In today’s society everyone strives for perfection even though true perfection is unattainable. “The Birthmark” by Nathaniel Hawthorne shows the foolishness of endeavoring to create a perfect being, and by doing so, intruding upon the realm of the divine. Hawthorne conveys this message through the story of the scientist Aylmer and his beautiful wife, Georgiana, who has a minuscule, hand-shaped birthmark on her left cheek. Aylmer becomes obsessed with this mark that keeps his wife from being perfect, and resolves to remove the mark using his science. Throughout the telling of the story Hawthorne uses symbols to further illustrate the rapacity of man, and the barriers between the earthly, sinful world and heaven.
The flower that Aylmer shows Georgiana depicts the elusiveness of perfection. When Georgiana tried to pluck the flower “the whole plant suffered a blight, its leaves turning coal-black as if by the agency of fire” (Hawthorne, 2281). Georgiana, a flawed individual, attempts to obtain a perfect flower, but instead causes the flower to die, for Georgiana’s touch represents the imperfections inherent in all human beings. When Aylmer muttered “There was too powerful a stimulus” (Hawthorne, 2281), the stimulus he mentions alludes to the flaw within Georgiana. The internal flaw makes Georgiana question what she “considered to be natural beauty” (Dana), and gave into the cliché of perfection. The flower is continually dying to show that an object as perfect as the flower cannot live or suffer the touch of imperfection.
The quick, insubstantial figures that danced before Georgiana describe how the imagination concocts fanciful goals that seem reasonable but later proves to be beyond the purview of man. These images “were perfectly represented, but with that bewitching yet indescribable difference which makes a picture, an image, or a shadow so much more attractive than the original” (Hawthorne, 2280), referring to certain goals...