"The Birthmark" And How It Related To Impericism

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"The Birthmark" and how it relates to Impericism: By Nathaniel Hawthorne In the story The Birthmark by Nathaniel Hawthorne there is an underlying theme of empiricism versus nature. The character Alymer is the embodiment of the scientific method and his wife is the embodiment of nature. The fact that the whole story is about removing a physical flaw from Georgiana's face when she is obviously beautiful demonstrates the degree, to which Alymer has allowed the pursuit of empiricism to destroy his ability to perceive nature's beauty. Napier notes, "The pattern is one of union and separation."(32) As the story progresses Alymer sees the birth mark as progressively more repugnant when he originally found Georgiana beautiful. Alymer only sees Georgiana's superficial beauty and no longer sees her for her inner beauty, the beauty of nature. Alymer sees the promise of perfecting nature but fails to realize the impossibility of earthly perfection.

Eckstein says "Science promises mortality in exchange for a unique discovery, sometimes regardless of the cost to life."(518) The theme of empiricism as is portrayed in "The Birthmark" is as relevant today as it was when it was written. Hawthorne is setting out to warn people that the scientific method can be harmful if used irresponsibly. Eckstein also states "Easlea, in fact, argues that one of the primary motivations of research scientist is the desire to announce a history making breakthrough."(518) Even when Alymer had never had success he was pushing on in an attempt to redeem him self at any cost.

Hawthorne also wants the reader to understand that when men take the role of god into their own hands disastrous results usually ensue. Alymer and Georgiana are talking about a potion that has the power to postpone death indefinitely and her disbelief she says,