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Essay about Birthday Mark by Nathaniel Hawthorne

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The discovery of electricity opened the door to many mysteries that challenged scientists of the nineteenth century. Nathaniel Hawthorne writes of some challenges that man could run into during the exploration and application of new technology in The Birthmark. These challenges are not entirely physical but they are more so about an internal struggle within Victorian mindsets. In The Birthmark there are only three characters: Aylmer, a scientist, Georgiana, Aylmer’s wife, and Aminadab, Aylmer’s lab assistant. Hawthorne isolates the characters in their caste to present individual viewpoints of a tragic flaw. Each character promotes innocence but they are caught up in traditional values. Hawthorne writes of an honest but fatal mistake made through an evil obsession, a symbolic caste, and an irony on multiple levels to challenge the reader’s view of good and evil through the innocent façade.
Obsession can bring about both innocence and evil. Aylmer discovers its evil aspects but only when it was too late. Hawthorne describes him as “a man of science, an eminent proficient in every branch of natural philosophy” (289). His motive to discover, power, and create nature took over his life. Although he persuades Georgiana to marry him and he seems nothing short of a loving husband, his interest in her is not of the norm intentions. Aylmer’s motives show that he is more interested in “…a perfect god-like power” for himself more than anything else (Keetley 18). When he first met Georgiana, he fell in love with an idea. He saw a perfect bride with the exception of a hand shaped birthmark on her cheek. Aylmer became obsessed with the idea of removing it. Shortly after they were married he first reveals his thoughts on the bi...


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Not used in Works Cited:
Weinstein, Cindy. “The Invisible Hand Made Visible: “The Birth-Mark.” Nineteenth-Century Literature 48.1 (1993): 44-73. JSTOR. Web. 18 June 2012.
Fetterley, Judith. "Women Beware Science: 'The Birthmark.'." Critical Essays on Hawthorne's Short Stories. Ed. Albert J. von Frank. Boston, Mass.: G. K. Hall & Co., 1991. 164-172. Rpt. in Short Story Criticism. Ed. Rachelle Mucha and Thomas J. Schoenberg. Vol. 89. Detroit: Gale, 2006.Literature Resource Center. Web. 18 June 2012.
Thompson, W. R. “Aminadab in Hawthorne’s “The Birthmark.” Modern Language Notes, 70.6 (1955): 413-415. JSTOR. Web. 25 June 2012.
Lawson, Kate, and Lynn Shakinovsky. "A Frightful Object." Marked Body: Domestic Violence in Mid-nineteenth-century Literature. N.p.: State University of New York, 2002. 23-39. EBook Collection EBSCOhost. Web. 17 June 2012.



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