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The Birthmark

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luis malvaes

on 24 September 2013

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Transcript of The Birthmark

The Birthmark
by Nathaniel Hawthorne

The most important assertion is that to be human it is necessary to be flawed. To strive for perfection is to deny one's own mortality, to deny what makes us human, and to achieve such perfection is essentially impossible. "The Birthmark" argues that part of us is naturally earthbound, yet part of us will always seek to be perfect and immortal.
Aylmer despises the birthmark upon his wife's cheek.
Aylmer and Georgiana
A beautiful 18th century woman with a small birthmark upon her cheek.

A brilliant scientist/natural philosopher and Georgiana's husband.
Using a powerful elixir Aylmer succeeds in his endeavor to remove the loathed blemish from his wife's face.
Their celebrations were cut short. With the last flaw removed from her face, Georgiana left the mortal world.

The central theme of 'The Birthmark' by Nathaniel Hawthorne is that people strive for perfection and in the process forget their own mortality.
Hawthorne makes it clear to his readers that the birthmark is a symbol, mostly by expressing to us metaphorically that it is a symbol.

The crimson hand expressed the ineludible gripe in which mortality clutches the highest and purest of earthly mould, degrading them into kindred with the lowest, and even with the very brutes, like whom their visible frames return to dust. In this manner, selecting it as the symbol of his wife's liability to sin, sorrow, decay, and death. (8)

The birthmark represents Georgiana's humanity/mortality, which Hawthorne indicates is equivalent to her flaws as a human. He states that it is man's destiny to be mortal and imperfect which is what it means to be human.
Everything predominantly took place in Aylmer's 18th century abode containing his laboratory.
The laboratory/boudoir where Aylmer attempted to remove the birthmark from Georgiana's face was a place of dark mystery where many wonders and experiments of science took place.
Thematic Statement
Irony: most of his experiments were failures, he thought he could surpass mortality, and in the process of striving for perfection he lost his wife.
He wrote the story in 1800s but it took place in the 1700s
Quote of his experimental failures
"Nature is yet severely careful to keep her own secrets […] She permits us, indeed, to mar, but seldom to mend, and, like a jealous patentee, on no account to make," Hawthorne writes, which is a pretty explicit way of saying that science has its limits (23). Man, Hawthorne implies, can't play God.

How the quote of irony relates to thematic statement:
Aylmer's lab was the workshop of a man dedicated to overcoming his mortality and moving beyond the bounds of his natural existence by creating various elixirs and brews to halt death and change the physical form of men. It was a place where he strived to fix human imperfections.
Men strive to put aside their imperfections and reach a higher plane of being. Nature is not willing to give the "secrets of life" to any man so their efforts remain unsuccessful.
Mortality maintains its hold on the human experience as seen with Georgiana.
Cameron Ellison
Luis Malvaes
Hayley Robinson
Will Martin
Full transcript