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Hawthorne’s the Birthmark

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Annotated Bibliography on Hawthorne’s “The Birthmark”

In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s, “The Birthmark,” Aylmer, a man who has devoted entirely to science, is married to Georgiana, a beautiful woman with a single “imperfection.” This imperfection is the resemblance of a tiny “crimson hand” and is visible on the left cheek of Georgiana. The birthmark becomes the object of Aylmer’s obsession and he resolves to use all scientific knowledge to correct, “what Nature left imperfect.” In this short story, Hawthorne uses symbolism to emphasize the strange shape of the ‘imperfection.’ One of the most prominent themes seen throughout the story is Aylmer’s need for perfection. Even though Georgiana sees the birthmark as a charm, Aylmer feels it is the one thing keeping her from being perfect. Hawthorne believed that in life, there must be imperfection and that losing imperfection would simply mean losing life. This story is not only about Aylmer trying to remove Georgiana’s birthmark, but also him trying to beat nature. He believed he had control over it. He had a very hard time accepting imperfection and when he conducted his experiment of removing the birthmark, which ended in losing the life of his wife, he felt successful as she was finally “perfect.” This annotated bibliography addresses the symbols created throughout the story as well as Hawthorne’s themes throughout his writings and beliefs that perfection is unattainable.

Askew, Melvin W. “Hawthorne, the Fall, and the Psychology of Maturity.” Critical

Insights: Nathaniel Hawthorne, edited by Jack Lynch, Salem Press, 2010, pp.


This source is broader than my other sources as it discusses a variety of Hawthorne’s work and not just “The Birthmark.”  The author’s main purpose is to present how Hawthorne’s psychological insights have formed the basis of many studies and that his reputation for psychological sophistication in such areas are now short of notorious. It discusses how almost all characters or the protagonists in each of his stories has just began to love, or is soon to be married, and each character is then faced with the prospect of assuming mature responsibilities. However, in “The Birthmark” he states that they try to modify conditions of acceptance of responsibility by either temporizing or by rejecting and then ultimately destroying love and the women, which leads then to fail to become human and happy in maturity.  This source is relevant to my other sources in that it explains Hawthorne’s beliefs and common patterns in his writings and characters. I feel I will be able to use some of the information presented throughout this source but maybe not as much as my other sources.

Balestrini, Nassim W. “From Aylmer’s Experiment to Aesthetic Surgery.” Nathaniel

Hawthorne Review, vol. 38, no.1, 2012, pp. 58-84.

This source takes a look at a second source in comparison to “The Birthmark,” and that is “Generation X” by Miranda July.  The author wants to prove why she “considers this story to be a noteworthy twenty-first-century satellite of Hawthorne’s “The Birthmark” (58).  She claims that “The Birthmark” adopts the title of Hawthorne’s story as well as its thematic focus on how a women’s facial features reflect her and her observers’ views on beauty, the moral dimension of tampering with nature, and love relationships. I plan to use the information from this source when discussing how Georgiana felt about her birthmark in comparison to her husband, Aylmer. Although it is comparing Hawthorne’s story to another, I feel it is a relevant source as it discusses Georgiana’s feelings about her birthmark and that she felt is was what made her special in comparison to her husbands dissatisfaction and feeling of imperfection.

Eckstein, Barbara. “Hawthorne’s ‘The Birthmark’: Science and Romance as Belief.”

Studies in Short Fiction, vol. 26, no. 4, 1989, pp. 511-519.

The basic ideas of this source deal with the issues of looking at the relationship between science and love as a religion instead of them being separate entities. The author tries to prove that it is clear that “Aylmer’s obsession with science makes him unfit for human companionship and tries to determine what motivates him to “correct Nature” (512).  The source does make references to other sources, which became confusing at times as several names were being mentioned, however, it allows her to support her thesis.  I feel this source is relevant to my other sources and is very specific in comparison to other sources I have chosen. I feel this source will be useful to me in my research because some of its elements are similar to my thesis and choice of analysis.

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