Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Birthmark

Nathaniel Hawthorne's Tales (Norton Critical Editions)
Anthology with "The Birthmark."

  Since the world began, humanity has been obsessed with the pursuit of perfection, and so follows advancements in science.  Where are the boundaries in terms of nature and human intervention?  How much should we "improve" on what is natural?  I am being purposefully vague here, because one might take this idea in many different directions.  Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1868) wrote when scientific advancements were becoming fast paced, affecting everyone's lives for the better or worse.  The story "The Birthmark" explores the humanistic question of ethical boundaries; a relevant question even today.  "The Birthmark" is an allegory of a young scientist and his beautiful wife.  She has a birthmark on her cheek and he sees this mark as an imperfection that mars her otherwise flawless face.  He convinces her to allow him to remove the mark and in the end he accidentally kills her, although the mark is removed and she is "perfect" at last.

I think this discussion is relevant in so many ways, but when it comes to beauty I think there is a lot that should be said. Woman are encouraged to fight their natural body shape in order to be acceptably thin.  Plastic surgery procedures have become commonplace, yet I would like to see more women celebrated for their individuality.  I myself am far from classically beautiful, (in fact I am pretty average) but I think that the defects I have make me unique.  The same might be said for those who are beautiful and iconic but might not fit a certain mold for their time:  take a look!

Marilyn Monroe's mole was real, but in her early photos
it was covered up with make-up.  She later enhanced it.
Audrey Hepburn was considered too skinny in the days of
Marilyn curves.  She also had crooked teeth.

Cindy Crawford was advised to have her mole removed; the smart girl refused.

Kate Moss was told that she is too short.

Model Lara Stone says she loses work because
at a size 4 she is considered too fat.

I need to take my own advice here as well, but it is worth being reminded that where physical beauty is concerned, nature knows best. Just as these beautiful women prove.


  1. Rebecca: I have always concerned you probably the most beautiful woman in my acquaintance, both physically and spiritually. But I do agree, that beauty is subjective, and what really makes anyone beautiful is what is within. Beauty really comes from the inside out. We are so concerned about that certain ideal; just like in "The Birthmark" when real beauty should be something that is unique.

    Funny; that is one of my favorite books by Hawthorne!!! Great post!!

  2. Cyndee, you always know just what to say. That is flattering, but I have my hang-ups for sure. We all do, and need reassurance. I love Nathaniel Hawthorne so much and will do more on his short stories. Thanks again for following.


  3. And as my dad would say, "Pulchritude extendeth not beneath the dermal layer."



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...