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Nathaniel Hawthorne

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The Birthmark


As a story told in the third person omniscient point of view, Nathaniel Hawthorne writes The Birthmark, a story about a beautiful young woman called Georgiana whose face comes out imprinted with a pale red birthmark that has the shape of a small hand. The story also tells of her husband known as Aylmer, a scientist that has a high degree of belief in the fact that man has full control over nature.

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Aylmer the main character in the story happens to be a scientist and alchemist who believes in his power over nature. The birthmark leaves the reader asking many questions the same way Hawthorne writes his other stories. At first, Georgiana seems a happy woman married to a man that she thought of as a great man until the day that Aylmer reveals to her that the mark on her cheek could be removed. This becomes the starting point of her and her husband’s obsession with removing one imperfection that Georgiana had. Georgiana had thought of her mark as a kind of charm that men found it enchanting and sexually attractive. Aylmer considered the mark on the face of Georgiana as an imperfection and the fact that he considers himself powerful over nature, he wants to remove the mark from her face.
Nathaniel Hawthorne set the story back in the late 1700s. He places Aylmer, the protagonist in the late seventeenth century. The story happens partly at the house of Aylmer and his laboratory.
Aylmer becomes fixated on the perfection of his wife that makes him believe that for them to have perfect love his wife should have perfection. His obsession makes Georgiana obsessed with removing the mark to the point where she tells him to remove the mark or take her wretched life. Aylmer tries to remove the mark severally but fails. This makes him develop a perfect elixir that will cure her and make her perfect.
Aylmer loved his work and always wanted to prove that he has power over nature, and could control anything that came his way. He loved science more than he loved a human being. This comes out clearly when Georgiana says, “You have deep science. The entire world bears witness of it.” This forms one of the reasons that make him seek perfection out of his wife. This clearly comes out when Georgiana reads out his edger described as sad confession of shortcomings of a composite man. Aylmer had faced inadequacies and imperfections that made him seek perfection in his wife because of his low view about himself.
The climax of the story comes when Aylmer administers the elixir and to his delight, the mark in the face of Georgiana starts to fade away. Georgiana achieved perfection in the eyes of Aylmer, as she had wanted for a long time. Aylmer also accomplishes his mission to remove the mark from the face of his wife. The only problem that occurs is the fact that the hand on Georgiana`s face starts to fade away during her dying moments.

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Georgiana loved her husband and could do anything for him. This makes her accept the mark to be removed from her face even though she did not like the idea. This comes out clearly, when Georgiana says,
“If there be the remotest possibility of it, let the attempt be made at whatever risk. Danger is nothing to me; for life, while this hateful mark makes me the object of your horror and disgust,–life is a burden which I would fling down with joy. Either remove this dreadful hand, or take my wretched life!”
The birthmark touches on themes on the idea that human beings can possess a supernatural power to undo imperfection and make something as perfect as they would want it to be. For example, Aylmer does not have belief in God or the natural laws he created for the earth. This makes him seek his own scientific skill to make his wife perfect by removing the mark in her face. God created man as a part of nature. Man does not come above nature. Rather man is integrated with nature. However, Aylmer does not think it that way. He believes that man overrules nature and can do whatsoever he pleases with nature, to make it the way he wants it to be. Even with his inadequacies and imperfections, Aylmer still believes that he has power over everything that exists around him.
Nathaniel Hawthorne writes the birthmark to target people who think that they have control over everything and can change anything to their desired perfection. It touches on philosophical and ethical issues valid to the time that Hawthorne wrote the story and the present time. Hawthorne writes the story to make the audience think about perfection and its desirability.
As Aylmer realizes his wish of perfection his wife meets death. This makes the audience realize that if man oversteps his boundary death comes as a result. In another way, Hawthorne wants the audience to realize that man cannot have absolute control over nature, and that man has imperfection that only God can perfect.


The birthmark by Nathaniel Hawthorne captures a reality of the world, as it exists through the actions of Aylmer, the main character, and his wife. Hawthorne succeeds in telling the audience that man cannot have absolute control over nature and has to coexist with nature. He creates an instance that shows the effects that could come out when man seeks perfection over everything.

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