Preserving Imperfection by Nathaniel Hawthorne's Use of Symbolism in "The Birthmark"

Topics: Adam and Eve, Aesthetics, Serpent Pages: 3 (866 words) Published: March 1, 2006
"The Birthmark" by Hawthorne is a short fiction that warns readers to take a second thought towards pursuing physical perfection. Throughout the story, Hawthorne uses a great deal of symbolism. These symbols in Hawthorne's "Birthmark" not only foreshadow the outcome of the story but also reinforce the theme significantly. The birthmark in the story is a tiny, hand-shaped imperfection on Georgiana's cheek. This tiny mark on Georgiana's cheek may seem to be charming by others. However, to her husband, Aylmer, the birthmark is far from charming. In fact, it is perceived as a "crimson hand"(329) that lures him into destruction. By trying to manipulate Georgiana's natural beauty with science, Aylmer acts as a devil and brings Georgiana to the end of her destiny. The fact that, altering nature with any non-natural forces is destructive is represented throughout the story with the symbolism of the birthmark, Aylmer, and Georgiana.

Among all the symbols in the story, the birthmark is the most essential one. The reason it is so significant is not that it is on the protagonist's cheek, nor that the title of the story is called "The Birthmark" but because the entire story is revolving around this tiny imperfection. According to the story, it is known by many people that the birthmark on Georgiana's cheek is marked by some fairy's hand at her birth hour to make her imperfect, thus mortal (329). The only thing holding Georgiana from becoming perfect is the birthmark. Therefore, the birthmark in the story can represent any physical defect of mankind. In reality, many people may perceive imperfections on people's face to be a unique or charming characteristic. However, in the story, Georgiana's birthmark is perceived as a flaw by Aylmer. Since the first time Aylmer discovered Georgiana's birthmark, it has seemed to "grow more and more intolerable [to him]"(330). Aylmer's fanaticism foreshadows that he will do what it takes to remove Georgiana's birthmark. By manipulating and...
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