Essay about Hawt: Nathaniel Hawthorne and Birth Mark

Submitted By tdlei3866
Words: 1636
Pages: 7

In Nathaniel Hawthorne's allegorical short story, "The Birth-Mark," we read about the desire of Aylmer, a "man of science", to remove a hand shaped birth mark from the cheek of his wife Georgiana (256). It is a highly symbolic story intending to tell a cautionary tale about man's quest for perfection and the disastrous outcomes resulting from these attempts. Although there are numerous uses of symbolism in the story, the most important and predominate of these symbols is the one from which the story itself derives its name, the birth mark, which was placed "in the centre of Georgiana's left cheek." This mark as seen by Aylmer as the one flaw on an otherwise perfect being and it is because of this that Hawthorne uses this "crimson" mark as a representation of the mortality and imperfections of the human form. In understanding the importance of the birth-mark symbol, we must recognize the significance of the character Aylmer in the story. Aylmer is described as a "man of science - an eminent proficient in every branch of natural philosphy" and he is used to symbolize mans obssesion with his quest for scientific domination over all things. It is because of this scientific passion that Aylmer's disgust regarding the mark develops his obsession in removing it from Georgiana's face. This idea is better explained by Piper, in Misfits and Marble Fauns, when she describes the birth mark "signifying as it does for Aylmer 'the fatal flaw of [her] humanity', becomes, after their marriage, the sign of his own limitation and an obstacle to his personal ambition" (34). This attitude is illustrated when Alymer comments to Georgiana that she "came so nearly perfect from the hand of nature, that this slightest possible defect...shocks [him], as being the visible mark of earthly imperfection (257)." If Aylmer represents mans drive for dominance, then Georgiana and her birth mark represent human mortality and all the imperfections that accompany it, which are the very things that men like Aylmer are trying to dispose of. Hawthorne's implications that the birth mark demonstrates the idea of human morality and its inherent flaws are very obvious throughout the text. Hawthorne very clearly states early on in the story that the mark is seen by some of her admirers as "magical endowments" given to Georgiana by fairies however Aylmer sees this as the 'fatal flaw of humanity, which Nature, in one shape or another, stamps ineffacably on all her productions, either to imply that they are temporary and finite, or that their perfection must be wrought by toil and pain (258)." In viewing the idea of the birth mark from Aylmers perspective, we begin to understand how the symbol infers that all things of "earthly mould" are flawed in one shape or another; that there is no perfect thing that exists in the earthly realm. From this understanding, the realization of our own human mortality and the fact that death is unavoidable becomes distinctly apparent and is reinforced by Hawthorne when he declares "The Crimson Hand expressed the ineludible gripe, in which mortality clutches the highest and purest of earthly mould, degrading them into kindred with the lowest, and even with the very brutes, like whom their visible frames return to dust (258)." By being able to remove the birth mark from Georgiana's cheek, Alymer believes he will be able to save her from death. Aylmers aim to remove the birth mark from Georgiana's cheek is not just an attempt to save her from the mortal fate of dying, but is also an attempt to cure her of her flaws. To Alymer, the birthmark represents more than just a symbol of the mortality of man. It also represents to him the innate flaws and imperfections that are attributed to human nature, which is why Aylmer views the birth mark "as the symbol of of his wife's liability to sin, sorrow, decay, and death". For Alymer to be able to achieve the removal of Georgiana's flaws will signify the he will have also have been able to