In “The Birthmark,” by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Georgiana’s futile attempt to be flawless by cooperating in her own murder doesn’t make her any wiser, especially because such a sacrifice does not earn her closeness with her husband. The character of Georgiana epitomizes the virtues upheld by the conventions of her time; she is beautiful, docile and has no ambitions of her own other than to make her husband happy. In addition to this apparent perfect union is a “singular mark, deeply interwoven, as it were, with the texture and substance of her face” (Hawthorne 11).
The birthmark is differently interpreted by all. Initially Georgiana thinks of the birthmark, as “a charm,” and Aylmer knows not “whether to term [the birthmark] a defect or a beauty . . . ” (Hawthorne 11). Most persons of her own sex refers it as “the bloody hand,” that “Quite destroy(s) the effect of Georgiana’s beauty . . . ” (Hawthorne 11). While her admirers “were won’t to say that some fairy at her birth-hour had laid her tiny hand upon the infant’s cheek, and left this impress [the birthmark] there in token of the magic endowments that were to give her such sway over all hearts” (Hawthorne 11).
Georgiana’s casual approach towards the birthmark reveals while she answers “No, indeed,” when her husband asks her “has it never occurred to you [Georgiana] that the mark upon your cheek might be removed? ” (Hawthorne 10). Aylmer however visions the birthmark as Hawthorne says “small blue stains which sometimes occur in the purest statuary marble . . . ” (11). Later on “Georgiana soon learn(s) to shudder” as her husband’s hatred towards the birthmark considerably increases (Hawthorne 12). Aylmer’s obsession soon starts reflecting in Georgiana.
She at this point ignores all warnings and falls prey to her husband’s ambition of removing the birthmark, of which, he although is “convinced of the perfect practicability . . . ” (Hawthorne 13). Georgiana learns from Aylmer’s dream that, there might be a situation in the course of the operation when he might be “inexorably resolved to cut or wrench it [her heart] away” (Hawthorne 13). Her recent interpretation of the birthmark overshadows this dream as she now even at the “remotest possibility” wants that “the attempt be made, at whatever risk” (Hawthorne 13). Aylemer’s dream however is not the only warning that Georgiana receives.
Aylmer to gain confidence in her wife and to declare success in his new venture performs a couple of experiments, which results futile. Georgiana pays no heed when “the whole plant suffer(s) a blight, its leaves turning coal-black as if by the agency of fire” (Hawthorne 16). Neither did she understand when she finds “the features of the portrait blurred and indefinable; while the minute figure of the hand appeared where the cheek should have been” (Hawthorne 16). Aylmer’s throwing of the plate into a “jar of corrosive acid” could well have been a foreshadowing of her fate.
Furthermore, while poring over works in her husband’s library, Georgiana loyally ignores the journal those reveal his [Aylmer’s] many failed experiments. The nadir of her [Georgiana’s] self-degradation and worship for her husband shielded her eyes from any logical deductions. Finally Gorgiana consumes the fatal concoction that grips her in its mortal claws. Aylmer prior her death confirms the concoction that Gorgiana mistakes as the “elixir of life”, to be poisonous (Hawthorne 17). Georgiana shows more concern by Aylmer’s possession of the concoction than her consuming it while saying, “Why do you keep such a terrific drug? ” (Hawthorne 17).
She admires her husband even more for not accepting anything other than perfection and: She felt how much more precious was such a sentiment than the meaner kind which would have borne the imperfection for her sake, and have been guilty of treason to holy love by degrading its perfect idea to the level of the actual; and with her whole spirit she prayed that, for a single moment, she might satisfy his highest and deepest conception. (Hawthorne 21) Gorgiana now hates the birthmark even more than Aylmer does in wishing “to put off this birthmark of mortality by relinquishing mortality itself in preference to any other mode” (Hawthorne 21).
Even after realizing that her husband’s concoction has proved fatal; Georgiana shows no sign of repenting but consoles her husband by saying “you have aimed loftily; you have done nobly. Do not repent that, with so high and pure a feeling, you have rejected the best the earth could offer” (Hawthorne 23). Hawthorne concludes the story by saying, “he [Aylmer] need not thus have flung away the happiness which would have woven his mortal life of the self-same texture with the celestial” (23).
This perhaps can be said for Georgiana too. It can also be said that the fatal concoction damages her heart, and that the birthmark vanishes “amid the triumphant rush of blood that bathed the whole cheek . . . ” (Hawthorne 11). Thus Georgiana would have been wiser resenting her husband’s ambitious intentions of removing “the visible mark of earthly imperfection” (Hawthorne 11). While her intense love and worship for her husband can never be doubted, her foolish sacrifice, at the same time can not be appreciated.