In his short story, “The Birth-Mark”, he uses an intriguing plot and unique characterization in order to teach lessons about the imperfectability of humans by ooking at the power and misuse of science. The character, Aylmer who is a scientist, marries a gorgeous woman, Georgiana, who has a birthmark on her face. The story gives a detailed account of how Aylmer uses his scientific knowledge as power to rid Georgiana’s face of her birthmark. The plot of story emphasizes the misuse and power of science. The story describes a marriage that is completely isolated from society.
The character Aylmer has a love for science as well as love for his wife Georgiana. These two loves rival each other. During the time the story took place, love of science was very common. Many new discoveries were being made that frightened people, such as the discovery of electricity. Aylmer tried to withdraw himself from his scientific studies to prove that his love for his wife was much greater. However, Aylmer was not able to do that for long, and he somehow intertwined science with his wife. “Aylmer cleanses himself of the marks of his laboratory only to resituate them on the body of Georgiana” (Quinn).
Hawthorne states in the story, “his love for his young wife might prove the stronger of the two; but it could only be by intertwining itself with his love of science” (Hawthorne 291). This means that Aylmer could never stay away from his scientific studies and instead he determined how he could Join his two loves together. Aylmer used the birthmark as a way to back into his scientific way of thinking again. The characterization of Georgiana is evident in the plot of the story and it shows her as an ideal woman whose life is sacrificed for the love of her husband Aylmer.
Georgiana at first agrees to let her husband remove the birthmark in order to restore his peace and secure her sanity; however, she later awakens to the limits of existence and sees it as a fatal flaw (Rosenberg). Aylmer causes Georgiana to become self-conscious of her birthmark and causes her to hate it even more than he does. In actuality the birthmark is not demeaning to her face. Georgiana tells Aylmer about her birthmark and that “it has been so often called a charm that I was simple enough to imagine it might be so” (Hawthorne 291).
This shows that Georgiana had never been dissatisfied with her birthmark until now when Aylmer mentions something about it. The birthmark is in the shape of a hand, and has been thought to be an imprint from the touch of a fairys hand. This emphasizes hat the birthmark was a blessing and not something that should corrupt her face. birthmark does corrupt her face. Now each time Georgiana looks in the mirror she cannot stand to look at herself, “not even Aylmer now hated it so much as she” (Hawthorne 299). Georgiana agrees to let her husband discover a mixture that will rid her face of the birthmark forever.
Georgiana’s role in the story is how she unifies Aylmer’s love and his life, which causes her to become the central part of his existence. In this story, Georgiana can be viewed as having perfect spirituality and he acts as the inspiration behind Aylmer and his ambition to discover a way to correct her almost perfect physical appearance (Rosenberg). Both main characters, Aylmer and Georgiana, are ultra-sensitive. Examples of this in the story are that each time Aylmer looks at the birthmark on Georgiana’s face he shudders, and each time he shudders, Georgiana faints (Rosenberg).
The character of Aylmer is one that loves science. He keeps detailed records of every experiment he has ever performed. While Georgiana waits for Aylmer to discover the mixture that will get rid of her birthmark, he reads through his experiments and discovers that most were failures. However, she continues to completely trust her husband with whatever method he comes up with to better her face. Georgiana tells Aylmer, “l shall quaff whatever draught you bring me; but it will be on the same principle that would induce me to take a dose of poison if offered by your hand” (Hawthorne 299).
In other words, Georgiana completely submits herself to her husband. In the story, Hawthorne uses foreshadowing throughout his plot. Aylmer has a dream one night that connects Georgiana’s birthmark to her heart. This dream foreshadows the tragedy that is soon to come. Aylmer took his scientific power to the extreme, and ended up removing Georgiana’s face of the birthmark but killing her in the process. Aylmer’s scientific experiment on Georgiana proves to be a climax of a lengthy line of failures in his scientific career (Baldessarini).
Aylmer can be viewed as the villain of the story, because he is the reason for Georgiana’s death. His sin comes from his inability to accept Georgiana’s tiny imperfection. However, Georgiana was able to forgive him so some believe that Aylmer should not be regarded as a villain. As stated by Napier, “the greatest proof of his sincerity in this attitude is the fact that Georgiana never recoils from him or his experiment; indeed she forgives him the harm he has done her because it was “done nobly’ and with “so high and pure a feeling” (Napier).
By reviewing Georgiana’s remarks, we should pardon him from guilt and clear him of villainous intention (Napier). Ross Baldessarini is able to summarize Aylmer’s intention in her article, she states: “While humanity may intuit perfections that transcend existence, humanity must shape its aspirations in terms of the decreed conditions of existence, which is unalterably imperfect. Disregard of the decree, then, leads to deserved loss” (Baldessarini). This quote tells how Aylmer feels that he must make everything perfect. He cannot accept imperfections, even though they are necessary to mortality.
The characterization and plot of “The Birthmark” both work together in order to show how the misuse of science and power teaches a lesson about the imperfectability of humans. Aylmer is a prime example of taking his scientific power to the extreme, and ends up killing his already gorgeous wife because of a tiny imperfection on her face. The plot of the story is based on the characterization of both Aylmer and Georgiana, where Aylmer is in love with science herself to her husband. Ultimately, this story demonstrates how Alymer took science to the extreme and destroyed nature by the death of his wife.
His ambition for science somehow turned into obsession causing him to ultimately fail. Work Cited Hawthorne, Nathaniel. “The Birthmark”. The Norton Introduction to Literature. 1 lth edition Kelly J. Mays New York. Norton, 2011. 290-301. Print. Napier, Elizabeth R. “Aylmer as ‘Scheidekunstler’: The Pattern of Union and Separation in Hawthorne’s ‘The Birthmark. ‘. ” South Atlantic Bulletin 41. 4 (Nov. 1976): 32-35. Rpt. in Short Story Criticism. Ed. Rachelle Mucha and Thomas J. Schoenberg. Vol. 89. Detroit: Gale, 2006. Literature Resource Center. Web. 7 Nov. 2013.
Quinn, James, and Ross Baldessarini. ‘”The Birth-Mark’: A Deathmark. ” Hartford Studies in Literature 13. 2 (1981): 91-98. Rpt. in Short Story Criticism. Ed. Rachelle Mucha and Thomas J. Schoenberg. Vol. 89. Detroit: Gale, 2006. Literature Resource center. web. 7 NOV. 2013. Rosenberg, Liz. “‘The Best That Earth Could Offer’: ‘The Birth-Mark,’ A Newlywed’s Story. ” Studies in Short Fiction 30. 2 (Spring 1993): 145-151. Rpt. in Short Story Criticism. Ed. Rachelle Mucha and Thomas J. Schoenberg. Vol. 89. Detroit: Gale, 2006. Literature Resource Center. Web. 18 Nov. 2013.