The Birthmark--Wicked Good Essay

Topics: Nathaniel Hawthorne, Short story, Mosses from an Old Manse Pages: 3 (881 words) Published: February 28, 2002
Earthly Imperfections

Too often in this world does man attempt to perfect nature. Tampering with this sort of element most commonly leads to a disaster to come extent. Because man is never satisfied, he is constantly vying for perfection, regardless of the outcome. Such is the case in Nathaniel Hawthorne's short story, "The Birthmark." Aylmer's persistent attempt to perfect nature is the cause of Georgiana's demise and the affirmation that when man tampers with such a powerful component terrible things may occur.

In this short story, Hawthorne uses symbolism to emphasize the strange shape of the "earthly imperfection" (204) and his desperate need to change it. The shape of the birthmark "bore a little similarity to the human hand" (204). Here, Hawthorne's use of symbolism clearly illustrates a distinct connection between the shape of the birthmark as a human hand and the need to remove it by the same means. In Aylmer's quest for perfection, he simply ignores the fact that he is tampering with an incredible force: Nature. The "crimson hand" (206) symbolizes man always trying to change something natural: something that need not be changed. Aylmer's subconscious obsession with science quickly becomes apparent when he realizes that he has the knowledge to potentially change something that nature has brought. At one point in the story Aylmer becomes so infatuated with removing this birthmark he dreams about how he will do so. He goes as far as to "[catch hold] of Georgiana's heart" (206) and dispose of her precious life. This dream is incredibly symbolic of Georgiana's ultimate fate, though Aylmer pays no attention to its importance. He simply continues on his way to perfect nature's imperfections.

Aside from Hawthorne's use of symbolism, his extensive use of imagery also contributes to the notion that man cannot perfect nature. Aylmer's true goal in this story is to force Georgiana to believe that her birthmark is "a symbol of [her] liability to...
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