Hawthorne's "The Birthmark" Analytical Essay by Shaad

Hawthorne's "The Birthmark"
This paper discusses how Puritanism informs the overreach of science as portrayed in Nathaniel Hawthorne's story "The Birthmark".
# 116493 | 3,151 words | 7 sources | MLA | 2008 | BD
Published by on Oct 05, 2009 in Literature (American) , Sociology (General) , Political Science (General)

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In this article, the writer contends that, in the "The Birthmark", Hawthorne is telling us that Puritan zeal is an evil and dangerous attitude, whether it be manifested through the scientist's zeal for absolute knowledge, or through the transcendentalist's zeal to spiritualize all acts and objects. The paper then endeavors to go beyond the simple interpretation which says that it is only a cautionary tale about science. The writer maintains that instead of being representative of experimental science, the protagonist is more truly characterized by Puritan zeal. The writer also shows how the story draws its inspiration from 'fairyland', and how its message is transmitted largely through allusion.

From the Paper:

"The birthmark of Georgina also serves as a symbol around which the story revolves. To Aylmer it is a consciously perceived symbol that signifies the limitations of the flesh. It reminds him that, however young and beautiful his wife appears to him, the youthfulness and beauty is subject to death and decay. He feels that without the birthmark there would be nothing to remind him of earthly imperfection, and the thought is the seed to a bolder contemplation that earthly matter is subject to perfection. When he imagines her without the birthmark he sees a picture of material perfection, and it spurs him on in the belief that science has the mean to perfect base matter. He has thus slipped from the realm of science into that of Alchemy, whose stated object is to transform base lead into pure gold. Aylmer's mistake is to misread the symbolic significance of the birthmark. If it truly denotes death and decay, it must also serve as a reminder that vigorous physical frame on which it appears depends on the blemish for its very existence."

Sample of Sources Used:

  • Blackmur, Richard P. Outsider at the Heart of Things: Essays. Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1989.
  • Emerson, Ralph Waldo. Emerson on Transcendentalism. Ed. Edward L. Ericson. New York: Continuum International Publishing Group, 1986.
  • Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Blithedale Romance. Chelmsford, MA: Courier DoverPublications, 2003.
  • Hawthorne, Nathaniel. Selected Tales and Sketches. Ed. Michael J. Colacurcio. New York: Penguin Classics, 1987.
  • Reid, Alfred S. "Hawthorne's Humanism; 'The Birthmark'and Sir Kenelm Digby." American Literature. 38 (1966): 337-51.

Cite this Analytical Essay:

APA Format

Hawthorne's "The Birthmark" (2009, October 05) Retrieved May 27, 2020, from https://www.academon.com/analytical-essay/hawthorne-the-birthmark-116493/

MLA Format

"Hawthorne's "The Birthmark"" 05 October 2009. Web. 27 May. 2020. <https://www.academon.com/analytical-essay/hawthorne-the-birthmark-116493/>