How did Hawthorne's Puritan ancestry and background influence a story like "The Birthmark"?

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tinicraw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Hawthorne's understanding of the Puritan psyche is accurately personified through the actions of his characters in "The Birthmark." Aylmer represents the Calvinistic standard of the times, which means everything he does, writes in his journals, and says is based on the symbolic connection he makes between his wife's birthmark on her face to sin. Basically, Hawthorne uses his main character as a vehicle to show how Puritans viewed sin and how to deal with it. For example, Aylmer sees nature's mark on his wife's face as a symbol of her inherent sin; therefore it, as wells as anything sinful, should be disposed of. And if that cannot be erased, as Aylmer and those like him might have supposed at the time, then the only righteous thing to do is to eliminate it. In this case, eliminating the carrier of the mark would be justifiable as well. Other stories that reveal his understanding of Puritanism are "The Minister's Black Veil" and "Young Goodman Brown."

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The Birthmark

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