Nathaniel Hawthorne's short story The Birthmark is the story of how one man's obsession killed his wife. Aylmer is a man of science and the husband of Georgiana. Georgiana is absolutely perfect in Aylmer's eyes, except for the birthmark on her cheek in the shape of a tiny hand. His obsession of her birthmark drives Aylmer and his assistant, Aminadab, to develop an elixir that will remove it, and his hatred of it and inability to look at the mark without obvious disgust drives Georgiana to hate it more than Aylmer, and to her demise.
The extent of Aylmer's disgust is important to the story, because without that obvious hatred of the mark, Georgiana would not have become so self-conscious about it and agree so easily for it to be removed. Aylmer is constantly and openly discussing and/or displaying his disapproval of the flaw. The first dialogue in the story is between Aylmer and Georgiana, and Aylmer asks, Georgiana, has it never occured to you that the mark upon your cheek might be removed? (Mays, 340). This is only the beginning of his blatant disapproval of the birthmark.
Later in the story, Georgiana begs Aylmer not to look at her birthmark again as she covers it with her hand and states I never can forget that convulsive shudder. (Mays, 344). From her reaction, we can deduce that with every remark Aylmer makes and/or every action and expression from the birthmark makes Georgiana more resentful of the mark itself. She starts to blame herself for her husband's obsession, and she decides that it would be too much to live with, so she is willing to put her life on the line in order to have the birthmark removed and to make her husband happy.
There is room to believe that Aminadab knows precisely what the outcome will be. Aylmer gives Aminadab an order to burn a pastil (Mays, 343), but before doing so, Aminadab gazes at the unconscious Georgiana and says under his breath, if she were my wife, I'd never part with that birthmark. (Mays, 343). This statement tells us many things. First, Aminadab does not completely agree with Aylmer's choices. Second, Aminadab may even have feelings for Georgiana, because he is basically stating that there is a man out there that will love Georgiana as she is without trying to change her and make her perfect. Then later in the last paragraph, Aminadab laughed a hoarse, chuckling laugh (Mays, 350). He was given permission to laugh by Aylmer before it was revealed that Georgiana was dying, but Aminadab waited until after she completely passed to laugh. Aminadab saw the irony in the outcome of the experiment and he believed that Aylmer deserved it for trying to change his wife for his own personal selfishness.
The last paragraph also reveals a lot about Aylmer. Georgiana tells him that she is dying. Aylmer observes her life fading and is overcome with several emotions, including failure in his experiment, failure to his wife, anger at himself for becoming so obsessed, and he feels stupid for allowing him to risk the life of the woman he loved for something so miniscule. The last paragraph states Yet, had Aylmer reached a profounder wisdom, he need not thus have flung away the happinesshe failed to look beyond the shadowy scope of time to find the perfect future in the present (Mays, 350). As we can tell, Aylmer truly did love Georgiana, but he allowed his obsession of her birthmark consume him and that leads to the irony that is the end of the story: in an attempt to make Georgiana perfect, he took away her humanity. No human is perfect, and as Georgiana's only flaw was her birthmark, Aylmer unintentionally killed her.
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