The story focuses on Alymer, a scientist, who abandons his dreams and career as a successful philosopher and scientist. Aylmer is unsatisfied with the presence of a birthmark on the face his wife. He is a successful scientist such that he abandons such achievements and ambitions to pursue a life with an exceptionally beautiful woman by the name Georgiana who could be termed as perfect in physical attributes except for a red birthmark that is similar to the shape of her hand located on her cheek. The story could be termed as an illustration of the quest for perfection, which is impossible. The reason for the urge to remove the birthmark by Aylmer is an indication that he was drawn by the beauty of his partner, Georgiana.
The story could be termed as an indication of the lack of satisfaction in sexual relations such as in marriages. Aylmer is obsessed with the birthmark on the cheeks of his wife Georgiana. He seeks numerous ways of removing the birthmark on his exceptionally beautiful wife such that he sleep-talks and spends time in the laboratory finding treatments in the form of portions. Incidentally, he dreams of cutting out the birthmark, which he considers as bothersome and continuing to her heart out. His obsession is evidenced the sleep talk where he mutters about his desire to remove the birthmark surgically. His talk shocks Georgiana such that she inquires from him the meaning of his dream. His wife indicates that she would risk her life to have the birthmark removed than endure Aylmer’s horror at night (Hawthorne, 17).
However, he shudders at the sight of his wife’s eyes causing her to faint due to shock. He however manages to wake her and treats her with some of his chemical potions. Aylmer had been spying on Georgiana and conducting experiments, which results in a brief argument between the two individuals. He convinces her that it is effective but also issues caution that it poses a danger to her health and life. She manages to use the potion, which removes the birthmark gradually. However, this marks the deterioration of the health of Georgiana and her eventual demise after the birthmark is eventually removed completely.
The highlight of this story is the relationship between the two, Aylmer and Georgiana, is their relationship. Their relationship could be termed as aesthetic, because of the preference by Georgiana to please her husband even at the risk of her demise. The birthmark could be viewed from two perspectives, imperfection and materiality. He is obsessed over the birthmark because of the inability to face his own shortcomings. His imperfections are evidenced by his attraction to the beauty of his wife rather than the character of his wife. In addition, he seeks to gain perfection similar to those experienced in science in his experiments and discoveries. He terms his wife as imperfect because of her blemish or birthmark on her face (Hawthorne, 22).
The birthmark could be used as an example of elements, which are part of our lives that we seek to change in the pursuit of perfection. However, individuals usually lose more than expected, such as love and life in the pursuit of unattainable perfection. The story of the two individuals is an indication that perfection is attainable is expensive and never lasts, as man is inherently flawed. In addition, Aylmer could be described as a perfectionist given that he seeks to remove a simple flaw in an exceptionally beautiful woman, Georgiana. His actions could be termed as selfish as he seeks to stroke his ego as a successful man and scientist in developing a potion that would remove a blemish.
Georgiana, on the other hand, is a doomed heroine in that she aims at satisfying the need of her demanding husband. This is an express illustration of the need to please others at the expense of individual happiness and satisfaction. Georgiana is an illustration of humanity in that she is comfortable with her imperfections as illustrated by the birthmark on her cheek. In addition, the mark is also used symbolically to illustrate loss of life and movement towards death. Georgiana according to the text loses her life as the birthmark starts to fade gradually. The term birthmark illustrates the human traits which lack perfection and give essence to human life. It is agreeable that all human beings have birthmarks. Hence the loss of a birthmark is an indication of the loss of humane traits. Human essence is imperfection and a balancing act of nature. Hence her attainment of perfection results in the loss of her human essence. Hence Georgiana ceases to hold a vital human trait which leads to her eventual death (Hawthorne, 29).
It is in human nature to be imperfect. Hence the loss of her imperfections is an indication and gradual move towards the loss of human traits and the actual loss of life. The term birthmark is also used to highlight an era of obsession by the world with perfection. The cause of death is brought about by the violation of the code of nature which ensures that main exists in imperfection and is unable to attain perfection. Additionally, Aylmer could be termed as irrational in his thinking as he seems to compete with nature in seeking perfection resulting in the death of his dear wife (Hawthorne, 30).
The literature also assumes gender roles in that Aylmer and Georgiana assumed varied roles in their marriage. Aylmer could be termed as the decision maker whereas Georgiana could be termed as submissive and naive. This could be termed as a traditional marriage where the gender roles assumed by husband and wife are automatic rather than equal deliberation of such responsibilities. Georgiana is submissive towards her husband and acts according to his will and wishes. On the other hand, Aylmer is drawn to mere physical traits of his wife. He gives orders to his wife at the expense of her life and happiness (Hawthorne, 38).
The depiction of both men and women by Hawthorne is an illustration of the cultural values which were in existence during the period of writing this piece of literature. All the decisions of Georgiana are aimed at pleasing her husband at the expense of her individual happiness and life. On the other hand the husband, Aylmer, treats his wife as an object admiration and for conducting experiments. The thoughts of Georgiana are filled with love and reverence for her husband. Her physical traits are the primary subject of the story. It is easily inferable that Aylmer married her for her beauty. This is because, as a man who seeks perfection through science, he longs for the best and Georgiana is an exceptionally beautiful woman who meets the needs and expectations of Aylmer. The writing points out that Georgiana is exceptionally beautiful despite the presence of a visible birthmark on her face (Hawthorne, 46).
On the other hand, the intellectual capabilities and abilities of Aylmer are the focus of the story in that he seeks to use his scientific knowledge and skills to remove his wife’s imperfections. This is impossible as the law of nature limits perfection. Hence Aylmer could be termed as perfectionist who seeks to ensure that he has the best of all worlds. The marriage of the two individuals, Aylmer and Georgiana are an illustration of the middle-class gender roles assumed by couples during the period of writing the literature (Hawthorne, 52).
The husband in the marriage assumes the position as the head of the marriage and the decision maker whereas the wife is tasked with remaining submissive and pleasing the needs of her husband. The gender roles assumed by the two individuals in a marriage could also be used as birthmarks of both the husband and wife. The wife’s birthmark is to remain submissive and please the needs of her husband whereas the birthmark of the husband is to ensure that he remains in control as the decision-maker in the marriage. The text also implies the need by men to indicate the flaws of their women. The author, Hawthorne, makes an effort to illustrate Aylmer’s ambition to ensure that his wife remains beautiful. In essence it indicates that women are usually judged superficially in comparison to men who are judged based on their ability to provide and ensure that they are able remain in control in marriages as decision-makers (Hawthorne, 57).
Aylmer also fails in his ability to provide a potion that would ensure that his wife removed the birthmark and survived such an ordeal. However this is impossible as he is mortal and filled with imperfections. His imperfections lead to the loss of his beloved wife and the production of a flawed potion. The manifestation of his inadequacies is an indication of his inability to accept that he is imperfect. His inadequacies are failure to accept failure and exuding excessive confidence and constant pursuit of perfectionism. Hence perfectionism is impossible as humans are inherently imperfect. This is evidenced by the eventual death of Georgiana after she gains perfection, which is an indication that man is not able to attain perfection.
Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Birthmark. Logan, Iowa: Perfection Learning, 1983. Print
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