In "The Birthmark" by Nathaniel Hawthorne, what is the moral of story?

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Aylmer, a scientist, longs to make his wife, Georgiana, absolutely perfect by removing what he sees as her one flaw: a very small red birthmark, in the shape of a tiny hand, on her cheek. He feels that the birthmark might be charming on another woman's face, but because, as he says, Georgiana "came so nearly perfect from the hand of Nature that this slightest possible defect . . . shocks [him], as being the visible mark of earthly imperfection." Aylmer hits the nail on the head with this rather off-hand comment, one that very much pains his wife. He talks about earthly imperfection, which is appropriate since only the divine can be perfect; human beings, by nature, are imperfect. It is our imperfection that makes us beautiful, as Aylmer's assistant, Aminadab, knows: this is another of the story's morals. When Aylmer successfully removes Georgiana's birthmark, she can no longer survive on earth.

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In Nathaniel Hawthorne's story, "The Birthmark," there are several possible morals. Aylmer is a man of science who marries the beautiful Georgiana. Though he doesn't seem to notice or care before they are married, afterwards, he is bothered by a tiny birthmark on her cheek in the shape of a hand. Throughout the story, he is determined to get rid of the offending birthmark, regardless of her wishes. He wants to use science to remove the birthmark and finally, unhappy with what she used to see as a beauty mark, Georgiana agrees to let her husband remove it.

The experiment goes terribly wrong, and ultimately Georgiana loses her life because of her husband's determination to remove the birthmark, something she was born with or as some would say, given to her by God. Thus, Aylmer seeks to make his wife 'perfect', but by tampering with nature, ends up killing her. The moral to the story, then, is that a man cannot play God or attempt to alter nature; in addition, seeking perfection is a dangerous and deadly goal.

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At its most fundamental level, Nathaniel Hawthorne's "The Birthmark" is a cautionary tale about the hubris of humanity's attempts to conquer the natural world. The scientist Aylmer is so confident in his skills that he believes he can "correct what Nature left imperfect"--namely, the birthmark on his wife Georgiana's cheek. He ultimately succeeds in creating a potion that removes the birthmark, but which also kills Georgiana in the process. Interfering with the natural order of things, then, comes at a steep price.

Layered over this basic moral, however, is a parable about what Christian tradition would describe as humanity's "fallen" nature. For Aylmer, Georgiana's birthmark is not just an imperfection but also a reminder of her physicality and mortality--the "symbol of his wife's liability to sin, sorrow, decay, and death." This connects the birthmark to the Biblical story of Adam and Eve, who became sinful and mortal after eating from the Tree of Knowledge. It is significant, for instance, that the birthmark begins to bother Aylmer only after he has married--and, presumably, slept with--Georgiana; her lost virginity parallels Adam and Eve's newfound knowledge of their nakedness. In this sense, then, we can read Aylmer's attempts to remove the birthmark as an attempt to undo the Biblical Fall and restore humanity to a purely "spiritual" (rather than physical) nature. This, however, is essentially an attempt to usurp the role of God through flawed, human means; in the fallen world, Georgiana can only become a "perfect woman" by leaving the world altogether, through death.