Study Guide

Georgiana in The Birthmark


In today's day and age, it can be hard to take Georgiana very seriously. She places all her internal value on her external appearances, and can view herself only through her husband's eyes. When he is miserable, she is miserable, and she's willing to sacrifice everything – including her own life – to make him happy.

But we'd be missing a lot of the interesting aspects of "The Birthmark" if we write Georgiana off as a weak girl in need of a serious confidence boost. Because, when we read "The Birthmark" carefully, we find that Georgiana is devoted, which is not the same as being weak. In fact, she's actually a pretty tough lady. When she feels her husband is wrong, she challenges him (see the scene in the laboratory). She trusts in him implicitly, which shows incredible faith and certainty on her part. She also reveals tremendous resolve in her decision to go forward with the procedure, danger and death be damned. She, like Aylmer, has set her sights on something lofty, and will not be deterred from her path.

But Georgiana is very different from Aylmer at the story's end. She is allowed the moment of comprehension and awareness that he never is. She understands exactly what happened with the birthmark and exactly why she has to die. (See "What's Up with the Ending?" for the answers to these questions.) And, even more interestingly, she isn't even upset about it. Instead, she speaks "with a more than human tenderness" and tells her husband to not repent (90). Georgiana here achieves a sort of enlightenment; because the birthmark (and accordingly all the human flaws it symbolizes) has been removed from her cheek, she is "now perfect" and has all the wisdom that Aylmer, the still-very-flawed mortal, lacks.