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Relinquishment Of Free Will In The Birthmark And Carnal Knowledge

1202 words - 5 pages

    In literature it is common to find main characters that display unusual strength or might. Rarely are major literary characters (with the exception of villains) weak figures. Authors typically create strong roles for their protagonists. This is not the case, however, in the short stories "Carnal Knowledge" by T. Coraghessan Boyle and "The Birthmark" by Nathaniel Hawthorne. The narrator of "Carnal Knowledge," Jim, and one main character in "The Birthmark," Georgiana, have few outward similarities. They are both slaves by choice, though, willing to ignore their own desires and submerge themselves in another person's will.

On the surface, "The Birthmark" and "Carnal Knowledge" have little in common. One is the story of a man taken in by a young girl's passion for animal rights, the other is the story of a mad scientist whose obsession for perfection results in the death of his wife. Jim and Georgiana are drastically different characters. He is the typical "ordinary guy" who has a boring job and a mediocre social life. He is just waiting for someone to come along and spice things up. Georgiana is a young beauty and a devoted wife. Neither of them are particularly extraordinary, and they are not related in any obvious way.

Despite the major exterior differences, however, there is a strong correlation between the characters of Jim and Georgiana. Both are relatively weak people who allow another person to direct, dominate, and exploit them. In both cases this willingness to submit to a will other than their own is based on some incarnation of love or lust. Jim is immediately attracted to Alena, and that attraction grows into an addiction to the exciting life she leads. In the midst of his narrative he reflects on his feelings for her, asking himself "Was it love?" He answers that he supposes it was "love, pure and simple" (Boyle, 248). Jim also says that Alena fascinated and fixated him, that she seemed irresistible. It seems that Jim feels that he is compelled to follow her and go along with her every whim, even if what she is doing goes against his own personal beliefs. It is unlikely he was actually in love with Alena. Rather, he was in love with the things she represented and the passion she exhibited.

In Georgiana's case, the sentiment is something deeper than a wild desire to follow. She sincerely feels very strongly for her husband Aylmer. This is never outright stated; it is, however, implied. Aylmer is said to have loved her, and there is no reason to suppose she did not love him. The fact that such a great beauty with so many admirers would choose a scientist who was older than her and apparently a little eclectic shows that it had to be a marriage of romance. She must have had other offers. The fact she reacts so strongly to Aylmer's merest criticism also shows that she is quite concerned about his opinion of her, and suggests that his views matter a great deal to her.

Due to the intense feelings that Jim and Georgiana...

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