In "The Birthmark," what difference would it make if the mark on Georgiana’s cheek were shaped like a fish, a heart, or an irregular oval? Why (and when) does the mark appear redder or more visible or faint? If the birthmark is explicitly a “symbol of imperfection” (paragraph 9), what kinds of imperfection does it represent?

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Nathaniel Hawthorne's "The Birthmark," first published in 1843, is perhaps Hawthorne's most well-known exploration of the tension between nature and science—the struggle for ascendancy of two competing views about the perfection of human nature. Like Hawthorne's "Rappaccini's Daughter," another story of the perversion of science in order to control nature, "The Birthmark" centers on the scientist, Aylmer's, obsessive attempts to eradicate "imperfection" in the form of a birthmark on his wife, Georgiana's, cheek. As your question suggests, the birthmark becomes a powerful symbol because perceptions of it vary according to the characters' world view.

Hawthorne introduces the theme of nature versus science, as well as the theme of love between man and woman, in his description of the scientist Aylmer:

He had devoted himself, however, too unreservedly to scientific studies ever to be weaned from them by any second passion. His love for his young wife might prove the stronger of the two;...

(The entire section contains 4 answers and 1445 words.)

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