Story Reflection: “The Birthmark” by Nathaniel Hawthorne.”
The element of writing that I feel is most important to this story is the theme. Throughout the story, the author uses the theme element to tell the reader an important lesson which the characters don’t find until the end.
The story revolves around a husband and wife, Aylmer and Georgiana, and the source of contention between them, a birthmark in the shape of a small hand that exists on Georgiana’s cheek. Aylmer loves Georgiana, but becomes obsessed with the birthmark because it taints his perception that his wife is perfect. He states that, “you came so nearly perfect from the hand of Nature that this slightest possible defect, which we hesitate whether to term a defect or a beauty, shocks me, as being the visible mark of earthly imperfection.” Aylmer, as a man of science, is determined to rid her of this imperfection and makes comments to that effect on many occasions.
Over the years of being together, Aylmer grows more obsessed with the mark and it starts to drive a wedge into his relationship because all he can see now is the imperfection on his wife’s face. In time, Georgiana comes to find as much revulsion to the mark as her husband does and gives in to an attempt to remove it, “let the attempt be made at whatever risk. Danger is nothing to me; for life, while this hateful mark makes me the object of your horror and disgust,—life is a burden which I would fling down with joy. Either remove this dreadful hand, or take my wretched life!”
Aylmer now spends his days trying to perfect the way to remove the mark while his wife stays in seclusion awaiting his results. Eventually he comes up with the perfect tonic to wipe the impurity away, but in doing so, ends up removing the very essence of his wife which results in her death. Aylmer spent all that time obsessing over the smallest imperfection of his wife that he stopped enjoying the life that he had with her.
The author, Hawthorne, presents us with the theme that we should enjoy the happiness in our lives and overlook the imperfection, if not embrace them. Hawthorne states of his character, “he failed to look beyond the shadowy scope of time, and, living once for all in eternity, to find the perfect future in the present.”