The Birthmark as a Symbol

Topics: Gender, Femininity, Science Pages: 3 (795 words) Published: May 2, 2004
The Birthmark as a Symbol

In Nathaniel Hawthorne's, The Birthmark, the symbolism is quite evident of the birthmarks upon Georgiana's face. It represents Aylmer's struggles with nature and science, through his repeated attempts of the removal of it. This clash between science and nature illustrates the concept of man versus woman, through the femininity of nature and the masculine traits of the world of science.

Throughout the story, nature is portrayed as feminine and is even present through Georgiana. This is in the same way how science is show as masculine and symbolized through Aylmer. The conflicts between science and nature are symbolic of man's need to control women. Eckstein say, "modern science is basically a masculine endeavor" (p512), as well as, "Nature is...metaphorically female" (p513). All through history, people have referred to nature with the preceding word of 'nature', leading one to the belief that nature is in feminine. Mary Rucker sees how Aylmer is intimidated by Georgiana, "Aylmer...fears sexuality" (p445), specifically feminine sexuality. Aylmer is concerned with controlling his wife, and her appearance. This shows the theme of men versus women.

Aylmer saw Georgiana as an object of perfection, with the exception of the birthmark. Before he met her, all of his heart went towards science, and the art of perfecting nature, "possessed this degree of faith in man's ultimate control over nature" (p 29). This illustrates his obsession with perfecting what was already to be had. Soon after he married Georgiana, he became bothered with the mark upon her face. He allowed his fascination with science to become intertwined with his love for Georgiana, Aylmer, "elevat[ed] his wife into a scientific problem to be solved" (p366). In this way the birthmark seems to be almost mocking his attempts at changing nature, which is representative of Georgiana' s femininity, "Attempting an operation for the removal of the Birthmark. But the deeper the...
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