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James N. Coppock

ENGL 8800 – Idealist Analysis

Dr. John J. McKenna

Feb. 13, 2008


Keirseyian 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” (Keirsey 235).


The 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.

For 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)

             Idealists 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 removal” (419).


            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). 


Also, 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).

Social Roles

            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.

Works Cited

Hawthorne, Nathaniel. “The Birthmark.” The Bedford Introduction to Literature. Ed. Michael

            Meyer. New York: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2008. 416-27.

Keirsey, David. Please Understand Me II: Temperament, Character, Intelligence. Del Mar:

            Prometheus Nemesis, 1998.



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