Feminism Georgiana’s beauty, but the longer he

Feminism has been a prominent movement in many aspects of life for thousands of years. The majority of the world’s society is essentially patriarchal, and women, in more recent decades, are trying to change society’s stereotypical views of the “perfect” woman. In The Birthmark, by nineteenth century author Nathaniel Hawthorne, the husband in the story, Aylmer, desires for his already stunning wife, Georgiana, to be physically “perfect.” Hawthorne mentions that Georgiana is unbelievably beautiful, but has an unsightly birthmark on her face, that bothers him immensely. Georgiana gives in to her husband, because she believes that he is the superior being in the household, and she must please him; she lets him attempt to remove her birthmark. The  of the story ends up arguably badly for Georgiana, which shows how men view women as subordinate and simply as objects. Aylmer clearly holds this illogical standard for women, and is a prominent, although fictional, member of the everlasting patriarchy. The Birthmark (1843) is a short story about the patriarchal societies’ belief that a woman must be perfect. The story centers around the accomplished scientist Aylmer and his outstandingly good-looking wife Georgiana, who has a small, but quite noticeable hand-shaped birthmark in the center of her cheek. Aylmer has always been entranced by Georgiana’s beauty, but the longer he stares at her birthmark, the more it agitates him. He inquires if Georgiana has ever thought of getting the birthmark removed, which she replies no, as she thinks of it as a good luck charm. Aylmer states that her birthmark is a “shocking stain” upon her otherwise perfect face, which Georgiana takes great offense to. He begins to obsess of how it obstructs her beauty. Since it bothers Aylmer so much, Georgiana says she would do anything in order to make him content, so she would allow him to remove it. They continue to Aylmer’s laboratory, and after hours of him experimenting and amazing Georgiana with his inventions, he discovers a powerful “remedy” potion to rid her of her supposed imperfection. She drinks the potion, and as she sleeps, Aylmer excitedly watches the birthmark fade away. Once Georgiana wakes, she tells her beloved husband to not feel poorly about “rejecting the best the earth could offer.” Then Georgiana dies. The root of the feminist movement in history is shown to have occured in the early 1840’s, which is shortly after The Birthmark was published. It progressed into a form of “radical” feminism in the 1960’s, when women demanded to be heard even more than before. Gender-based equality has always been the main goal of the feminist movement, unchanged throughout the roughly one hundred and fifty years since it had prominently began. Women, such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton, were not satiated with being a second-rate citizen. They wanted to gain equal education and the right to vote, along with joining many male-dominated fields of work, such as being a doctor. Many people, especially religious groups, took great offense to the women’s supposedly “strange” demands, and thought that their movement to gain rights would lead to the formation of gay or abortion rights groups. The most considerable accomplishment of feminist groups in their earlier years was women gaining the right to vote on August 26th, 1920, which created a widespread feeling of solidarity among women across the United States. Women’s rights only increased from that point on, resulting much from the struggles and dedication of determined feminists. In the midst of the radical feminism era of the 1960’s, there was a noticeable rise in feminist approaches to literary critique.  It exposed an unbelievably large amount of misogyny in mostly Western literature, and the way many male authors portray women as inferior, weak, and disparaged. The damage has been  done by the sexist male authors throughout the centuries, and feminism-based authors and critics want to force the public to see the works of others, especially men, from a feminist perspective. In The Birthmark, women are stereotyped as weak, inferior, as objects simply existing for the pleasure of their husband, and that their physical appearance is the only significant thing about them. Aylmer, who is incredibly bothered by his wife’s birthmark, says to her: “…you came so nearly perfect from the hand of Nature that this slight possible defect , which we hesitate whether to term a defect or a beauty, shocks me, as being the visible mark of earthly imperfection.” Following this statement, which horribly offends Georgiana, Aylmer continues to fixate on his wonderful wife’s only imperfection, disregarding any other qualities that Georgiana may obtain. Female characters in novels are often excessively oversimplified and naive, such as in The Birthmark, where Georgiana is perceived to be quite fragile, submissive, ignorant, and powerless. Her husband Aylmer is portrayed as strong, intelligent, powerful, and the dominant figure in the household, which emphasizes the hold that the patriarchy had on 19th and 20th century literature, and still resonates today. Although Georgiana is one of the main characters in The Birthmark, she plays a more minor role in the story. Her husband Aylmer plays a much larger role, reiterating the fact that male authors can primarily be sexist towards even the fictional characters in their stories. Women, such as Georgiana, clearly played a subservient role to their husbands greatly during the 19th and 20th centuries. Men have continually expected women to stay home and be the stereotypical “housewife” who cleans the house, fully cares for the children, and always has dinner ready when their husbands return home from work in the evenings. Women were not expected, or really even allowed to work, and if they did, they would be discriminated against immensely. This is still unfortunately shown today with the wage gap between men and women in the workforce. Women were expected to fulfill their husband’s every wish without question, and that their husbands were always right. This was the norm for nearly every woman in the time period in which The Birthmark was written. As in the majority 19th century stories, the female characters have no power whatsoever. Georgiana allowed Aylmer to essentially bully her into getting her birthmark removed. She does this simply to please him, as she believes as a wife, it is her job to keep her husband happy, no matter the cost. This is shown when Georgiana says to Aylmer: ” Danger is nothing to me; for life, while this hateful mark makes me the object of your horror and disgust,-life is a burden which I would fling down with joy. Either remove this hand, or take my wretched life!’ At the beginning of the story, Georgiana takes pride in her birthmark, as it makes her different. But with the constant visible disgust it brings her husband, she begins to despise it more than Aylmer. This illustrates the influence that women used to allow men to have over every aspect of their lives. In The Birthmark, Aylmer talks about his wife only using words that describe her appearance, or that make her sound simple. This shows how he values Georgiana’s physical appearance over any other quality that she may have. Such as when Aylmer states: “Dearest Georgiana”, “Georgiana’s beauty”, “Noblest, dearest, tenderest Georgiana…” Aylmer never once refers to Georgiana’s intellect, kindness, or any other quality she could obtain other than her physical image. Aylmer even a few times thinks that the insignificant birthmark on her cheek “quite destroyed the effect of Georgiana’s beauty, and rendered her countenance even hideous.” This emphasizes the fact that most men commonly view and treat women as hardly more than objects to look upon, especially in the past few centuries. The Birthmark is sympathetic to Georgiana, the main female character of the story, but not in a benevolent way. It portrays her as weak, pitiful, unintelligent, and extremely submissive to her husband, as most women were in the time period that this story was written. There is a major theme of the story that could be seen as a feminist issue-a woman’s submissiveness to her husband.  Georgiana gives up her entire life for the happiness of her husband, which is shown at the end when she dies due to the potion Aylmer uses when trying to rid her of the “unsightly” birthmark. This theme is derogatory and unfavorable towards women. It illustrates what men used to believe, and possibly still believe to be how the “ideal” wife should behave. Overall, Georgiana is a believable character, but only to readers in the time period in which the story was written. It is most likely that no modern woman would believe that she needs to be fully submissive to her husband, and feels that she needs to change herself in order to make him happy. Today, women are empowered and believe that any man that truly loves them would not try to alter anything about them, especially their outward appearance. Aylmer is somewhat of a believable character. He seems like the epitome of how a man would treat his wife in the early-to-mid 19th or even early 20th century. Modern men are not nearly as controlling or selfish as Aylmer. At the end of the story, Georgiana’s death represents how many women felt in the centuries that they were oppressed. Her death also symbolizes how women would rather die than live an oppressed life completely submissive, as Georgiana did. Times definitely have changed since The Birthmark was written, but full gender equality has not.