How can this sentence from "The Birthmark" be interpreted? "Georgiana had no sonner touched the flower than the whole plant suffered a blight, its leaves turning coal-black as if by the agency of...

How can this sentence from "The Birthmark" be interpreted?

"Georgiana had no sonner touched the flower than the whole plant suffered a blight, its leaves turning coal-black as if by the agency of fire."

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

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This quotation comes very soon after Georgiana is taken by her husband to his laboratory for him to use all of his scientific knowledge to remove the blemish that lies on her cheek and is interpreted by Aylmer as a symbol of imperfection that must be erased. The flower referred to in the quote is a magical flower that clearly represents the perfection that man can create: it is described as being "perfect and lovely," and Georgina herself recognises that in many ways it is too "perfect and lovely," so much so that she attributes that perfection to it being "magical."

What happens when she subsequently touches this flower is a symbol of the conflict between science vs. nature, and the way that natural beauty is shown to be far more pleasing and beautiful than any efforts of man to "improve" upon nature. The way that the magical flower becomes so suddenly blighted reinforces this impression, as does the arrogant remarks of Aylmer who thinks of his wife as coming "so nearly perfect from the hands of nature" and therfore believes she can be improved upon. What is so powerful about this example, however, is that it is ambiguous, and Aylmer clearly interprets what happens to the flower as supporting his view that his wife's birthmark in some way makes her evil. The tragedy of this short story is both this misinterpretation and also his arrogance that leads him to kill his wife.

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