The Fault In The Birthmark, By Nathaniel Hawthorne

1427 Words 6 Pages
The Fault
Within “The Birthmark,” a short story by Nathaniel Hawthorne, it is stated that imperfection is, “…liability to sin, sorrow, death, and decay…” (Hawthorne 2). The short story is about a scientist, Aylmer, who strives to make his wife, Georgiana, perfect by performing scientific experiments to remove her one imperfection, a birthmark. The result is kind of like taking a picture; it is a perfect representation of a moment in time, but all the life is gone. Georgiana dies as a result of being wholly perfect, just like the picture. The responsibility for this tragic end to the nearly perfect woman lies most heavily with her experimenting husband, Aylmer, and his tragic flaws.
To illustrate these tragic flaws, first a basic understanding
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Tragic flaws were first mentioned by Aristotle in his analysis of modern literature entitled, Poetics. “There remains, then, the character...who is not eminently good and just, yet his misfortune is brought about not by vice or depravity, but by some error or frailty” (Aristotle). This analysis makes clear the nature of tragic flaws or Hamartia, which means “to err”. It demonstrates that the flaw is unconscious and unintentional but in that way also, unavoidable. It is usually not so great an issue until it is fatally mixed with other cosmic powers like fate. This is the case for Aylmer in the birthmark.
Within the short story, Aylmer’s fatal flaw of obsession and a smattering of fate lead to Georgiana’s death. Aylmer must create perfection, he had been striving to do so for most of his adult life, he had always failed to reach his goal. Hawthorne on page
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Although it is mostly his, Georgiana and fate also share an almost equally small amount of guilt. Georgiana like Aylmer has a tragic flaw, her flaw is vanity. This flaw is less severe than Aylmer’s because fate did not enhance hers the way it did Aylmer’s. She cannot stand the revilement at the sight of her face because of her vanity, as mentioned above. On page one of the short story Aylmer tells her that she “shocks him” and she responds with, “ You cannot love what shocks you!” she believes that love is based on beauty. This, her fatal flaw, is her only flaw, as said in the story. The birthmark is her flaw and it is also the source of her vanity; she has been told all of her life that the mark is an asset to her beauty but it can be inferred that she is still self conscious about the mark, after all most other women have said that the mark is a hideous disfigurement. She is almost the perfect woman, the mark is the proof that she has a single imperfection, once it is gone she has no more sin, no more vanity, no more flaws; she is absolutely perfect. It is not the mark itself that is her flaw but the one sin that it causes, the one anguish it gives. She is willing to remove the mark once she has a reason and a way because her vanity will not allow her less than perfection. Additionally fate’s role is small but important, fate is what brought these exact two people together, both obsessed in their

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