Written by Nathaniel Hawthorne during the American Renaissance, the short story “The Birth-Mark” details the events of a brilliant scientist and natural philosopher named Aylmer who obsesses about his wife Georgiana’s birthmark in the shape of a tiny hand on her left cheek. The symbol of the birthmark causes the plot to advance in the story, as Aylmer is compelled by this red mark to act upon his emotions. Aylmer views his wife’s birthmark as an imperfection in her virtually flawless beauty and as a result, attempts to it via a potion that he strongly believes cannot fail. His interpretation of the birthmark creates conflict in the story, which is shaped by the symbolic meaning that he attributes it to. Aylmer’s failure to accept his wife’s appearance for who she is leads to misunderstandings, pain, and ultimately, death.
Hawthorne, Nathaniel “The Birthmark” Literature and the Writing Process, edited by Elizabeth McMahan, believed that Aylmer’s belief is that to have life there must be imperfection and losing imperfection was losing life. She explains as she shows us how “The Birthmark” which is a story filled with symbolisms and irony. Hawthorne displayed this belief in his short story "The Birthmark”, which is about a scientist named Aylmer who becomes disgusted by his wife, Georgiana’s tiny birthmark on her left cheek and kills her in the process of trying to remove it. He sees it as a flaw in his beautiful wife. Georgiana knows that her birthmark disgusts him. She began to feel disgusted by this birthmark when she realizes her husband’s disgust with it; she had never felt hate for herself until she realizes his feelings toward her birthmark. He asks if she has ever considered having it removed. This is not something she never looked at this way before, considering that other people in her life, especially men, had always seen it as a “charm”. Aylmer was not trying to just get rid of Georgiana's birthmark, rather, he was trying to change nature, He believed he had control over it. That's where things took a toll for and up for the worst. Aylmer had a hard time accepting imperfections in life.
The birthmark symbolizes being mortal, or mortality. The narrator use the birthmark as a leeway to show that everything, and everyone, has flaws. No one is perfect, and even though you might not have a birthmark, or something that sets you off and makes you different from someone else there's still no one in this world that is the same as you. It doesn't just have to be an external flaw though, you can have internal flaws as well. If you're rude, selfish, and uncaring then that's a flaw too, and that's what the narrator was trying to explain to the reader. Even though Georgiana is almost completely perfect she has the hand-shaped mark on her cheek that sets her off from everyone else, and that blemish is what makes her who she is. It makes
Georgiana had always lived with the birthmark, and was quite fond of its charm. Many people in the town believe it was a fairy’s handprint left to sway all hearts; to them the mark only magnified her appeal. The mark’s charm had rarely been questioned by anyone other than the jealous women of the town, and its peculiar nature had once intrigued Aylmer and amplified his attraction to Georgiana. He begged for her hand in marriage, but soon after they were wed, he queried whether Georgiana had ever considered having the birthmark removed. She was hurt by the implication that the mark depreciated her and grew upset with her husband. As time passed, Aylmer continued to stare at the mark, unable to keep his eyes from wandering to it. This continued until Georgiana was no longer able to ignore the way his eyes were always fixated on this sole imperfection, the crimson hand that kept him up at night and plagued his dreams. She asked Aylmer to remove the mark, or take her life because she no longer wanted to live if she had to live with the mark. She preferred death to the harsh scrutiny from her husband.
For instance, when Aylmer felt miserable, she felt miserable too. Nevertheless, it can be seen that then she demonstrated a total opposite attitude, a strong woman who challenges his husband to go ahead with his experiments. A girl with no fear at all. Far from being the typical woman in her house, she is educated and intelligent, and she is able to read and understand the intricate experiments that her husband documents in his diaries. With them she understands how his husband's love for her is, and she accepts it, and that Aylmer's lofty ideals condemn him to permanent dissatisfaction. She also knows that her husband's attempts to erase the birthmark will not succeed. In spite of this, she voluntarily takes the concoction he offers. The drink finishes with the birthmark, yes, but also with her, who says goodbye to her husband making him know that his search for divine perfection has made him despise the best the earth could offer. Therefore, with all those decisions it can be seen that she has the will to do it and she can make her own decisions. She is completely different from Aylmer. She understood and was aware about what happened to the birthmark, and why she died.
In “The Birthmark” we first learn about the main character named Aylmer. He is fascinated with science. “He has devoted himself, however, too unreservedly to scientific studies ever to be weaned from them by any second passion” (Hawthorne 952) He eventually finds love with his wife Georgianna, but there is something about her he just will not seem to take much longer. Georgianna has a red birthmark on her cheek which is the shape of a small hand. While she thinks it is beautiful, the most important person in her life doesn’t feel the same way. In fact, Aylmer is truly disgusted and in shock by her mark, claiming it is a “visible mark of earthly imperfection” (Hawthorne 953). Finally telling his wife how he feels, Georgianna is in disbelief. She is upset, hurt, and confused, even questioning their marriage as she tells him “You cannot love what shocks you!” (Hawthorne 953). The last thing she would have thought is that the person she planned to spend the rest of her life with doesn’t see her beauty mark the way she does.
It is clear to say that perfection is completely unattainable. So, although Aylmer is capable of ridding the birthmark, if anyone is able to take away their imperfections, it is inevitable that society will become corrupt.
Hawthorne achieves this same task in the character of Georgiana in "The Birthmark." Georgiana, too, is presented as an ideal specimen of womanhood. She is beautiful, intelligent, and devoted to her husband, the alchemist, Aylmer. She would be absolute perfection, except for one flaw: a birthmark in the shape of a fairy-sized handprint on her left cheek. While those who love Georgiana attest that the mark is a symbol of the "magic endowments that were to give her such sway over all hearts," Aylmer and her detractors regard it as a "bloody hand" that belies "his wifeâs liability to sin, sorrow, decay, and death" (Hawthorne, "The Birthmark" 119-20). Hawthorne continues to impart Aylmerâs inner feelings of shock and horror over Georgianaâs single physical flaw, gradually leading his audience to share his disgust for the dreadful
Nathaniel Hawthorne like many other writers during the nineteenth century focused their writings on the darker aspects of life. “The Birthmark,” is set in New England and has a Puritan perspective. Aylmer, a well-known scientist, marries Georgiana who has a hand shaped birthmark upon her face. After some time during their marriage Aylmer and Georgiana decided to remove the mark through scientific means. Advancements in science and the ability to change nature were at the center of plots throughout their short stories and poems. Hawthorne believed that it was not unusual for science and women to rival for one man’s love (Hawthorne 12). Hawthorne used his critical thinking to write about taboos and dissention not spoken of during his lifetime to the forefront. In “The Birthmark,” Hawthorne focuses on science verses nature. Hawthorne attempted to create the perfect human being through science by using setting, character, and symbolism to undo the imperfections he saw within God’s work in “The Birthmark”. With all of his intellectual and spiritual qualities, Aylmer still does not have wisdom.
In Hawthorne’s short story “The Birthmark”, Aylmer feels that his wife Georgiana is a miracle and that she is perfect. Her only flaw was the birthmark in the shape of a hand placed on her cheek. Instead of focusing on all her Georgiana’s perfections, Aylmer only focused on one of her flaws, the birthmark. Aylmer constructs a statement about her birthmark saying that, “It was the fatal flaw of humanity which Nature, in one shape or another, stamps ineffaceably on her productions, either to imply that they are temporary and finite, or that their perfection must be wrought by toil and pain.”(Meyer 345)
The archetype of Georgiana can be seen as the perfect women, however, her birthmark acts as a symbol of imperfection and mortality that keeps her from fully pleasing her husband. Georgiana is described as beautiful and perfect except for one flaw, the birthmark. “It was the fatal flaw of humanity which Nature, in one shape or another, stamps ineffaceably on all her productions, either to imply that they are temporary and finite, or that their perfection must be wrought by toil and pain” (Hawthorne 220). The hand-shaped birthmark can be seen as her being touched by nature and acts as a symbol of imperfection and mortality in humans. The symbol of the birth-mark standing for mortality can be seen again towards the end
In Hawthorne’s story, the idea of control is used in many different ways. The largest symbol of this theme is the birth mark itself on Georgiana’s cheek. This birth mark resembles a hand and represents Aylmer’s control over Georgiana. Aylmer’s wife, Georgiana, is controlled by her husband. Aylmer makes her hate the birth mark that she once loved through his own hatred of it. Georgiana, discovering her husband’s disgust of her birth mark, tells Aylmer, “To tell you the truth, it has so often been called a charm, that I was simple enough to imagine it might be so.” (340; par. 4) In this scene, Aylmer makes his wife feel foolish for accepting and even loving her own birthmark. She responds to him in the form of an apology, an apology for even having the birth mark that disgusts her husband so much. She blushes and seems embarrassed of her natural face. The hand symbolizes Aylmer’s control over Georgiana, how she feels about herself, and how he pushes the idea of the removal of the birthmark that she liked from the beginning.
In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s text The Birth Mark, he expresses human nature and its drive for perfection. In this text, Aylmer is very persistent to remove his lover’s birthmark from her cheek. Hawthorne states, “‘Georgiana’, said he, ‘has it never occurred to you that the mark upon your cheek might be removed’” (Hawthorne 418). Aylmer’s drive for perfection causes him to turn to science to try and find the answers to remove the mark from his wife’s face, initially seeking to make her “perfect” in human natures belief. By the end of this text, his wife is corrupted by his persistence to make her “perfect” and ends up passing away due to the complications that Aylmer laid upon her. “‘Aylmer-dearest Aylmer-I am dying’” (Hawthorne 429), quotes Hawthorne. Aylmer’s drive for perfection for his wife was so overpowering that he aims too high and puts science ahead of his love for his wife. This drive for perfection is still a very prominent in human nature and why humans behave as they do today. The drive for perfection is the reason
Soon after Aylmer tells his spouse that the mark on her face bothers him, she practically begs him to remove it. Aylmer is more than happy to remove the birthmark and has no doubt that he can do so. While discussing the removal on page 316, he tells Georgiana that he “feels fully competent” to “render [Georgiana’s] cheek as faultless as its fellow.” He goes on to describe the sense of triumph he will feel when it is finally corrected. He only cares about the removal of the birthmark and not what may happen to his wife. Even though the mark bothers him, he reveals to Georgiana that “even [he] rejoices in this simple imperfection, since it will be such a rapture to remove it” (Hawthorne 318). This shows that Georgiana is not the love of Aylmer’s life, but rather science. He puts all of his faith directly into it. Barbara Eckstein states that “Aylmer’s study of minute details becomes a system of belief for Aylmer” (517). Even after Georgiana faints on page 317, Aylmer is “without alarm; for he was confident in his science, and felt that he could draw a magic circle round her within which no evil might intrude” (Hawthorne). This seems ludicrous to most people, but Aylmer had absolute faith in