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The Birthmark

The Birthmark


by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Analysis: Booker's Seven Basic Plots Analysis

Christopher Booker is a scholar who wrote that every story falls into one of seven basic plot structures: Overcoming the Monster, Rags to Riches, the Quest, Voyage and Return, Comedy, Tragedy, and Rebirth. Shmoop explores which of these structures fits this story like Cinderella’s slipper.

Plot Type : Overcoming the Monster (Sort of)

Anticipation Stage and Call

Aylmer wants to remove Georgiana's Birthmark.

OK, so "The Birthmark" is tricky in that Aylmer thinks he knows what the monster is from the start and then gets a rude awakening at the end. From Aylmer's perspective, the monster is Georgiana's birthmark and all that it symbolizes: human imperfection.

Dream Stage

Aylmer claims it will be easy; Georgiana is all for it

It seems as though removing Georgiana's birthmark will be easy as a Botox shot. Aylmer is eager to perform the procedure on Georgiana, and she agrees to it.

Frustration Stage

The procedure isn't going to be as easy as Aylmer said it would be. Also, Georgiana has unearthed Aylmer's anxiety and fear.

All was good until Georgiana – and the reader – discover that Aylmer was faking the cool exterior. The procedure won't be all that simple. She's frustrated that he lied to her, and he's frustrated that she left the "magic circle" in which he tried to trap her (i.e., the boudoir).

Nightmare Stage

Georgiana dies.

Mmm… that's about as bad as it gets.

The Thrilling Escape from Death and Death of the Monster

The conclusion of "The Birthmark" (the narrator's brief exposition on the nature of man)

This is where we break from the standard "Overcoming the Monster" plot. The monster, as it turns out, is not Georgiana's birthmark, nor human imperfection. Instead, it's Aylmer's obsession with making a necessarily flawed mortal into something perfect. Ah, the old Monster-Switcheroo plot twist (not actually a typical plot twist).

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