Modern Relevance of "The Birthmark"

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Modern Relevance of “The Birthmark”

“The Birthmark” is a fable created by Hawthorne that conveys his viewpoint towards the use of science to contradict the laws of nature. The fable also includes commentary on the depiction of men and women in society, along with their presumed roles. Both of these themes in my opinion are even more relevant today than when the story was written.

Hawthorne disapproves of science used as a tool to tamper with living beings, for they are not meant to be perfect. This is illustrated in Georgiana’s death after Aylmer attempts to experiment on her: “As the last crimson tint of the birthmark--that sole token of human imperfection--faded from her cheek, the parting breath of the now perfect woman passed into the atmosphere…”. The implied moral is that attempting to contradict what is originally intended is unethical and will lead to disastrous results. Hawthorne uses the character Aylmer to exemplify the people who abuse science as a means to control nature. In modern sciences, “controlling nature” has become the essence of the medical field, progressing to the extreme of cheating death. Hawthorne’s opinion is echoed in the controversies today regarding methods such as stem cell research or cloning, as common arguments point to its immorality and the eventual disaster. The story is an exaggeration that was intended to be almost humorous, although I believe Hawthorne must have had the notion that his fear would someday become commonly practiced and even encouraged.

"The Birthmark" at a glance might appear to be supporting the stereotypical gender roles of the era. Hawthorne portrays Aylmer as the pragmatic husband and leader, while Georgiana is his complement as the obedient wife. However I believe Hawthorne is using satire to imply just the opposite. Georgiana is deemed to be Aylmer’s intellectual equal; as she was able to read through his experiments and understand his successes and failures. She also understands Aylmer’s...
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