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Unattainable Beauty in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Birthmark

In today’s society, it seems that we cannot turn the television on or look in a

magazine without being bombarded by images of seemingly flawless, incredible looking

women. Women today are held to such unattainable standards of beauty, which leads

to self-esteem and confidence issues. These standards have caused women to

overlook the beauty that God has created in them and find their solace in science. We

have make-up to cover our faces with, Botox and collagen injections to make us look

younger and plumper in just the right places, and the ultimate “gift”: plastic surgery.

Women seem not to care what the consequences are, just as long as their goal of

perfection is achieved. But can a person ever really be physically perfect? The great

19th century writer, Nathaniel Hawthorne, was writing about feminine beauty and the

lengths man will go to in order to achieve that physical perfection long before the era of

“America’s Next Top Model” and “Nip/Tuck”. Hawthorne’s classic tale “The Birth-mark”

seems to caution against “perfecting” nature’s beauty through the use of science.

“The Birthmark” introduces us to a fervent scientist, Aylmer, who marries a

beautiful young woman, Georgiana. Try as he might, Aylmer cannot keep his passions

for both his wife and his science apart for long: “His love for his wife might prove the

stronger of the two; but it could only be by intertwining itself with his love of science, and

uniting the strength of the latter to its own” (1321). In an effort to combine his two loves

in life, Aylmer finds a “flaw” upon his beautiful wife that he is sure can be removed

through the use of science. The “flaw”, which quickly becomes repulsive to Aylmer, can

be described as “…

… middle of paper …

“The Birth-mark” is a tale that speaks volumes about society. How far are we

willing to go in order to fulfill someone else’s definition of perfection? Georgiana gave

her life only to be “perfect” for only a few moments. At the end of the day, we need to

be able to look in the mirror and appreciate what was given to us at conception. Flaws

are not flaws, but mere reminders that we are all mortal. Everyday a woman goes

under the knife in order to perfect something she considers a flaw, risking death. While

cosmetic procedures are performed routinely, there is always a risk. Are we willing to

accept the consequences that come along with challenging nature’s beauty? What is

perfect anyways?

Works Cited

Hawthorne, Nathaniel. “The Birth-Mark.” The Norton Anthology American Literature. Ed.

Nina Baym. New York: New York, 2007. 1320-1333

Free Native Son Essays: Two Schools of Thought Native Son Essays

Native Son – Two Schools of Thought Was it not the unexpected presence of Mrs. Dalton which caused Bigger to suffocate Mary Dalton? Was it not his fear of the consequences of the white mans legal system which forced him to burn the evidence? Was it not the shame that Jan Erlone made him feel which encouraged Bigger to blame Jan for Marys murder? Is Bigger not a victim of his overwhelming surroundings that drove him, beyond his control, to taking such drastic actions? In Native Son there is an abundance of evidence supporting two schools of thought. Bigger and his people had been oppressed by their white counterparts for so long. A colored was never to advance in life. Not that they could since their simple minds could not obtain all that was needed to live a good life. Negroes were to be kept firmly in their place. These very ignorant beliefs caused Bigger to shut himself off from the real world only to want and desire it all the more for not being allowed to attain it. There would come a time when Bigger would be enlightened and would create a new attitude, a new mind set–for he had killed. A new freedom had arisen in Bigger. He had done the undoable. Murder, concealment, and deceit. Was it all Biggers bidding, cold and clinical? Or was it all based on the shame and the fear Bigger felt? Would he have contemplated the same crime at any other time? Throughout the entire novel, it has been illustrated with precise articulation that Bigger never, could not, act on his own willpower. An emotion, a force always moved him, even towards his escape. And in his escape, Bigger felt the urge to steal, commit delinquencies, and act in such a brutish manner. Could all this be the product of a less manipulated environment? Bigger Thomas undeniable criminal actions are only fed by his own self-oppression, and his acceptance of the boundaries placed about him. He acted as expected by the ignorant society responsible for him.

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