Young Goodman Brown and Other Hawthorne Short Stories

the birthmark by nathaniel hawthorne

Symbolic meanings of the birthmark

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The symbolism of the birthmark itself is open to a variety of interpretations. Aylmer views the mark as "the symbol of his wife's liability to sin, sorrow, decay, and death". Authors have drawn the connection between the “bloody” hand and menstruation, which, at the time, was considered a mysterious and secret subject. Menstruation was considered unclean, requiring seclusion, toxic to others, and hindering of certain labors. Aylmer's disdain for the birthmark arises only after the couple are wed, which gives a sexual undertone to the birthmark as well; Aylmer detests its "glimmering to and fro with every pulse of emotion that throbbed within her heart". Lastly, mortality itself - humanity's ultimate imperfection - is represented by the birthmark. Its redness mars the otherwise angelic beauty of Georgiana and reminds Aylmer of her - and his - inevitable death.