The Birthmark

Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • Study Guide
Main Ideas

Symbols

Main Ideas Symbols

The Birthmark

Georgiana’s birthmark symbolizes mortality. According to the narrator, every living thing is flawed in some way, nature’s way of reminding us that every living thing eventually dies. The hand-shaped mark on Georgiana’s cheek is the one blemish on an otherwise perfect being, a blemish that marks her as mortal. Aylmer’s revulsion for his wife’s birthmark suggests the horror he feels at the prospect of death. He is a smart man, but his misinterpretation of the symbol on Georgiana’s face leads him astray. He mistakenly comes to believe that if he can root out this symbol of transience, it will mean that he has the power to prolong life indefinitely. Aylmer also mistakenly believes that the birthmark represents Georgiana’s moral decrepitude and spiritual flaws even though she isn’t a woman prone to sin at all. If anything, the symbol of death on her cheek clashes with her natural generosity and sunny spirit.