romantic short story entitled "
The Birth-Mark," was written by Nathaniel
to examine our obsession with human perfection. It was first
published in the March, 1843 edition of The Pioneer. It later
appeared in Mosses from an Old Manse, a collection of short stories
by Hawthorne published in 1846.
many of Hawthorne tales wrote during his time living in The Old
Manse, "The Birth-Mark" discusses the psychological
impact in sexual relationships. “The Birth Mark” was
written shortly after Hawthorne married Sophia Peabody, the story
emphasizes the husband''''s sexual guilt disguised as superficial
cosmetology. Some critics contend that the theme of the story is that
human perfection can only be achieved in death and therefore not
reachable at all, in that the trademark foreshadowing occurred during
Aylmer''''s dream, in which he can not cut deep enough to remove the
birth-mark seems to become more of a protagonist than any of the
human characters in this masterful work of Hawthorne''''s. I say this
using Walt Disney''''s definition of what makes a character. Walt says
in a 1965 interview with the New York times, “a character is any
object living of other wise which the writer give dimension too. It
is used to tell the story and help the reader get drawn it to the
world which the writer has created for the story.
Hawthorne may have been critiquing
the epic of reform in which he was living and specifically calling
attempts at reform ineffective and the reformers as dangerous. Other
critics read the story as a critique of 19th century positivistic
science (positivism) situating the woman as nature and representing
science as attempting to penetrate her/its secrets while ultimately
destroying the object of its research. Still others see it as a
defense of vitalism as against materialism -- that one cannot find
the essence or soul in mute bodily matter. This last opinion is
shared by myself as well.
However, Nathaniel Hawthorne''''s
work is a perfect example of how John Calvin''''s teaching have effected
the way we as Americans think and go about our everyday lives.
Hawthorne himself was effected by the rapidly changing world around
him his strongly Puritan upbringing all ways showed up in his written
Georgiana, the beautiful woman in
the story has a single hand-shaped birthmark on her cheek. Men are
invariably attracted to Georgiana, and many find the birthmark
attractive. However, her husband Aylmer, a scientist, begins to
detest the birthmark more intensely with each passing day.
Hawthorne''''s puritan world starts to shine through with Aylmer''''s need
for perfection, even at a superficial level.
Eventually Georgiana comes to
share his obsession, mostly because she sees how much its presence
grates upon her husband, and the couple decides to try to remove the
birthmark. Aylmer takes Georgiana to his laboratory, where he is
assisted by his assistant Aminadab. Aminadab helps with the
operation, although he mutters to himself that if Georgiana were his
wife, he would not want the birthmark removed. Aylmer takes several
days to perform tests on Georgiana and analyze her "condition",
but only prepares one liquid for her consumption. Once she drinks
this, the birthmark which is referred to as “the bond that ties
together her heavenly spirit with her near-perfect body”, fades.
Aylmer achieves his one moment of perfection before she dies, which
Hawthorne had alluded to by centering Georgiana''''s thoughts about how
Aylmer could only have one moment of perfection, because in the next
moment he would already be striving for "something that was
beyond the scope of the instant" (Hawthorne).
Hawthorne is a wellspring of evidence, when trying show how much of
an effect John Calvin has on the way Americans think even to day.