Perfecting Perfection

“To tell you the truth it has so often been called a charm (her birthmark), that I was simple enough to imagine it might be so.” (Hawthorne 291)

This quote is towards the start of the story, and to me represents the preliminary innocence of Georgiana. She is content with her appearance and perfect in every other way. She is more than happy with her life until her husband obsesses over it as a flaw. Given that she wants nothing but to make him happy, she struggles with his frustration over something she has no ability to change.

“Her husband tenderly kissed her cheek-her right cheek-not that which bore the impress of the crimson hand” (Hawthorne 293)

This quote was extremely important to the story because it is a strong example of a theme: “actions speak louder than words”. Aylmer is directly displaying his true feelings, although he kisses her and is showing love and affection for her; he does so on her unmarked “perfect” cheek. Exemplifying that he is in a way too good for her imperfection, and wants nothing to do with it. We now that he is bias because on page 294 Aminadab says: “If she were my wife, I’d never part with that birth-mark.” The way he devotes his life to making and discovering potions to perfect his wife and things around him. For example: removing freckles and a death serum of sorts. Shows his obsession with perfection. He spends all his time in the lab and when Georgiana comes in to talk to him about a side effect that she is having he gets upset that she is interrupting him and accuses her of not trusting him. His repeated disgust with her small imperfection and his obsession with creating ways to rid it reinforce his shallow personality and his inability to see the true perfection in his wife. Although his attempts to perfect her do fall parallel to that of the historical efforts to turn everything into gold or to create a way to live eternally: “A philosopher who should go deep enough to acquire the power would attain too lofty a wisdom to stoop to the excise of it.” (Hawthorne 296), it shows how men strive to be God-like and deny nature it’s power of man.

“Life is but a sad possession to those who have attained precisely the degree of moral advancement at which I stand. Were I weaker and blinder, it might be happiness. Were I stronger, it might be endured hopefully. But, being what I find myself, methinks I am of all mortals the most fit to die.” (Hawthorne 300)

To me this quote was the incredibly sad breaking point of Georgiana. Before this excerpt she talks about how she would trade her birthmark for immortality. Showing her true desire to please her husband that she would be willing to give up her own life in order to do so. Her morals are strongly rooted in pleasing her husband, so much so that she becomes basically obsessed with giving him what he wants. If she was “weaker and blinder” things would be different because she wouldn’t fall victim or take notice of his disregard for her. “If she was “stronger” she would be able to endure his crazy obsession with fixing her, instead of embracing death if it meant being dying perfect in his eyes. She is so attached to him that she has become drained of all else except the will to please him.  She is so attached to the idea of making him happy and being the “perfect” wife that it’s ironic that she dies to do what he’s “dying” to change about her.


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