The Birthmark Essay

1119 words - 5 pages

Joanna Strychalski
T-TH 2:50-4:05
Dr. David Lydic
"The Birthmark"
English 1302 Comp II

Nathaniel Hawthorne's "The Birthmark" takes place during the mid 1800's where "it was not unusual for the love of science to rival the love of woman in its depth and absorbing energy" (528). Aylmer loves his new wife but upon her left cheek is a crimson birthmark the shape of a small hand which begins to bother him to the point of disgust. Aylmer believes the print upon any other face would not bother him but because his wife Georgiana was so "nearly perfect from the hand of Nature" it shocks him as an "earthly imperfection" (529). Every time Aylmer looks at Georgiana's birthmark he shudders ...view middle of the document...

Through the use of irony and symbolism Hawthorne has created the fundamental nature of this story. It is because the reader knows what the character doesn't that creates irony and it is through symbolism that the reader can appreciate what the author is trying to say without ever saying it. Hawthorne uses foreshadow to allow the reader to know what is going to hen while the character do not and he uses symbolism that allows the reader to understand the importance of the birthmark on Georgiana's life.

Aylmer views the birthmark as an imperfection on his otherwise perfect wife. "The crimson hand expressed the ineludible gripe in which mortality clutches the highest and purest earthly mould...In this manner, selecting it as the symbol of his wife's liability to sin, sorrow, decay and death, Aylmer's somber imagination was not long in rendering the birthmark a frightful object" (529-530). We see now how the birthmark to Aylmer has become a contextual symbol of mortality. Aylmer believes he can control Nature so as the reader we can see how him symbolizing the birthmark as mortality would destroy his marriage. Not only does he detest the birthmark but Georgiana, who once thought that it was a mark of beauty, shudders as her husband winces at the sight of it. Georgiana now symbolizes the birthmark as a wedge between her and her husband's love: "Danger is nothing to me; for life, while this hateful mark makes me the object of your horror and disgust--life is a burden which I would fling down with joy" (531). As a reader you know a birthmark on a face should not affect one's love for another, but because Aylmer is a perfectionist and he believes he can control Nature he dwells on it and allows it to fester into this symbol of mortality which he must prevail.

Foreshadowing allows the reader to know what's going to happen before the characters know. Therefore, with the use of foreshadowing the reader knows that somehow the crimson hand is part of Georgiana's livelihood should not be removed. The crimson hand, to the reader, becomes an allegorical symbol of her livelihood and of...

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