The American literature of the 19th century is remarkable for a host of highly talented writers who portrayed the multidimensional aspects of human life. Nathaniel Hawthorne is one among them. All his fictional attempts received global recognition for their excellent technical and thematic features. The Birthmark is a phenomenal work of Hawthorne, which looks deeply into the psychological realms of human beings. The story as such is not complex. However, the thought behind it is interesting. The author tactfully selects good story line for telling the story about obsession with perfection. It is Georgiana’s love and loyalty towards her husband, which dominates the plot. The author depicts Georgiana as an intelligent, yet an obtuse character.
Georgiana is the epitome of beauty and that is the reason why many young men pay special consideration for her. Aylmer, the highly talented scientist, falls in love with her as he finds that she is extremely beautiful. However, there is “one defect’ in her physical appearance. There is a small birthmark on her cheek. The whole plot of the story revolves around Georgiana’s birthmark, and through this, Hawthorne shows how people are obsessed with certain minor flaws. Aylmer is a perfectionist, and he is troubled that gorgeous Georgiana has a birthmark on her cheek “like a crimson stain upon the snow.
She is, in fact, the most beautiful woman on earth. However, Aylmer fails to recognize it as he is an analytic thinker. The author says, “To explain this conversation it must be mentioned that in the centre of Georgiana’s left cheek there was a singular mark, deeply interwoven, as it were, with the texture and substance of her face” (Hawthorne 102. Aylmer thinks that it would be sublime if he would take away the birthmark from Georgiana’s cheek. This makes him conduct a series of experiments. During the course of these trials, the readers get a glimpse into the characteristic behavior of Georgiana.
Georgiana is presented as an intelligent woman who is capable of viewing things in an objective way. She is strong enough to declare openly that her husband is wrong when he commits anything wrong. This proves the intellectual capabilities of the character. Nonetheless, she is a devoted wife who loves her husband very much. She knows that many people like her birthmark. Aylmer is the only person who is unable to find the beauty in it. Yet, Georgiana does not complain. She is submissive to him whenever he talks about her birthmark. However, it does not mean that she is a weak character. She knows that her husband loves her and that is why he is obsessed with the mark on her cheek. Here, the author depicts the obtuse character of Georgiana. Georgiana assumes that her husband’s obsession with her birthmark, to an extent of wanting it removed, it a sign of his love for her. However, this is not true because true love is cannot be based on a desire to have the physical appearance of somebody or something altered.
The author depicts Georgiana as a beautiful and loving character. Her husband is quite particular about the idea of perfection. Just like his theoretical formulations, he wants everything to be perfect. It is from this basic instinct of the scientists that he wants to remove the birthmark from the face of his wife. It implies that he values the perfection nature of his profession more than he values the physical appearance of what he claims to love. It is said in the story that “is love for his young wife might prove the stronger of the two. But it could only be by intertwining itself with his love of science, and uniting the strength of the latter to his own” (Hawthorne, 101).
Despite being aware of her husband’s value for perfection of her physical appearance, Georgiana remains sincere to him. She is even ready to sacrifice her life for the sake of her husband. He undertakes a number of experiments to remove the birthmark. She doubts the result of most of such endeavors. Even, she is doubtful that she may die during the course of any such treatment procedure. This is also an indication of her obtuseness. She does all these to portray her loyalty to her husband. She says, “Let the attempt be made at whatever risk. Danger is nothing to me; for life, while this mark makes me the object of your horror and disgust (Hawthorne 103). Georgiana submits to her husband because she thinks that he loves and cares for her. She allows her husband to subject her to pain to an extent of endangering her life in the name of removing the birthmark on her face. This act depicts Georgiana as foolish.
Hawthorne’s The Birthmark has become a well-known work for its overall perfection. Georgiana plays a very vital role of heightening the theme of the story. The characterization of Georgiana is worth mentioning because she is the driving force behind the plot of the story.