Bartel

By The Scrivener Hawthorne
I began my Hawthorne reading task with The Birth-Mark. I picked this story
because I am familiar with the Maypole of Merrymount and Young Goodman Brown,
and I wanted to try something different. I was pleasantly surprised with The

Birth-Mark, in my mind it far surpasses the latter two stories. I think one of
the most admirable traits of Hawthorne is his ability to write as though actions
are taking place somewhere in the present. Aylmer could very well live today,
somewhere in the world with his laboratory in the backyard. Men like Young

Goodman Brown are everywhere in today’s society, and, still, there are those
who try and destroy that which they do not understand or refuse to understand
like the Puritans in The Maypole of Merrymount. The Birth-Mark grapples with the
scientific progress of the time. I think the theme of humans trying to control
nature with unfavorable results is prevalent in many works of the time, most
notably Frankenstein. The fixation that Aylmer has on Georgiana’s birthmark is
unnatural. Hawthorne correlates this quest for perfection with Aylmer’s
intentions of formulating an elixir of life and mastering the art of alchemy.

Maybe Hawthorne is drawing a parallel here between the scientists of his day
trying to control nature and by the failure of scientists to do this in the
past. Aylmer’s attempt to control nature leads to the death of his wife which
is unnecessary, she is quite content with the minor facial blemish until he
makes a big deal about it. Maybe this too is a parallel between the mass
majority being content with the state of the world and a certain few who would
like to make it better, and, in turn, destroy it. I can understand Hawthorne’s
idea. I live in constant fear of nuclear war and the technology that has made it
available. But, I am grateful for the medical advances we have today. It is a
double-edge sword. (I am not implying that Aylmer is an evil man, I do not think
he is aware of the chaos he can arouse. In fact, he is merely concerned with
progress and saving humans from their own mortality and "humanness".) There
is one imparticular line from the story that I sound most engaging:

Hawthorne’s description "The scenery and the figures of actual life were
perfectly represented, but with that bewitching, yet indescribably difference,
which always makes a picture, an image, or a shadow, so much more attractive
than the original." When I read this I stopped mid-story. This is a common
theme throughout Romantic poetry I have encountered. Immediately it reminded me
of Shelly’s "To A Sky-Lark" and "Ode on a Grecian Urn" by Keats. Both
of these poems describe unattainable perfection. The skylark’s song is
beautiful, but it flies so high we are unable to see the creature and hense, the
song seems to come from the heavens. In "Ode...", Keats spends much time
describing the beauty of the grecian scene on the vase but then refutes it with"cold pastoral". Those two words could describe this short story. From the
outside, Aylmer thinks that everything on Georgiana would be perfect if she
didn’t have the birthmark. What he doesn’t realize is perfection is
unattainable, except in our minds. The Maypole of Merrymount describes a
maypole, and it’s significance in American history. Hawthorne creates a scene
of revelry (almost a Mardi Gras scene) and has it destroyed by the Puritans.

This story reminds me of the Christian Creation Story with the maypole being the

Garden of Eden and the Puritans being allegorical figures of Satan. Hawthorne
seems to blame the demise of the American freespirit on the Puritans. I don’t
have much to comment on this story; it is really a cut and dry case. I think

Hawthorne is harsh on the Puritans. I read somewhere that the view we have of
the Puritans today is somewhat misleading. They did not always wear black and
never laughed. Maybe to some, they did cause the utopic garden of America to be
shattered. After reading The Maypole of Merry Mount and Young Goodman Brown it
is quite obvious the contempt Hawthorne holds for the Puritans. In Young Goodman

Brown, Brown is led on a path where he encounters the devil and realizes that
everyone surrounding him in his Puritan neighborhood is evil at heart. He learns
his father and grandfather before him did the devil’s work, as well as the
women he holds with utmost admiration. Brown turns from "Faith"