Birthmark By Nathaniel Hawthorne 1842 Essay

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Birthmark Hawthorne's "The Birthmark"

Nathaniel Hawthorne's "The Birthmark" is an ironic story in which man's faith in science as the ultimate savior of humankind is demonstrated to be misplaced. Ever since science has come to the forefront of human knowledge, people have continually increased their faith and thus their dependency on it. In a way, science has become a new form of religion, one in which people place their faith to solve what they see as their everyday problems. However, too much faith in science's ability to solve problems has created a situation where people turn to science to solve problems that are not there. Because science has already solved many of life's major problems, such as certain diseases that have plagued humanity for centuries, people seem to look for new problems for science to solve for them. "The Birthmark" is a perfect example of how a person can turn to science in order to solve what they see as a problem, when in fact it is not really a problem at all. And when people use science in such a way, tragedy inevitably follows.

The focus of Hawthorne's tale, Aylmer, is described as "an eminent proficient in ever branch of natural philosophy." (Hawthorne) In other words, he is a scientist, but in the early 19th century, science was sometimes viewed as being...

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Science was the means by which mankind might "ascent from one step of powerful intelligence to another, until the philosopher should lay his hand on the secret of creative force and perhaps make new worlds for himself." (Hawthorne) And while Hawthorne admits that he does not know if Aylmer believed that mankind, through science, could control nature, Aylmer's actions seem to reveal the truth. He may have been smitten for a while with is new wife, enough to barely notice the small birthmark on her face, but in time his love of science overcame his love of his wife.
When, not long after their wedding Aylmer told his young wife Georgiana that the small birthmark on her cheek "shocks me, as being the visible mark of earthly imperfection," he revealed his true love. (Hawthorne) Science, to men such as Aylmer, was believed to be the means by which mankind could control and even remake nature as they saw fit. When Aylmer began to notice the birthmark, something that he overlooked when infatuated, and to think of ways to "repair" the deficiency, he was turning to science as the means by which man could overcome nature's mistakes.

And what was the major fault of nature that Aylmer wanted to repair? It was a small birthmark that could only really been seen…

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Works Cited

Hawthorne, Nathaniel. "The Birthmark." The Literature Network. Web 21 Sept. 2013

http://www.online-literature.com/hawthorne/125/

Vonnegut, Kurt. "Harrison Bergeron." Wordfight.org. Web. 21 Sept. 2013.

http://www.wordfight.org/bnw/bnw-unit_packet.pdf


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