As we discussed in class, John Donne’s “A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning” introduces a kind of love is not based upon physical attraction, but rather a mental and emotional connection between the lovers. Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Birthmark” presents the opposite perspective. Aylmer, a driven scientist, looks at his wife and rather than appreciating her for the person she is internally, he only focuses on the imperfection located on her face. He becomes obsessed with discovering how to remove the birthmark, because he can only see beauty as perfection. The difference between the poem and the short story is that one speaker is able to look deeper into his lover’s soul and see her inner beauty while the other speaker becomes obsessed with exterior looks with the inability to see past his wife’s scar.
Although Aylmer sees the birthmark as a disgusting, horrible blemish, Hawthorne seems to describe the imperfection using beautiful images rather than ugly ones. He describes it as a “crimson stain upon the snow” and “a bass-relief of ruby on the whitest marble”. In the latter example, the scar is portrayed as a ruby, which is one of the most precious and stunning stones on earth. The scar is illustrated with words that would usually represent beauty in any other context, but in this case they are representing something unattractive and flawed.
Today, media portrays beauty in a particular way, focusing and judging a person based upon their external appearance. The way someone looks should not represent who they truly are as an individual. I believe beauty is not physical attribute but is represented by the greatness of a person’s heart.
In William Wordsworth’s “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud”, the speaker sees nature’s beauties that most people do not stop and appreciate more often. He admires the beauty of the daffodils and he is overcome with joy and satisfaction when he thinks back to their image. He uses the beauty of the daffodils as an escape when he feels sad or depressed.
Beauty is a powerful thing, whether in a person or in nature. The poems and short stories we’ve examined have cast a light upon how different people may perceive beauty in their lives. I believe beauty has the ability to change forms, which allows its presence to exist everywhere and provides us with the chance to view it in whatever way we please.