The Birthmark

Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • Study Guide
Main Ideas

Motifs

Main Ideas Motifs

Red and White

The colors red and white recur throughout “The Birthmark” to highlight both Georgiana’s purity and imperfections. Hawthorne uses lyrical language to describe Georgiana’s skin. Her birthmark is described as crimson and ruby-colored, while the skin around it is likened to snow and marble. These words reveal that the narrator thinks Georgiana’s birthmark and the red and white shades of her face make her more beautiful, not less. The loveliness of the language he uses to describe her puts the narrator in opposition to Aylmer. So too does his description of the blending of the two colors. In general, the birthmark is red and Georgiana’s skin is white, but these categories sometimes overlap: when she blushes, her skin turns the same color as the birthmark. This overlapping suggests that no clear boundary exists between Georgiana’s beauty and one flaw.