The Birthmark

Perfecting Nature

As human beings we are not perfect. It is part of our nature to be flawed in one way or another. There are some who choose to believe that it is possible for humans to be perfect. It is those humans who eventually learn that nature cannot be changed or revised. Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote in a time of great change in the United States. In the mid-nineteenth century, Americans began to experience a transfer in focus from the once strict religious perspectives to a more scientific look of the world and its natural wonders. Hawthorne's work, "The Birthmark" states these responses and combines natural faith with a confidence in science, to make this a very interesting story. This short story and its morality send a message to the reader that there is a price for tampering with the natural order of things.
In "The Birthmark," Hawthorne described a young scientist who killed his own wife by trying to alter nature. The scientist was trying to remove a birthmark on his wife's face. His name was Aylmer. Aylmer was a good scientist according to many standards. He was smart, diligent, and "an eminent proficient" (169) in natural science. Aylmer was so devoted to his work, that his marriage with Georgiana, his wife, was "intertwined with his love for science."(169) Aylmer loved science even more than his love for his own wife, no wonder he would sacrifice her life just for a perfect look on her face.

Sometimes, people concentrate too much on what science can do and how important science is in our lives. They develop a false trust in science. Aylmer thought he was competent enough to remove the birthmark, "I feel myself fully competent to render this dear cheek as faultless as its fellow; and the, most beloved, what will be my triumph when I shall have corrected what Nature left imperfect in her fairest work."(172) Also, "Aylmer appeared to
believe that, by the plainest scientific logic, it was altogether with in the limits of possibility to discover this long-sought medium."(174) Humans should not perfect all the imperfections of the world by use of science.
In the story, Hawthorne gradually set out the idea that nature is equal to everyone; there is no perfection in the nature. As he said, "Nature, in one shape or another, stamps ineffaceably on all her productions."(170) Georgiana was a young, very beautiful woman who loved her husband dearly. She was indeed beautiful with the exception of one flaw-her birthmark. This single mark lied on her left white cheek that resembled the shape of a hand. This mark is known
as the "crimson hand." Nature had to bear a birthmark on her face in order to keep the balance even.
The story explained how educated and knowledgeable Aylmer was, and the narrator even suggests that he may have the power to alter nature. "We know not whether Aylmer possess this degree of faith in man's ultimate control over nature."(169) As Aylmer tries to use science to remove the birthmark on his wife's check, his plan backfires and his wife dies. The death of Georgiana shows that if you mess with nature it could end up dangerous if used the wrong way.

Works Cited
Hawthorne, Nathaniel. "The Birthmark." Literature and the Writing Process. Ed. Elizabeth
McMahan, Susan X Day, and Robert Funk. 6th ed. Upper Saddle River: Prentice, 2002.
169-179

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