Nathaniel Hawthorne, a prominent American writer of the 19th century, is known for his skillful use of literary techniques to explore complex themes and characters . In his short story “The Birth-Mark,” Hawthorne employs juxtaposition and allusions to illuminate the qualities of the central character, Aylmer. Through these literary devices, Hawthorne offers a deep insight into Aylmer’s obsession with perfection, his intellectual prowess, and his ultimately tragic flaw.
Hawthorne masterfully employs juxtaposition in “The Birth-Mark” to emphasize the contrasting elements of science and nature embodied by Aylmer. Aylmer is portrayed as a brilliant scientist, wholly devoted to the pursuit of knowledge and the power of human intellect. His laboratory, filled with scientific apparatuses and experiments, stands in stark contrast to the natural beauty of his wife Georgiana. The narrator describes Georgiana as having “a surpassing loveliness” with the sole exception of a small birthmark on her cheek, which Aylmer obsessively views as the sole imperfection in an otherwise perfect creation (Hawthorne 12). This juxtaposition underscores Aylmer’s inner conflict as he strives to overcome nature’s imperfections with the perfection of science, foreshadowing the tragic consequences of his endeavor.