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James’s “Daisy Miller” vs. Hawthorne’s “Birth Mark” Essay

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Updated: May 6th, 2021

For any literary book that undergoes an analysis, the emphasis is often placed on the plot structure, themes, role of characters, characterization, and the stylistic devices used. Basing on the “Birth Mark” by Hawthorne, the plot is structured in a manner that the events flow in a systematic manner making the reader easily understand the story. It is a romantic story that talks about a man who is a scientist and is known as Aylmer and is married to a beautiful woman, Georgina. These two people love each other though Aylmer is obsessed with a birthmark that is on Georgina’s cheek and goes to an extent of asking her to allow him to erase it.

According to Aylmer, the birthmark is a sign of imperfection and immortality thus removing it would mean recreating Georgina and she would be more beautiful. The wife later accepts to undergo the process of removing the birthmark. This takes sometime where the husband with the help of a laboratory assistant, Aminadab, helps him in erasing the mark from Georgina’s face. For the laboratory assistant, he remarks that if Georgina was his wife he would never remove the birthmark on her left cheek. The mark resembled a hand and one day Aylmer had dreamt of having removed it. When later Aylmer gives Georgina the concoction he had prepared, she goes to a deep sleep then afterward when she wakes up she bids Aylmer goodbye and closes her eyes (Hawthorne 27).

The theme of this story is a conflict that exists between science and nature. Aylmer, a scientist and a human being at the same time develop an urge to experiment on his wife due to the fact he wants to find out the result of such a deed. This urge is built up because his profession is based on carrying out experiments. One thing that he fails to understand is that his wife is a human being and no human is perfect. For him, the obsession grows day by day and believes that resorting to science would remove the birthmark and make his wife more beautiful. He believes that with this power of science, he can alter the appearance of his wife. Thus, Aylmer is caught in between the love for his wife and the love for his career that is science-based. Being caught in such a dilemma, Aylmer decides to embrace both not knowing the science he thinks to be flawless is the most dangerous, and in the process of trying to perfect his wife’s beauty he ends up taking away her innocent life. Another theme that is evident in the story is the obsession for human perfection. Both Aylmer and Georgina fall victims to this dangerous disease where, for Aylmer, he tries to alter the appearance of his wife to make her more beautiful. Georgina on the other hand, in an attempt to please her husband, accepts to go through the experiment just to perfect her to be as the husband had always wanted.

In the analysis of characterization, Aylmer is seen as a monomaniac individual whose obsession is firmly tied to the imperfection of his wife. This leads to a tragic ending that poses the question of whether it was Aylmer who caused Georgina’s death or was it just an accident? He is also viewed as a failed humanitarian because what he does is against human standards in the sense that a human being should remain the way God created him/her and not try to recreate someone. Aylmer is also a scientist who loves his career with a passion and because of this he ends experimenting on his wife to satisfy his career desires. He is a model author when he reads “a fairy manual” of the birthmark and desires to write an even better manual. For Georgina, she is an innocent woman who falls victim to a love tragedy due to her love for her husband. She believes by accepting her husband to perform experiments on her would make him happy thus compromises her life for her husband’s desires.

In terms of the stylistic devices used in the story, there is heavy use of symbolism in that starting from the title itself; the birthmark represents a variety of things in the story. According to Aylmer, it represented imperfection and mortality. Seeing the mark on Georgina’s left cheek meant that she was full of flaws and Aylmer strives to achieve perfection and immortality. This teaches us a lesson that no man can perfect anything because Aylmer’s deeds led to his wife’s death. Georgina is also a victim of perfection because she accepts to go through experiments in an attempt to be perfect for her husband. Another meaning of the birthmark is that it was representing God’s hand since it looked like a hand, thus, being there, was not due to a mistake or rather an accident, but it was purposely placed there to symbolize God’s presence in her. This was indeed a spiritual mark. Another representation of the mark is that it symbolized life and death. That is why when Georgina dies; the last words she utters are that the mark was her life.

About the story about “Daisy Miller “by James, the events that occur in this story are similar to those that happen in “The Birth Mark” since first and foremost it is a love story with the dominant theme as conflict we encounter two individuals though from the same culture they still differ in their opinions concerning life. Winterbourne, an American who has lived in Europe falls in love with an American lady while in Switzerland where he had first met her. The American lady is open-minded and this makes Winterbourne have second thoughts about her, but he does not fall back when he accepts to go to Rome and visit her. Her attitude scared him especially when she talked about many American men who had tried to pursue her. What makes Winterbourne love her nevertheless is her outstanding beauty. When Winterbourne is in Rome he realizes that Daisy is going out with an Italian man and his attempts to stop her from dating the man fail even after being helped out by Mrs. Walker (James, Kristin and Morgan 107). This relationship between Daisy and the young Italian man referred to as Giovannelli is questionable because of the behavior they portray while together. While taking a walk through the coliseum, Winterbourne notices a couple sited and due to anger scolds Giovannelli for taking Daisy to a place where she was prone to catch the “Roman fever” Daisy enters into an argument with Winterbourne where she tells him she does not care. Thereafter, she falls sick and dies. In the book “Billy Budd” by Melville Herman, we also encounter an individual who ends up dying due to the surrounding circumstances (Melville 45).

The plot in tragic stories as the ones above always seems to build around love which in an attempt to maintain or rather please another individual, one of the individuals may fall a victim to compromise thus leading to a tragic ending. Thus, the flow of events is usually in a manner that the reader can easily comprehend what goes on among the individuals involved. The flow of the event follows a simple and direct pattern that anyone reading it understands very fast and it is suitable for any audience because of the lesson learned from it. The characters relate in a manner that brings out the subject matter of the story. The main character(s) is built around other characters referred to as the minor characters and they too assist in the development of the plot as a whole.

Thus, the events in a tragic story are based on what specifically the main characters do, but to achieve this, the involvement of other minor characters is very important. Therefore, looking at the ideas brought out in the above stories it is evident that tragic stories mostly involve conflicts as their dominant theme. We see characters going through some traumatizing situation that affects them psychologically. This situation is facilitated by the individual’s deeds (Dreiser 29). When a character cannot be on good terms with his/her partner through the listening aspect and having the same line of thought then it means that the characters will always have disagreements. In most cases, one of the characters has to comprise his/her likes to please the partner. By the time the other partner realizes that it was all a fault to engage in a certain act, it is usually very late thus saving the situation is usually impossible.

These characters also have a similarity in terms of their character traits. This is how they interact with other people in the story and such behavior describes them. Most of the characters, basically the main characters in a story have different character traits, that is one might be loyal while the other might be disloyal causing conflicts between themselves Thus for a tragic story, such kinds of characters are bound to be experienced. The characters are also looked at in terms of the roles they play in the story. The roles simply refer to what they do about the subject matter of the story, Different character has different roles and this determined by the fact that is one a main or minor character.

The main characters are the one who builds the theme of the story thus their roles are always significant and for the minor characters how they react to what the main character(s) performs in the plot is what defines their roles. The stylistic devices used are mainly symbolic thus going to an extent of employing allegory. Most of the things mentioned in the stories are often representing something else. Apart from the use of symbolism, we also have the use of vivid descriptions which clearly describe the character’s mind. The use of metaphors and similes is used to make a comparison between what a character goes through and another similar thing indirectly and directly. Therefore, when analyzing a literary text it is essential to notice the styles employed to easily understand what the author is trying to portray. This supports the fact that the use of a variety of stylistic devices makes the plot interesting to read as one comprehends the events of this story.

Works Cited

Dreiser, Theodore. An American Tragedy. New York: Rosetta Books, 2002. Print.

Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Birthmark. New York: Perfection Learning Corporation, 2007. Print.

James, Henry, Kristin Boudreau and Morgan, Megan. Daisy Miller. New York: Broadview Press. Print.

Melville, Herman. (2008). Billy Budd: By Herman Melville. New York: Mobile Reference, 2008. Print.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "James's "Daisy Miller" vs. Hawthorne's "Birth Mark"." May 6, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/jamess-daisy-miller-vs-hawthornes-birth-mark/.


IvyPanda. (2021) 'James's "Daisy Miller" vs. Hawthorne's "Birth Mark"'. 6 May.

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