The Birthmark Essay, Research Paper
Mirror, Mirror, on the Wall
Our society tends to be obsessed with the idea of physical perfection. Why does our society manifest that obsession? How is “The Birthmark” an early version of our modern obsession with physical perfection? Nathaniel Hawthorne uses these questions to obsess Aylmer to construct a life threatening experiment on his beloved. This obsession shows how the thirst for scientific knowledge can be a dangerous and deathly course.
In the “The Birthmark”, Georgiana and her husband Aylmer are searching for physical perfection, much like we do today. Georgiana was born with a crimson birthmark in the shape of a hand located on her cheek. One day Georgiana discovers that this birthmark “shocks” her husband and she is deeply bothered by it. Georgiana finally realizes this after Alymar says “Georgiana . . . has it ever occurred to you that the mark upon your cheek might be removed?”(10) This whole incident, and many others, shows how Aylmer loves science more then his own wife. He is willing to risk her life to gain scientific knowledge. After discussing the birthmark several times with her husband, a talented scientist, Georgiana decides to have it removed by him. At one point in the story Georgina says to her husband “If there be the remote possibility of it . . . let the attempt be made at any risk.”(13) This is the point at which Georgina shows what she is willing to give up to be beautiful, her life! Unfortunately Georgiana dies because of attempting to remove the birthmark.
Our society has many ways of manifesting its obsession with physical perfection. In our society people go to extreme lengths to achieve this perfection. The “The Birthmark”, written more than a century ago, is an early version of our modern obsession with physical perfection. Aylmer tells Georgiana that the surgery will be a simple one, and that there is no way that it would fail. He does not tell her that his earlier experiments had failed, or about the dream he had. Aylmer says, ” Dearest Georgiana, I have spent much thought upon the subject, and I am convinced of the perfect practicability of its removal.” (13) Aylmer tells her that her mark is her one and only defect. All in all Georgiana is caught up with the fact that she can look perfect. Aylmer says to her, ” whether to term a defect or a beauty, shocks me, as being the visible mark of earthly imperfection.” (11)
Society manifests its obsession with physical perfection by having surgical procedures done on a daily basis. These surgeries allow for almost any cosmetic transformation. For example a person can have anything from removing a birthmark to having a tummy tuck done on their body. Georgiana wanted this procedure done no matter what the cost, ” life is a burden which I would fling down with joy, remove this dreadful hand, or take my wretched life!”(13) These procedures enable society to achieve what they call, “outward perfection”, much like Georgiana longed for in the “The Birthmark”.
The story “The Birthmark” is a perfect example of an early version of our modern obsession with physical perfection. Georgiana and Aylmer manifested their obsession with physical perfection much like we would today. The result was a simple lesson, do not mess with the person God has created.