The Birth-Mark by Nathaniel Hawthorne

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Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Birth-Mark” has an Edgar Allan Poe “Tell-Tale Heart” feel to it, with themes of desire, love, fascination and obsession. In “The Birth-Mark”, Aylmer, a scientist, has become sickened and disturbed by a small birthmark shaped like a tiny hand on the face of his wife, Georgiana. He believes she is perfection, but not with that birthmark on her face.

He is convinced it is a haunting symbol of her mortality. He cannot hide his obsession with the birthmark, and speaks of it in a dream one night which leads Georgiana to bring up the subject of having it removed just to please him. Aylmer, being a highly praised and talented scientist, is convinced it can be removed. He brings Georgiana to his laboratory offices and spends hours analyzing her facial features, skin, and overall complexion while periodically conferring with his assistant Aminadab.

While Georgiana waits for him she discovers among Aylmer’s bookshelf a collection of his own work, a thorough documentation of every experiment he’s even done in his life. Her thoughts of Aylmer to turn doubt as his life’s work does not appear to be as successful as he’s made it seem. Aylmer dismisses her fears and quickly convinces her that he believes alchemy is where their best hope lies. He gives her a special potion, which, although it does fade away the birthmark into almost nothing, has the complete opposite effect on Georgiana that Aylmer could have ever feared.

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