The Birth-Mark

What is Happiness Worth?: "The Birthmark" and "Wakefield" 11th Grade

Happiness is an ideal emotion that everyone wants to experience and will go to desperate measures to achieve. If one wants to explore the facets of how important happiness is for people to achieve, they will have to put themselves in the shoes of the main characters throughout the main characters in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s stories “The Birthmark” and “Wakefield.” The stories help people understand that the need for happiness is essential, but that actually achieving that happiness in real life is much harder to obtain unless one actively pursues it. The main characters in the stories, Aylmer and Wakefield, believe that self-inflicted disappointment, personal consequence, and risk of loss are worth it if the end result is happiness.

Aylmer believes that perfection is the only thing that can make him happy, so he highlights the birthmark on his wife, Georgiana, as an object of his disappointment that must be removed in order to make her perfect. He says that Georgiana “…Came so nearly perfect from the hand of Nature that this slightest possible defect, which we hesitate whether to term a defect or a beauty, shocks me, as being the visible mark of earthly imperfection” (Hawthorne 2). The imperfect birthmark clouds Aylmer’s mind with...

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