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Man vs Nature in Hawthornes The Birthmark and Jack Londons To Build a Fire - Essay Example

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The 'man' in Jack London's story "To Build a Fire" and Aylmer the "man of science" in Nathaniel Hawthorne's "The Birthmark" both appear extremely foolish in considering themselves superior to nature. Aylmer, the man of science, is a genius whose pride leads him to believe that he can improve upon nature's creation…
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Man vs Nature in Hawthornes The Birthmark and Jack Londons To Build a Fire
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Download file to see previous pages The point is that although man cannot hope to overcome nature, some men are foolhardy enough to try. Such men usually get adequate warning and advice, and if they choose to ignore these, they are doomed.
Hawthorne reveals that some scientists of Aylmer's time believed that they could rob the secret of creation from Nature, but he only wonders whether "Aylmer possessed this degree of faith in man's ultimate control over Nature." Anyway, Aylmer is so blinded by his learning that he believes that he can correct an error of Nature. The 'error' referred to is nothing more than a tiny birthmark on the otherwise perfect face of his beloved wife Georgiana. Aylmer has been warned in a dream that an attempt to remove the mark could place the life of his beloved in danger. Yet, led on by his confidence in his skills and the power of Science, or pulled by Fate, Aylmer decides to remove the birthmark. Georgiana supports her husband in this experiment because she prefers even death to the possession of a face that could 'shock' or disgust her husband. She has great faith in her husband's knowledge and abilities. When he assures her that he could remove the birthmark, she encourages him, without of any thought of the danger to herself.
Aylmer is assisted in the operation by Aminadab, who with "his vast strength, his shaggy hair, his smoky aspect, and the indescribable earthiness that incrusted him . . . seemed to represent man's physical nature; while Aylmer's slender figure, and pale, intellectual face, were no less apt a type of the spiritual element." The man of earth appears wiser, however, than the man of spirit when he mutters to himself, "If she were my wife, I'd never part with that birthmark." Aylmer receives two more warnings of disaster. Two scientific experiments with which he tries to divert his pretty wife before the major operation backfire. Still, he does not wish to give up. Nobly encouraged by his wife, he persists with the operation. The dose he gives her is strong enough to remove the imperfection from her face. When Georgiana wakes, Aylmer rejoices at the sight of his pretty wife with her new, perfect face. Alas, as all the 'imperfection' leaves Georgiana's body, her soul leaves the world along with it. Aylmer remains alone and solitary, to think about the limitations of his intellect and his understanding in contrast with the profound depths within which Nature hides her secrets.
London's human character in "To Build a Fire" is not given a name-he is only referred to as "the man", perhaps suggesting that he could represent all men, or many men. His weakness is to be found in his lack of 'imagination', and in his confidence in the powers of his physical strength. "He was quick and alert in the things of life, but only in the things, and not in the significances." He was a newcomer in the cold land and it was his first winter there. Yet, instead of listening to the voice of wisdom and experience, he rejects the advice of an old traveler never to go out in the freezing cold. The thought of fifty degrees below zero brought to his mind the picture of something "cold and uncomfortable, and that was all:"
It did not lead him to meditate upon his frailty as a creature of temperature, and upon man's frailty in general, able only to live within certain narrow limits of heat and cold; and from there on it did not lead him ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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