In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s story “The Birthmark” you find a couple fairly prevalent disorders. Although psychology was as of yet not existence, Hawthorne describes them quite well. Alymer suffered from an obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, while his actions caused Georgiana to develop a body dysmorphic disorder. Both of which attributed to the eventual demise of Georgiana. Alymer is an older scientist who marries a beautiful woman much younger then himself. Even though Alymer finds his young bride beautiful, he still says that she is “marked.” Upon Georgiana’s left cheek is a birthmark.
The birthmark is small, red, and in the shape of a hand. Alymer believes that this mark takes away from her beauty; even though many other people, men and women alike, thought it to be charming; and those who did not, just “wished it away.” However, Alymer could not wish away Georgiana’s birthmark. He even approached her about it being removed-“Georgiana,” said he, “has it never occurred to you that the mark upon your cheek might be removed?”No, indeed,” said she, smiling; but perceiving the seriousness of his manner, she blushed deeply. “To tell you the truth it has been so often called a charm that I was simple enough to imagine it might be so.” (Hawthorne 306) Alymer was afflicted with an obsessive-compulsive personality disorder. By definition obsessive-compulsive personality disorder is “A personality disorder characterized by a pervasive preoccupation with orderliness, perfectionism, and interpersonal control […
... true goal in this story is to force Georgiana to believe that her birthmark is "a symbol of [her] liability to sin ... results in the decision to remove the birthmark. Internal conflict invades the psyche of Georgiana and forces her to make a decision ... the eyes of Aylmer, a diseased Georgiana. Another tool that Hawthorne brings into use in "The Birthmark" in order to show difference ...
].” (Medical Net) Characteristics of this disorder include the following: 1) Preoccupation with details, rules, lists, order, organization, or schedules. 2) Perfectionism. 3) Excessive devotion to work to the exclusion of leisure activities and friendships. 4) Inability to discard worthless objects of no sentimental value.
5) Reluctance to delegate tasks or work with others unless everything is done their way. 6) Miserliness in regard to oneself and others. 7) Rigidity and stubbornness. (Body Image) Out of all of the above-mentioned traits, Alymer displays four.
However, his rigidity and stubbornness are not caused by his disorder. That could be attributed to Hawthorne’s background, and the era in which this story was written. Other qualities which he exhibits are perfectionism, excessive devotion to work, and miserliness toward others. Alymer first shows his perfectionism when he tells Georgiana that she ‘came so nearly perfect,” and calls the birthmark, a “visible mark of earthly imperfection.” (Hawthorne 306) He wishes to have the perfect wife. And Georgiana is young and beautiful. But she has her birthmark which disturbs Alymer greatly.
After giving the liquid to his wife, Alymer exclaims, “[… ] You are perfect!” (Hawthorne 316) Another sign that he was a perfectionist was the fact he kept such a detailed record of his work over the years. It is not the fact that the books themselves exist, but that Alymer was not truly satisfied with his work:” [… ] she could not [help] but observe that his most splendid successes were almost invariably failures, if compared with the ideal at which he aimed. His brightest diamonds were the merest pebbles, […
].” (Hawthorne 313) The second attribute of obsessive-compulsive personality disorder that Alymer displays is excessive working. Since he is such a perfectionist in his science, it’s obvious that he spends the majority of his time in his lab. This doesn’t leave much time for a social life. Because Alymer is preoccupied with work, this causes him to be miserly toward others. He doesn’t show a respect toward his wife’s wishes as he should. He does not want the birthmark on her face, and she, being the good wife she is, agreed.
... DSM-IV, "there are Bipolar I Disorder, Bipolar II Disorder, cyclothymia disorder, and bipolar disorder not otherwise specified" (American Psychiatric Association ... 2. 5 million people in America have bipolar disorder. This disorder usually occurs during adolescence or early adulthood and ... be diagnosed with manic depression as well. Bipolar disorder also shows symptoms by being very irritable and ...
Alymer was also clearly obsessed with the birthmark. His mind was clouded with thoughts of the mark. It bothered him so deeply he actually became physically repulsed by the sight of it. Worse then that, he dreamt of the tiny red spot on Georgiana’s face.
It even got to the point where Aylmer would only kiss Georgiana’s right cheek. All these “recurrent obsessional thoughts” are signs of obsessive-compulsive disorder. Alymer was not the only person with a disorder, however. Georgiana suffered from body dysmorphic disorder. Body dysmorphic disorder, or BDD, is a psychiatric disorder characterized by an excessive preoccupation with imagined defects in physical appearance; an eating disorder would be an example. In the loosest interpretations of that definition Georgiana was afflicted with this disorder.
Unfortunately for Georgiana, she developed her disorder because if her husband’s obsession, and her desire to be a good wife. At first Georgiana did not find anything wrong with her face, but after Alymer expressed his wish to see the birthmark gone, her attitude changed. Instead of calling it a charm like she used to, now she refers to it as the “fatal birthmark.” She is willing to do anything in order to please her husband:” I submit,” replied she calmly. “And, Alymer, I shall quaff whatever draught you bring me; but it will be on the same principle that would induce me to take a dose of poison if offered by your hand.” (Hawthorne 314) Not only does the above passage show Georgiana’s willingness to appease Alymer, but also shows how she feels beneath her husband. Not unusual for the time period, but a factor that attributes to her BDD. Both Alymer and Georgiana suffered from terrible disorders that eventually caused Georgiana’s death.
... important to know what exactly Body Dysmorphic Disorder is, and understand the effects and treatment for Body Dysmorphic Disorder. What is Body Dysmorphic Disorder? Body Dysmorphic Disorder is the obsession of a ... flaw on their body. This is what is known as Body Dysmorphic Disorder or Body Dysmorphia. Body Dysmorphic Disorder is a complex psychological disorder because the disorder itself isn’t ...
Alymer with his obsessive-compulsive personality disorder, and Georgiana with her body dysmorphic disorder. If they had not been afflicted with their diseases, then Georgiana would have lived. If he had not been so obsessive, Georgiana would not have developed BDD. And if she had not tried to make Alymer happy, she would not have allowed him to give her the deathly liquid.
Sadly though, even in the end, Alymer shows no true remorse. After Georgiana dies, he gives a “hoarse, chuckling laugh.” After all, his wife may be dead, but she looks perfect without any blemish upon her face. Works Cited 1) Hawthorne, Nathaniel. “The Birthmark.” Sixth Edition The Compact Bedford Introduction to Literature.
Michael Meyers Ed. Boston/New York: Bedford/St. Martin 1996 p. 306-162) Body Image and Body Dysmorphic Disorder. 2002. 7 Dec.
2003 web. 3) Medicine Net Medical Dictionary. 2003. 7 Dec. 2003 web.
4) Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, European Description. 1992. 1 Dec. 2003 web.