The Sin of Desire Comparing Nathaniel Hawthorne's two stories, "The Birthmark" and "The Scarlet Letter",

Essay by butterflystefHigh School, 12th gradeA, November 2004

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Nathaniel Hawthorne's two stories, "The Birthmark" and "The Scarlet Letter", have very similar themes and plots. The two stories were written in the 1800's when Europeans, that practised the Puritan religion, started to move to America. The two stories share similar themes of sin and desire with underlying Puritan values.

Aylmer, the devoted scientist in "The Birthmark", marries a beautiful woman with a single physical flaw, a birthmark on her face. The tale evolves around his progressive frenzy to use his scientific skills to render his bride perfect. Hester Prynne of "The Scarlet Letter" falls in love with the Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale when she first moves to America to set up a home for her husband. They secretly begin an affair. The result of this affair is Hester becomes pregnant. When the government finds out, she is publically humiliated and thrown in jail where she gives birth to her daughter, Pearl.

Her husband arrives and is now driven by the idea to find out who was Hester's lover and destroy his life, as well as the life of Hester.

Throughout the two stories, sin is the major theme. Sin and knowledge are linked in the Puritan religion. Hester Prynne of "The Scarlet Letter" was said to have sinned when she had an affair. She was a strong, free-spirited woman whom the society felt threatened by. Her desire and love became ostracised as a sin. Aylmer of "The Birthmark" was believed to have sinned when he overextended the reach from realm of natural into that of the divine. He tampered with God's creations. He tried to make his wife perfect but he could not see that she already was. Aylmer tried to obtain what he thought he wanted, but...