When comparing the two pieces of work, van der Zee’s chapters from A Secret Sorrow and Hawthorne’s The Birthmark, it is impossible not to notice the differences in the way the male treats his female counterpart. Though the emotional journey of the women in these stories are the inverse of each other, it is, in both situations, directly related to the way the man deals with the problem in the story. Both women have a physical fault that the males in the story must overcome. How they do so determines not only their own piece of mind but also the mentality and, inevitably, lives of their spouse. Each story speaks volumes about the consequences of actions and how they affect those who we love.
In The Birthmark, Aylmer becomes obsessive over a small, superficial birthmark on his wife’s, Georgiana’s, cheek. Aside from this one flaw, she is physically an image of perfection. He begins to criticize her mark. He ...view middle of the document...
Because of the way Aylmer choses to handle the situation, Georgiana goes from being a self-confident woman who is happy in her own skin to a woman who despises her own life.
The last couple of chapters from van der Zee’s A Secret Sorrow tells a story almost the complete opposite of the former. Faye is struggling with the repercussions of an accident earlier in her life that left her barren. She contemplates, “Could she ever feel confident and secure in her worth as a woman?” (van der Zee 36). She feels damaged, defective, hopeless, angry and afraid. Kai, unlike Aylmer, is strong, patient, supportive, and persistent. He constantly reassures her that he loves her, he holds her close, he kisses her, and he persists in his goal to marry her. Though her barrenness is not a small matter to him he loves her as is willing to do whatever it takes to have a life with her. Kai even tells her, “’I love you, not your procreating ability.’” (van der Zee 35). By the end of the story, Faye has never been happier. They have a picturesque life together and they have even found a way to overcome the obstacle of not being able to have their own children, they adopt.
The influence of loved ones is as strong as any emotion, even stronger sometimes. The way a person treats their loved ones can build them up to bliss or wholly destroy them. Here are two extreme and opposite cases modeling an example for each situation. In The Birthmark, a perfectly good woman is destroyed, even to the point of death, by the obsession of a superficial man who cannot set aside his vanity. A Secret Sorrow, on the other hand, shows a barren woman brought up out of the pit of despair and shame to be elevated through love and affection into a joyful and hopeful wife and mother. What a life Aylmer and Georgiana could have had had he only been considerate, supportive, and offering praise rather than petty, obsessive and condemning.
Hawthorne, Nathaniel. “The Birthmark.” The Compact Bedford Introduction to Literature. Ed. Michael Meyer. 9th ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s 2012. 343-354. Print.
van der Zee, Karen. “A Secret Sorrow.” The Compact Bedford Introduction to Literature. Ed. Michael Meyer. 9th ed. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s 2012. 31-38. Print.