The Theme Of Individualism In Hawthorne's 'The Birth-Mark' By Nathaniel Hawthorne

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Nathaniel Hawthorne’s story “The Birth-Mark” is about an eccentric scientist named Aylmer who has a deep love for the subject, but his love for science comes in a close second compared to the love he has for his wife, the beautiful Georgiana. Aylmer acknowledges the many great aspects and attributes of his wife, even going as far as calling her “nearly perfect,” but he becomes incredibly distraught, almost obsessed, over the small, hand-shaped birthmark on Georgiana’s cheek. According to Aylmer, Georgiana will not “perfect” until the birthmark on her face is removed, which she resists at first, calling her birthmark a “charm,” but later she becomes just as distraught and annoyed with her birthmark, finally succumbing to her husband’s wish of …show more content…
In his essay “Self-Reliance,” Emerson asserts the importance of thinking for oneself rather than merely accepting the ideas of others. In the beginning of Hawthorne’s story, Georgiana considers her birthmark to be a “charm,” and is visibly upset when asked by Aylmer if she ever considered on removing the mark from her face. The first confrontation between Georgiana and Aylmer in the story is perhaps the only example of Georgiana exerting her …show more content…
Emerson would perhaps argue that there is something in nature (and nature alone) that could help persons understand themselves and to hone their character and individuality. Hawthorne is perhaps aware of this and seems to mock this inspiration when he says, “All these antique naturalists stood in advance of their centuries, yet were imbued with some of their credulity…” (652). The story takes place mostly within Aylmer’s lab, far away from nature. Thus, in rejecting Emerson’s ideas about finding self-reliance in nature, perhaps, this helps to explain Hawthorne’s decision in writing “The Birth-Mark” within a very “narrow” and myopic setting, giving it an almost claustrophobic and suffocating mood.
Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Birth-Mark” can be viewed as a response, and even critique, to Ralph Waldo Emerson’s ideas about self-reliance, which Hawthorne accomplishes through the voice of his two main characters and through his use of setting within the story. Despite what Hawthorne was trying to tell to Emerson, however, “The Birth-Mark” proves that Emerson’s ideas about nature, non-conformity, and individualism inspired an entire

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