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Nathaniel Hawthorne: Human Perfection in “The Birth-Mark” Essay (Review)

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Updated: Jun 11th, 2022

Introduction

Hawthorne’s short story, “The Birthmark” is a story that gives an indication of the fact that the attempts that are carried out by the scientists to perfect nature may bring destruction to life itself which is interlinked in an inextricable manner with the imperfections it has. One of the major characters in the story, Aylmer, is the scientist who has intentions of controlling nature and does not accept the world dominated with imperfection and sticks on the idea of removing the birthmark on his wife, Georgina, as a way of demonstrating how superior he is over nature. Science can not bring about perfection on earth and the imperfection that exists on earth can not be subjected to human control.

Imperfections in “The Birthmark”

The birthmark stands for the imperfection that man is born with. This may, in the actual sense, be related to the initial sin committed by man. This is “the visible mark of earthly imperfection, the fatal flaw of humanity, and is the symbol of his wife’s liability to sin, sorrow, decay, and death” (Hawthorne 180). In summary, it is the vital humanity of Aylmer’s wife that is vulnerable to imperfection.

Aylmer, the scientist, is not able to acknowledge life’s imperfections. This person insists on flawless perfection. He had strong hopes of being able to bring about life and therefore had aspirations of being God; “he attempted to fathom the very process by which nature assimilates all her precious influences from earth and air, and the spiritual world, to create and foster man” (Hawthorne 180). According to Various (224), the love of Aylmer in marriage could just be interlinking with the love he had for science and the love he had for perfection causes him to be preoccupied with what is referred to as “the spectral hand that wrote mortality” (Hawthorne 178) on the face of Georgina, his wife.

The faith of Aylmer is rooted in science and this is his religion. He has a belief in the imperfection that exists in man and he believes that the imperfection can be subjected to control by a human being. He believes deep inside him that the imperfection that is in a human being can be done away with by humans and not by godly involvement (Johnson, 162). He has aspirations to create perfection on this planet, something that can only be attained in heaven. At the end, the aspiration he has is interlinked with presumptuousness he had to power in an inextricable manner. The last words that come from Georgina, his wife, to him alerts him not to engage in repenting that he has not accepted the best that could be offered by this planet (Atkinson, 15). The most excellent the world has to give can not at any time be to the perfection degree as the scientist might be ready to see for the reason that lack of perfection is knotted with humankind and by the scientist (Aylmer) seeking to be a super natural being or God and trying to find perfection of the outer space brought destruction on the worldly love he had that has the power to give direction to perfection that is of a higher level (Cutajar Para 5).

Conclusion

In this story, the best of the world has turned out to prove that it is not adequate. Aylmer does not have faith in the eternal as well as spirituality and therefore he looked for ways to bring about a heaven on this earth. In order to rise above the imperfection that is found in humanity, a person has to quit from this earth. Aylmer is not in a position to bring about living perfection and therefore the presently perfect Georgina must leave this earth that is imperfect.

Works Cited

Atkinson, William, The Short Story. New York: BiblioBazaar, LLC, 2009.

Cutajar, Maureen, Science and Faith in The Birthmark by Nathaniel Hawthorne. 2010.

Hawthorne, Nathaniel, Young Goodman Brown and Other Tales, edited by Brian Harding, Oxford University Press: Oxford, 1998.

Johnson, Rossiter, Stories of Mystery. New York: BiblioBazaar, LLC, 2008.

Various, The Riverside Literature series – short stories. New York: Read Books, 2009.

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