Birthmark "Man Of Science," Aylmer Term Paper

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¶ … Birthmark

"man of science," Aylmer eagerly wants to remove his wife's birthmark. "Georgiana," said he, "has it never occurred to you that the mark upon your cheek might be removed?" Georgiana responds by telling her husband that to her and to many others who have known her the mark is a "charm," something of inherent value, worth, and beauty. The mark is also a sign of Georgiana's heritage: the mark of her birth. Therefore when Aylmer calls the birthmark a "defect," Georgiana retorts "You cannot love what shocks you!"

The birthmark illustrates Aylmer's lack of genuine love for his wife. Ironically it is he who bears the mark of imperfection by wishing so hard that his wife were a different person. He obsesses about removing the birthmark, focusing on it at the expense of appreciating any other part of his wife's body. Georgiana's personality appears perfect in comparison, her birthmark a sign of her dignity.

To Aylmer, the birthmark represents more than an annoyance. He "possessed this degree of faith in man's ultimate control over Nature" and viewed the mark as an opportunity to demonstrate his dominion over Nature. Instead of appreciating Georgiana, Aylmer sought to transform her, to change an essential part of her being. As the narrator states, the mark was "deeply interwoven, as it were, with the texture and substance of her face."

Removing the birthmark would give Aylmer tremendous power: over Georgiana as well as over Nature and God. Indeed, he took his wife's life in the process. Thus, Hawthorne inserts feminist commentary into his short story. Aylmer demonstrated his power and revels drunkenly in his triumph: "he failed to look beyond the shadowy scope of time, and, living once for all in eternity, to find the perfect future in the present." The birthmark symbolizes the beauty that can be discovered in all of life: including imperfection.

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