Have you ever wondered what it would be like to have the power to change that which Nature has control over? Have you ever thought about being able to fix an imperfection? In Nathanial Hawthorne’s “The Birthmark,” that is exactly what scientist Aylmer has the opportunity to do. Aylmer is a scientist who “values head more than heart”(Rucker 445). After persuading beautiful Georgiana to marry him, Aylmer becomes disgusted with a small birthmark on Georgiana’s left cheek, causing him to dwell on the idea of using his extensive knowledge of science to cure her of this hideous defect. Hawthorne argues in “The Birthmark” through characters, symbolism, and circumstance that aesthetics and perfection are not to be controlled by the hands of man but rather should be left in control of nature, and that when manipulated, the results are tragic.
Aylmer is a renowned scientist with a huge ego who believes he has the power to fix what nature failed to make perfect. Aylmer left his laboratory and research to marry beautiful Georgiana. Soon after being wed however, Aylmer becomes obsessed with a tiny birthmark on Georgiana’s cheek. He believes she is beautiful but says that her birthmark “which we hesitate… to term a defect or a beauty shocks me as being the visible mark of earthly imperfection”(Hawthorne 1021). Being a man of great knowledge and a man with the utmost confidence in himself, Aylmer convinces Georgiana to allow him to remove the birthmark. He persuades her by saying, “I feel myself fully competent to render this dear cheek as faultless as its fellow; and then, most beloved, what will be my triumph when I shall have corrected what Nature has left imperfect in her fairest work!”(Hawthorne 1024). Aylmer is so egotistical, that he believes he is above Nature and is ecstatic at the idea of playing God and fixing what Nature must have overlooked. Throughout the story, we can see Aylmer’s obsession with being able to do that which Nature could not. In his laboratory...
Cited: Hawthorne, Nathanial. “The Birthmark.” Electronic Text Center. University of Virginia Library. Web. 7 Feb 2011.
Rucker, Mary E. “Science and Art in Hawthorne’s ‘The Birthmark’”. Nineteenth Century Literature 41.4 (1987): 445-461 Print.
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