ANALYSIS OF THE SHORT STORY “THE BIRTHMARK”
Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Birthmark” illustrates how one’s obsessions and moral weakness leads to another’s questioning of their self-image and drives the pursuit of perfection in our society. The main character, Aylmer, develops an obsession with becoming a world renowned alchemist, yet falls short when he sets his goals and cannot accomplish them. The unrealistic goals that Aylmer sets reflect how his character is composed; he consistently strives for perfection but constantly falls short of achievement in his pursuit of perfection.
The story’s conflict arises when Aylmer marries his wife Georgiana, who is flawless except for a birthmark on her cheek. When Georgiana is first questioned about her birthmark she claims, “To tell you the truth, it has been so often called a charm, that I was simple enough to imagine it might be so” (219). Aylmer replies, “No, dearest Georgiana, you came so nearly perfect from the hand of Nature, that this slightest possible defect, which we hesitate to term a defect of a beauty, shocks me, as being the visible mark of earthly imperfection” (219). This is where Aylmer begins his fascination with the removal of this mark on his wife’s face. He believed that this birthmark was a sign of his wife’s possible personality flaws of “…sin, sorrow, decay, and death” (220). When Aylmer begins having dreams of removing the birthmark, Georgiana notices he is talking in his sleep; this begins where Georgiana questions her opinion of the birthmark. She tells Aylmer; If there be the remotest possibility of it, let the attempt be made, at whatever risk. Danger is nothing to me; for life, while this hateful mark makes me the object of your horror and disgust—life is a burden which I would fling down with joy. Either remove this dreadful hand, or take my wretched life!.. Is this beyond your power, for the sake of your own peace, and to save your poor wife from madness? (222). At this...
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