The Birth-Mark

Beauty, Horror and Morality in Hawthorne's "The Birth-Mark" College

In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s gothic work, “The Birth-mark”, the central character, Aylmer, expresses his disgust with the mark’s ability to diminish his wife’s aesthetic beauty, as well as betray her mortal tendency to sin. The hand on Georgiana’s cheek proves to represent the “fatal flaw of humanity ... to imply that they are temporary and finite” (2205). This obsession reveals his deep fear of death and mortality. He mistakenly believes that if he is able to rid his wife of the blemish, he will sever the tie between his wife and her mortality, creating the perfect woman. Hawthorne utilizes allusions, diction and imagery to explore the divisions of beauty and horror in an attempt to highlight Aylmer’s aspiration to reform Georgiana into a beautiful work of art that transcends her own mortality.

The diction exercised in the Eve of Powers reference reveals Aylmer’s compulsion to transform Georgiana into a flawless sculpture while simultaneously purifying her of her mortality. Furthermore, Hawthorne’s reference to the Eve of Powers reveals Aylmer’s obsession with the purity and whiteness of marble. The language of Hawthorne’s allusion defines Aylmer’s irrational view of perfect beauty. By equating Georgiana’s birthmark with a “stain”...

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