Nathaniel Hawthorne The Birthmark Summary

Birthmark is a tale set in the Classical period according to the narrator. The story revolves around a scientist, Aylmer, deeply absorbed in his scientific ventures at the expense of his social life. It is only recently that he has succumbed to the whims of love and has married an exquisitely beautiful woman, Georgina. His profession makes him an attractive catch.

Georgina bears a distinctive birthmark on her right cheek. It is a crimson red mark and resembles puny hand, which becomes so pronounced when she is pale. The mark draws varied opinions. Georgina’s suitors find it attractive while women think it messes up her perfect face.

Soon after marriage, Aylmer becomes intolerant of the mark. He loathes it and thinks Georgina would be absolutely perfect in its absence. He considers the mark, “the earthly mark of imperfection.” Georgina wants her husband to fully love and it greatly pains her when the mark upsets him. His thoughts about it shatter her to pieces and she no longer considers herself beautiful. He is intolerant of the birthmark, which he views as the “fatal flaw of humanity” which nature seems to have planted on a pretty face. As a result, Georgina can no longer contain the gaze of her husband because she is conscious where it is directed. Their marriage is no longer happy.

Aylmer considers the birthmark as a symbol of imperfection. Upon imploration, he confesses of her dream in which he attempted to remove the mark. He explains that the deeper he cut into the mark, the deeper it sunk into Georgina until finally it was part of her heart. According to the dream, Aylmer expresses the desire to continue cutting.

The dream upsets Georgina more and he considers having the mark removed. She probes Aylmer into finding a way of having it removed and he is more than glad to correct what he considers as the nature’s flaw. Having taken endeavors in the science of the human form in his earlier days, Aylmer is confident of his ability. Aylmer carries the stricken Georgina to a special room in his laboratory where she rests as he prepares an elixir. He has an assistant, Aminada, who is a perfect contrast of him. Aminada is stocky and wears shaggy hair making appear as the earliest versions of human kind in their evolution.

He offers her the concoction to drink after which she sleeps. Soon after, the birthmark dissolves leaving her face in utter perfection. Aminada laughs out cynically. She wakes up later and tells Aylmer that she is dying. Aminada untactful laughs out again. True to her words, Georgina dies.

Georgina could not live as a perfect being since human beings are essentially imperfect. She could only be a good thing in her mortal form but only perfect in her immortal form.

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