“You Have Rejected the Best Earth Could Offer: ” …and It Was Worth It

Topics: Nathaniel Hawthorne, Aesthetics, Beauty Pages: 5 (1756 words) Published: December 15, 2012
9 August 2012
“You have rejected the best earth could offer:” …and it was worth it The short stories “The Birth-mark” and “The Artist of the Beautiful,” both written by Nathaniel Hawthorne in 1846, demonstrate and attempt to symbolize the boundaries of beauty in society. In “The Birth-mark,” the young and exquisite Georgiana has simply one imperfection, a red hand-shaped birth-mark on her cheek, which her husband, a prominent chemist by the name Aylmer desires to have removed. In “The Artist of the Beautiful” the young Owen Warland, former apprentice of Peter Hovenden, in his watch making shop, strongly encourages Owen to focus on the practical instead of the beautiful, in fear that his shop will fail as a result of Owen’s inattentiveness and obsession to detail. Georgiana and Owen, from “The Birth-mark” and “The Artist of the Beautiful” respectively, are both members of society who to some extent, sacrifice their preconceived notions of beauty as they yearn for the approval and admiration of those closest to them. This act ultimately leads to the demise of their efforts and the fruition of their submissive mindsets. Preconceived notions of beauty

In “The Birth-Mark,” Hawthorne portrays Georgiana as a gorgeous young lady who Aylmer, the arrogant chemist, persuaded her to marry. Soon after their marriage, in the midst of one of many transient stares, Aylmer expressed his contempt for his wife’s scarlet hand-shaped birth-mark, which was the only blemish of her immaculate complexion. Georgiana conceded that she had pondered over the birth-marks presence; however, she said the following as “She blushed deeply. ‘To tell you the truth, it has been so often called a charm, that I was simple enough to imagine it might be so’” (260). Georgiana charmed many; often her lovers were taken by the uniqueness of the slight imperfection of her skin. They claimed upon her birth that a fairy had touched Georgiana’s cheek with her hand, bestowing an everlasting magic which would later give her influence over countless hearts. It is clear that Georgiana, without her husband’s bias, senses the charm of her one and only imperfection. She has a preconceived notion of her own inner beauty which inevitably is overtaken by her husband’s desire for the utmost perfection.

Similarly to Georgiana, Owen from “The Artist of the Beautiful” also has a preconceived notion of beauty. He however, holds onto his ideal concept of beauty externally through his technological endeavors. Owen often attempted to “imitate the beautiful movements of Nature” (360); from an early age he would create remarkably delicate figures, often representing the flight of birds or movement of tiny animals. He was passionate about his work since it demonstrated the method of his expression of the “Beautiful." In fact, one of his greatest creations was a lifelike butterfly; “The chase of butterflies was an apt emblem of the ideal pursuit in which he had spent so many golden hours” (368). Owen did not feel the same rich intellect and beauty in watchmaking as he felt when he crafted his symbolic representation of beauty and nature: the butterfly. It is the misfortune of man to be influenced by the perceptions of others, leading to the inevitable demise of their attempts to attain beauty and happiness. Those they tried to please

It is inevitable that Georgiana will stray from her personal beliefs in order to please her husband. Georgiana has an allure to her which has been known to entice men; she is aware of her immaculate complexion and external beauty and is content with her single imperfection, the lone birth-mark on her cheek. After her husband asks Georgiana if she has contemplated the removal of her birth-mark, her initial reaction is a flurry of anger; however, soon thereafter, she is overcome with an urge to remove her only imperfection. Georgiana proclaimed that if there was even the slightest possibility of safely removing the blemish, the attempt needed to be made. She...
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