Reading Analysis #1
What is beauty? Do all people have to see the same beauty in things? Is outer beauty always the only aspect to see in things? In both short stories “The Birthmark” and “The Yellow Wallpaper” and in the poem “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud”, a different sense of beauty is seen by all of the characters.
In the short story “The Birthmark”, by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Georgiana had a mark on her face that her husband, Aylmer, thought ruined her beauty. She was a stunning woman and Aylmer found everything about her to be perfect except a slight red blemish on her left cheek. After much discussion about this mark, Aylmer finally convinced Georgiana that he could remove the blemish and her beauty would be pure. At first, Georgiana did not want her husband to remove the mark for fear of a cureless deformity. Soon after this decision however, she told Aylmer that he had her permission to remove the only thing that kept her husband from seeing her total beauty. Much to Aylmer’s surprise, Georgiana soon died. Because Aylmer was not able to look past a simple mark on his wife’s cheek and was not able to understand that he would never truly be able to reach perfection, he ultimately led to her death. Aylmer was not able to realize that it was his wife’s imperfections that made her so special. Had the mark not been removed would Georgiana still be alive?
Unlike Aylmer, Charlotte Perkins Gilman was in fact able to find love in something that was very unpleasant from the outside. In the short story “The Yellow Wallpaper”, Gilman was suffering from a nervous condition and spent much of her life in a single room of her house. Because she was never suppose to go out, she would use her time to sit and write. In this short story, Gilman wrote about the room and put great detail into describing the wallpaper. She began by explaining how rundown the paper was and talked about how it would “get the best of her.” Over time however, the wallpaper began to grow on her and she became extremely fond of it. She found beauty in it not because of the way it looked, but because of what she could see in it. She began to see things that other people did not notice and she began to feel as though she was getting better because of the wallpaper. Although she was still “crazy”, this wallpaper was bringing something into her life.
Finally, in the poem “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud”, the narrator was able to see the beauty of the world. He described the beautiful flowers and the many people that passed by. He also talked about all of the gorgeous trees and the lakes that he could see. Never once did the narrator talk about the ugly things in the world. Although there was bad in the world, he was able to look past it and enjoy the beauty of nature.
In all three writings, the characters saw very different types of beauty. In “The Birthmark”, Georgiana’s husband focused strictly on her outer beauty and wanted nothing more than to make her surface look attractive. In “The Yellow Wallpaper” however, Gilman was able to look beyond the surface and find beauty and amazement in what the wallpaper had to offer. Although it was hideous from the outside, she was able to see much past that. Also, the narrator in “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” was able to view the world simply and focus on its beauty. He did not get caught up on the ugly things but rather saw the world in a way that made him happy.