Body image is conceptualized as a set of multidimensional attitudes toward one's own body and thoughts about how others perceive one's appearance. Physical appearance holds a valued place value in our society. Substantial evidence exists to suggest that negative body image has profound effects on a woman's behavior, psychological functioning and self-perceptions. Various studies on eating disorders and the availability of enhancement surgeries for one's physique coupled with the abundance of cosmetics, stress the importance of outward appearance. Every day, we are reminded of this through the media, both in print and in visual imagery.
In both Hawthorne's "The Birthmark" and Piercy's "Barbie Doll" societal views of imperfection versus perfection are shown as all-consuming. Aylmer, a character in Hawthorne's "The Birthmark" is a vehicle for showing love is not quite enough to surmount a small physical defect. Georgiana, his wife, is concerned by her new husband's sharp words about the "smallest of marks on her face.". Aylmer states, "No, dearest Georgina, you come nearly perfect from the hand of Nature that this slightest possible defect . visible mark of earthly imperfection." Hawthorne illustrates the deep blow to Georgina's self-image through the eyes of her husband. We are reminded that superficial beauty often is what people hold most important in a relationship. We learn in "The Birthmark" that Aylmer cannot accept imperfection when he has a repeated dream of removing the tiny hand upon his wife's face. He finally confronts Georgina about his plan to perfect her looks. Hawthorne has Aylmer approach Georgina with the following line "Aylmer sat in his wife's presence with a guilty feeling. Truth often finds its way to the mind close muffled in robes of sleep until now he has not been aware of the .
tyrannizing influence acquired by one idea . the lengths he might find in his heart to go for the sake of giving himself peace".