Homework Help

What is the summary of "The Birthmark"?

user profile pic

heavyhips | Student | eNoter

Posted February 16, 2012 at 12:03 PM via web

dislike 1 like

What is the summary of "The Birthmark"?

1 Answer | Add Yours

user profile pic

accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted February 16, 2012 at 2:18 PM (Answer #1)

dislike 1 like

Aylmer is a brilliant scientist who falls in love with the beautiful Georgiana. However, the story shows that his love for her is equalled only by his love of science. He becomes obsessed with a birthmark on Georgiana's cheek, which he begins to think is her only blemish. He persuades her to let him try and remove it through his art in science. As the short story develops, he becomes more and more convinced that the birth mark is a symbol of evil and that if he can remove it, he can "perfect" his beautiful wife. Georgiana, in awe of her clever husband and in love with him, submits to his ministrations. At the climax of the story, Aylmer is shown to be successful as the birthmark fades from Georgiana's cheek. However, this is only achieved at the expense of her life, and she dies as a result. Ironically, in his search for perfection, Aylmer loses the very thing that had the capacity to make his own life perfect: his wife. Note what the narrator says at the end of the story:

...had Aylmer reached a profounder wisdom, he need not thus have flung away the happiness which would have woven his mortal life of the selfsame texture with the celestial.

Hawthorne therefore points out that perfection is only something that can be acheived when we reach heaven and that humanity by its very nature is imperfect. Failure to accept this will only result in unhappiness.

Sources:

Join to answer this question

Join a community of thousands of dedicated teachers and students.

Join eNotes