorne does this well by showing in the end that man who wants perfection will kill nature once he brings science to try to alter it.
Aylmer’s pursuit to happiness leads nature and her beauty to die. Aylmer, the selfish enemy, knows the risks of having Georgiana drink the elixir, yet, nonetheless, he has her drink it because he finds flawlessness to be more important. The beautiful Georgiana is further portrayed as the perfect being of nature, adding on to her flaws, because she is dominated by the love for her husband, and even risks giving up her own life (and loses it) just to make him happy.
Aminadab, Aylmer’s servant, is another example of a good being that Hawthorne puts into the short story. According to Hawthorne, Aminadab is earthly, and represents man who understands physical and mental nature. Throughout the story, Aminadab says just one thing; “If she were my wife, I’d never part with that birthmark.” (Hawthorne) This shows that he would rather behold the beauty of nature’s work, than attempt to modify it in any way, unlike the evil Aylmer.
Aylmer is blind and will stay this way for the rest of his life. He will never realize that nature places imperfections for a purpose, and as long as he lives, he will continue to try to improve nature and prolong the life it has given its people. He will completely miss the fact that the reason Georgiana died was not because he had the wrong formula, but it is because nature can not have anything that is faultless.