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The Role of Obsessive Compulsiveness in The Birthmark, by Nathaniel Hawthorn - Essay Example

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Name Instructor Class July 8, 2011 The Role of Obsessive Compulsiveness in The Birthmark by Nathaniel Hawthorne Scientists are often depicted as people with obsessive compulsive behaviors, as they focus on their scientific pursuits with aims of perfection…
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The Role of Obsessive Compulsiveness in The Birthmark, by Nathaniel Hawthorn
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Download file to see previous pages Georgina’s beauty mark wakes up the patriarchal attitude of dominance over one’s wife. This patriarchal attitude parallels with Aylmer’s obsessive compulsiveness, because it focuses on dominance and the existence of the “severe superego” (Pollak 138). The setting of the story is their home, which describes the domesticity of the wife. Georgina is prepared to die in the process of her birthmark’s removal: “Danger is nothing to me; for life, while this hateful mark makes me the object of your horror and disgust…” (Hawthorne). Furthermore, she fully trusts her husband’s intelligence, though she felt something wrong before the “experimental” removal of her birthmark: “…that there was a stirring up of her system--a strange, indefinite sensation creeping through her veins…” (Hawthorne). As society has conditioned Georgina to be the traditional female, she surrenders everything to her husband; she chooses to be dominated all throughout, though her own existence may be at risk. This obsessive compulsive behavior destroys all forms of healthy social relationships, because it dwells on irrational obsessions. Aylmer’s OCD damages his relationship with his wife: “Obsessive–compulsive disorder is … frequently accompanied by family, social, school and work dysfunctions” (Rosario-Campos 495). He sees this birthmark as something “evil,” which disables him from fully enjoying a healthy relationship with her: “… selecting it as the symbol of his wife's liability to sin, sorrow, decay, and death” (Hawthorne). He also does not have a humane relationship with his apprentice, Aminadab. Aylmer sees Aminadab as a means to his end, not as a human being worthy of equal stature. He calls out to him: “…carefully, thou human machine; carefully, thou man of clay!” (Hawthorne). Evidently, these obsessions have made Aylmer’s life devoid of lasting social relationships of any kind. As a person, obsessive compulsiveness enables Aylmer to cope with the stress of feeling “inadequate” with his knowledge, characterized with religious alacrity and intonations. Salkovskis (1985) suggests that compulsive behaviors are built as a “means of coping with stress” and compulsions help neutralize the stress (qtd. in Coles et al. 658). The main obsession here of Aylmer is not the birthmark alone, but the pursuit of perfect knowledge, a predominant theme of the story. Georgina discovers books of numerous failed efforts of Aylmer. These books provide the atmosphere of both sheer determination and desperation: “His brightest diamonds were the merest pebbles, and felt to be so by himself, in comparison with the inestimable gems which lay hidden beyond his reach” (Hawthorne). In addition, Aylmer relates his obsessive compulsiveness to religious ends: “obsessions characterized by aggressive, sexual, or religious themes” (Taylor et al. 166). He is similar to past alchemists who “…perhaps imagined themselves to have …a sway over the spiritual world” (Hawthorne). Indeed, Aylmer desires omniscient knowledge and the language of the story shows how ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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