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The Birthmark - Nathanial Hawthorne: Achieve Perfection

The specific value that permeates Nathanial Hawthorne's short story titled, "The Birthmark," is beauty, a quality possessed by Georgiana, the wife of a dedicated "man of science, an eminent proficient in every branch of natural philosophy" named Aylmer (Hawthorne 402). He professes that he is shocked by a birthmark on her face which he calls "the visible mark of earthly imperfection," and which he sees as marring the very real physical beauty which she possesses when it sometimes appears when she is under the influence of some deep emotion (Hawthorne 402). Aylmer's inability to see the birthmark as anything more than a "frightful object, causing him more trouble and horror than ever Georgiana's beauty" leads to the loss of his wife and his effort to use science to remove a putative defect that others admire as a "charm" (Hawthorne 403).

As Aylmer's marriage unfolds, he decides that he can use his science to eliminate the "fatal" birthmark that is present on his wife's cheek (Hawthorne 404). She willingly accepts the risk that would accompany such an effort because her husband feels himself "fully competent to render this dear cheek as faultless as is its fellow" (Hawthorne 405). Using a variety of toxic materials, Aylmer secludes his wife in a beautiful room where his experiments will proceed. Frightened as she might be by his power to manipulate nature, she nevertheless allows the experiments to continue.

The end result of Aylmer's experiment is the death of his wife. Though her birthmark virtually disappears and she becomes her husband's desired "peerless bride," it is at the cost of her life (Hawthorne 412). The value he has placed on beauty is much less than the value he should have placed on the love of his wife. His arrogance and his determination to eliminate a barely visible birthmark leads him to engage in experiments that end up killing his wife and ending his happiness "which would have woven his mortal...

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