The Birth Mark by Nathaniel Hawthorne: A Summary

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The Summary of the Birthmark
Nathaniel Hawthorne (1804-1864) was a famous author in the nineteenth-century. He was best known for his novel The Scarlett Letter. He also wrote many short stories, The Birthmark being one of them published in March of 1843. The story is told through the voice of a narrator, who gives his point of view about the actions of the characters. The Birthmark is a story about a scientist who experiments on his wife to make her perfect. How does Aylmer convince his wife that her birthmark is a symbol of imperfection, and goes deeper than a small flaw?

Aylmer is a scientist who has abandoned his experiments to marry Georgiana, who is perfect except for a tiny red birthmark in the shape of a hand on her cheek. He becomes obsessed with her birthmark, believing it symbolizes mortality and sin. Eventually her imperfection is all he can see, and the sight of Georgiana repulses him. One night she reminds him of a dream he had, “have you any recollection of a dream, last night, about this odious Hand?” (Hawthorne 227) Aylmer remembered the dream of his attempt to remove the birthmark with a knife, plunging down until he reached his wife’s heart.

Georgiana agrees to let her husband attempt the removal of her birthmark, no matter the 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.” (Hawthorne 228) Pleased, Aylmer agrees to try. He moves his wife to the apartments where he has his laboratory, entering Georgiana sees Aylmer shudder at the sight of her and faints. Finally she wakes to sweet smells and looks upon the rooms which her husband has made beautiful for her. Aylmer tells her of a powerful cosmetic that makes freckles disappear, but her birthmark requires a remedy that goes much deeper. Georgiana then looks into the mirror, realizing not even her husband hated it as much as she does.

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