by Nathaniel Hawthorne
The Birthmark Theme of Marriage
"The Birthmark" uses the example of a newly-married couple to ask questions about the nature of love and the dynamic of marriage. Scientist Aylmer seems to love his wife in so far as he can perfect her into something entirely outside the realm of human imperfection. His wife Georgiana is so committed to her husband that she defines herself utterly through his vision of her. We find ourselves wondering what it means to love, to trust, and to commit to another person, and what consequences the extreme of any one of these might bring.
Questions About Marriage
- Is Aylmer and Georgiana's relationship a healthy one? If not, whose fault is it?
- Does Aylmer ultimately trust Georgiana? Does Georgiana ultimately trust Aylmer? Is trust warranted in either case?
- Does Aylmer really love his wife? How would you characterize his feelings for her?
- Check out the second paragraph of the story, where the narrator reveals that "a union accordingly took place, and was attended with truly remarkable consequences and a deeply impressive moral" (2). What kind of "union" is he talking about here? (There's definitely more than one answer to this question.)
- Why does Aylmer kiss the birthmark while his wife sleeps at the end of the story?
Chew on This
"The Birthmark" is as much about the institution of marriage as it is about science.
In "The Birthmark," Aylmer and Georgiana's marriage is merely allegorical.