The Characterization Of Criticism In The Birthmark By Nathaniel Hawthorne
899 Words4 Pages
Any rational, compassionate individual who reads Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Birth-mark” would be aghast at how Aylmer treats Georgiana, his wife. Aylmer treats Georgiana as an object, or rather a specimen, for Aylmer desires to “possess one living specimen of ideal loveliness, without the semblance of a flaw” (Hawthorne 13). Aylmer’s misogynistic approach to his wife and her birthmark, “this single imperfection” (15), then, comes as no surprise. The “imperfection” does not rest with Georgiana, however—it rests with Aylmer and his detrimental objectification of her through the male gaze.
The male gaze, Freud theorizes, “is a phallic activity” with the aim of “sadistic mastery of the object” (Sarup 137), who is “cast as its passive, masochistic feminine victim. As long as the master’s scopophilia (‘love of looking’) remains satisfied, his domination is secure” (137). Aylmer’s scopophilia rests in his desire to love what he wishes to see: no birthmark on Georgiana’s cheek. His desire for “sadistic mastery of the object” is certainly made evident in his behavior towards Georgiana; for instance, he remarks callously, “I even rejoice in this single imperfection, since it will be such a rapture to remove it” (Hawthorne 15); and, later in the story, the verbal abuse even turns into physical abuse: “He rushed towards her, and seized her arm with a gripe that left the print of his fingers upon it” (17). Aylmer’s objectification of Georgiana, the desire he projects onto Georgiana, has