James N. Coppock
ENGL 8800 – Idealist
Dr. John J. McKenna
Feb. 13, 2008
Analysis of Georgiana in Nathanial Hawthorne’s “The Birthmark”
“ It is undoubtedly the Idealist
who is the most loving, dedicated,
affectionate, and appreciative mate,
and is unstinting in the
expression of these emotions”
Idealist temperament is perhaps the one type that values most the nuances of human existence, seeking “spiritual illumination
or personal enlightenment” (Keirsey 117). While Artisans build societies
and Guardians support and protect it, Idealists seek to understand what it is about
humans that compel us to be citizens in a society to begin with. Idealists seek
out underlining meanings to explain what it is to be human and value both cooperation and abstract thought. And, while Rationals may seek to understand the order they see in the world around them, Idealists seek
to connect with this very world. The
character of Georgiana in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Birthmark” is a suitable example of the Idealist temperament,
in particular, the Idealist Healer.
example, Keirsey says that Healers are “comfortable working out of the limelight,” and assist others “to
find health through inner peace” (128). They do this through “acceptance,
accommodation, reconciliation, forgiveness, resolution, reunification,” which Georgiana clearly strives for in this
story. She perceives deeply the emotional distraught – however superficial
it is – of her husband, Aylmer, who becomes obsessed with the idea of removing her birthmark. Georgiana responds accommodatingly to her husband’s needs, saying, “Danger is nothing to me,
for life . . . is a burden” (Meyer 419). “Either remove this dreadful
hand, or take my wretched life” (419). Even upon her death, she assures
Aylmer “you have aimed loftily, you have done nobly. Do not repent that
with so high and pure a feeling” (427). In this, I purpose that Georgiana
exhibits the temperament of the Healer.
Abstract Cooperators (NF)
tend to be abstract in their word usage and ideas but cooperative in their tool usage (Keirsey 120). Georgiana’s own language reflects this as she speaks of dreams, magic, and nobility. She is enthralled by her husband’s tomes “full of romance and poetry” and became “rapt
in musings” at Aylmer’s work (Meyer 423, 425). Typical of Idealists,
Georgiana also uses all-or-none language in ascribing what Keirsey calls “Absolute Truth” to things, as she overdramatizes
the birthmark, claiming its removal is worth nothing short of her life (122, Meyer 419).
Intellectually, Keirsay says Idealists are diplomatic,
“born to use their personal empathy and interpersonal skills to improve relations between people (124). Georgiana reads the “peculiar expression that his face always wore” when peering on her blemish,
and quickly moves from being “deeply hurt” and angry to seeing things from Aylmer’s point-of-view (418,
417). In fact, Georgiana is so in tune with her husband that she anticipates
the dream that he had about the birthmark, “a terrible dream” (418). Protecting
her Idealist Healer core values, she accedes to his wish to remove the mark, even suggesting the “practicality of its
Another defining difference among the temperament
types is interests. Idealists’ interest revolve around humanities, morale,
and personnel (Keirsey 129). They thrive on “transmitting ideas through
words” and are “preoccupied with how those around them . . . are feeling about themselves” (130). Additionally, Idealists help others “develop over the course of their careers, as when we see Georgiana
encouraging Aylmer in his work after reading his journals (Keirsey 131, Meyer 422).
She is very sensitive to her husband’s feelings of competence in his work: “I shall quaff whatever draught
you bring me . . . if offered by your hand (425).
Orientation refers to a certain “social
frame of reference” that includes one’s perspective on the past, the present, the future, time, and place (Keirsey
46). Idealists are altruistic and “believe in things easily and without
reserve,” just as we find Georgiana believing in her husband (Keirsey 132). Georgiana
first calls her birthmark a “charm,” giving into the fancy that it was a “fairy” that “laid
her tiny hand upon” her cheek at birth (417). Keirsey would agree that
this metaphysical indulgence is evidence of the protagonist’s Idealist temperament.
The triangular relationship of Idealist self-image
revolves around benevolence, empathy, and authenticity, always concerned with an “empathic bonding with people in their
circle” and will “suppress their own feelings” to avoid the animosity of others (137-38). As evidence in Hawthorne’s story, Georgiana suppresses her own hurt feelings, allowing herself to
understand Aylmer’s viewpoint, allowing him to ultimately take her life in the core need to maintain her authentic nature
as an Idealist Healer (427).
there are many values considered in analyzing the temperament of the Idealist type in regards to Georgiana. In a dangerous procedure where the woman finds evidence of Aylmer’s past litany of failures, Georgiana
enthusiastically drinks anything he gives her, trusting her intuition as to her husband’s good intent. Even as she lay dying, Georgiana calls out, “Aylmer,
dearest Aylmer,” a romantic even to the end (427). Being an Idealist Healer,
she encourages Aylmer to find wholeness through what Keirsey terms “inner peace,” consoling him as she lay dying
(Keirsey 128, Meyer 427). Georgiana maintains the authenticity of her identity
and may even take joy, as Keirsey notes, in her husband’s recognition of her empathic faith in him; Idealists “feel prized by having their person known by another,” as when Aylmer declares to
his wife, “I knew not the height and depth of your nature until now” (Keirsey 145, Meyer 425).
In as far as social roles are concerned, Idealist
temperaments esteem themselves for being soulmates and harmonizers (Keirsey 146). Although
we do not necessarily see the catalyst side of Georgiana in as far as leadership is concerned, Hawthorne does show present
us a protagonist who sees Aylmer as her soulmate, willing to bond with him even as he seeks to perfect a perfectly wonderful
woman. Yet her core Idealist Healer need to share a harmonious relationship compels
her to subordinate her own unspoken concerns and hurts to his needs and feelings. Regardless
of the reader’s evaluation of her choices, Georgiana nonetheless chooses to remain authentic, or true, to her core Idealist
values. Even though Aylmer, a Rational, essentially ignores her needs, the dynamics
of this Idealist-Rational marriage are evident in the attraction Georgiana feels for him, acting as a typical Idealist Healer
“bridge” of passion, faith, and empathy in her relationship (Keirsey 128).
As we can see, Abstract Cooperators (NFs) such
as Georgiana in Hawthorne’s “The Birthmark” fits the mold of reserved Idealist Healer.
“The Birthmark.” The Bedford Introduction to Literature. Ed. Michael
Meyer. New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s,
Keirsey, David. Please
Understand Me II: Temperament, Character, Intelligence. Del Mar:
Prometheus Nemesis, 1998.