The Birthmark

How does Hawthorne in the Birthmark use Irony, Ambiguity, Paradox, and Symbol?

Ambiguity: Two different interpretations can be used to describe Georgianaís character. At first she seems to be a strong confident women who is very self assured. Only after the constant focus of her husbandís attention to her birthmark, does she begin to willow away. When Aylmer gives her the elixir to drink, Georgiana has submitted to doing whatever in necessary to relieve her husband from his misery caused by her birthmark.

Irony: The removal of the birthmark was an event in irony. Aylmer and Georgiana did not know that the mark provided the life blood to his wife. After the removal of the birthmark, Aylmerís wife was perfect for a short few moments, only to die.

Paradox: A statement that seems contrary to common sense. Georgiana states during a discussion with her husband let the attempt be made at whatever the risk. Danger is nothing for me; for life, while this hateful mark makes me the object of your horror and disgust... Common sense would allow Georgiana to tell Aylmer that if he did not like the beauty mark, he should leave her for a women who would be perfect in her eyes. Instead, Georgiana is demanding he do whatever necessary to remove the birthmark no matter what the consequences.

Symbol: The actual birthmark is one of the most prominent uses of symbol in his story. The birthmark has references to life, death, beauty and disgust.

In much of his fiction Hawthorne treats Pride as an evil. Is an evil type of pride evident in the Birthmark?

Following are two examples of where I found a reader could interpret Aylmerís pride as evil. Aylmer states Even Pygmalion, when his sculptured woman assumed life, felt not greater ecstasy than mine will be. Aylmer is already feeling the evil pride of his upcoming sculpture, regardless of the consequences. His confidence could be interpreted as a cocky pride. I am sure if the removal of the birthmark was successful, he would have opened a circus type show to display his great work.

The other reference to Aylmerís evil is

Is the Birthmark morally ambiguous?

The momentary circumstances was too strong for him; he failed to look beyond the shadowy scope of time, and, living once for all in eternity, to find the perfect future in the present

This statement could be interpreted morally in many ways. The most commanding part of this sentence to me was to find the perfect future in the present. This sentence alone has a powerful meaning. If only Aylmer had followed his own thought, the story would have had an entirely different ending.

Hawthorne writes I have sometimes produced a singular and not unpleasing effect...by imagining a train of incidents in which the spirit and mechanism of the fairyland should be combined with the characters and manners of familiar life. What fantastic elements does Hawthorne use in the Birthmark?

Hawthorne uses many magical words a few are listed with definitions below.

Spectral - supernatural
alchemists - wizard
elixir - magic potion

There is many references to a fairyland in the reading, especially when referencing the elixir Aylmer was preparing for Georgiana. When Georgiana noticed the liquid inside of the globe, she said It is so beautiful to the eye that I could imagine it the elixir of life. The beauty of the potionís color was strong enough to attract attention and curiosity.

Another reference to the fantasy world in the Birthmark was Aylmerís statement to Georgiana when he caught her reading his large folio containing all of his potions. Aylmer said It is dangerous to read in a sorcererís books.