The Birth-mark by Nathaniel Hawthorne

The Birth-mark is a short story that I read in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Haunting Tales. You can read it online here.

The Birth-mark is the story of a mad “scientist”‘s obsession towards his wife’s birthmark.

The protagonist, Aylmer, is a hateful and abusive lunatic who, upon marrying the coveted Georgiana, decided that he hated the tiny birthmark on her cheek. Whereas her former lovers often referred to it as something exceptionally endearing–as if “some fairy, at [Georgiana’s] birth-hour, had laid her tiny hand upon the infant’s cheek”. Aylmer, however, vows to remove the “frightful object”.

The protagonist’s wife, Georgiana, is a creature so weak as to have no will of her own. Her husband is consumed with making her the vision of perfection, all the while seeking to “release her mind from the burthen [sic] of actual things”. He so often expresses his hatred of Georgiana’s so-called blemish that his wife, who fully admits to worshipping him, begs him never to look at it again because “not even Aylmer now hated it so much as she”.

In the end, as one can predict, Aylmer removes the mark with one of his alchemical concoctions–it just so happens to have the side-effect of killing Georgiana.

All in all, this was very disappointing. It would have made an excellent psychological horror novel, but instead… well, instead we got this.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆


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