The Birthmark | Study Guide

Nathaniel Hawthorne

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The Birthmark | Character Analysis



Aylmer is a highly successful scientist—or so it seems—who has recently married the beautiful Georgiana. Aylmer strives to perfect the natural world through his experiments and becomes obsessed by a desire to remove his new wife's birthmark, which he interprets to be a sign of her physical and moral frailty. Aylmer struggles to deal with the gap between his impossibly idealistic standards and the realities of the frustrating failures he experiences in his laboratory. He hopes to close this gap by removing the birthmark, but his desperation and egotism threaten his marriage as he all but forgets his wife's humanity in his eagerness to do so.


Georgiana is a beautiful and desirable woman, newly married to Aylmer, a scientist. She has a small, but distinct birthmark on her cheek that attracts a variety of responses, from attraction to revulsion. Georgiana is subject to Aylmer's view of her. When her husband becomes fixated on removing the birthmark, claiming it will perfect her beauty, Georgiana is at first horrified, but eventually agrees to go along with him when she realizes how much the birthmark horrifies him. Georgiana tries to understand her husband's motivations. When she learns of his scientific failures, she does not confront him. Instead, she fatally embraces his notion that erasing the birthmark is the path to a higher state of physical and spiritual perfection.


Described as an earthy, almost brutish laborer, Aminadab says to himself that he would not remove Georgiana's birthmark but still helps Aylmer concoct a potion to do so. His physicality contrasts with Aylmer's emphasis on the intellectual and the spiritual.

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