Hawthorne in the Birthmark uses irony, ambiguity, paradox, and symbol to create a story that is rich in meaning. The most obvious use of these devices is the title of the story itself. The birthmark is a physical mark on Georgiana’s face that Hawthorne makes into a symbol of her innermost self.
The irony is that despite her husband’s efforts to remove the birthmark, it remains as a reminder of her imperfection. The ambiguity comes in when we are not sure if the mark is truly a blemish or if it has some deeper significance. The paradox is created by the fact that despite its supposed ugliness, the birthmark becomes one of the main attractions drawing people to Georgiana.
The final symbol is the birthmark itself, which Hawthorne uses to represent Georgiana’s true nature. By the end of the story, it is clear that the birthmark is not simply a physical blemish, but a representation of the human condition itself. The use of these devices allows Hawthorne to create a rich and complex story that is full of meaning.
Ambiguity: Georgianas character can be described in two ways. Although she appears to be a powerful confident woman who is self-confident, she begins to willow away after her husband’s constant attention to her birthmark. When Aylmer gives Georgiana the elixir, she has ceded all control over her life in order to relieve him of his suffering caused by her birthmark. Irony: The loss of the birthmark was an event in irony. Aylmer and Georgiana were unaware that the scar gave vitality to his wife.
The birthmark was a physical imperfection to Aylmer, but it was what made Georgiana, Georgiana. The removal of the birthmark ultimately lead to the death of Georgiana. Paradox: The idea that Aylmer could be both repulsed and fascinated by the birthmark is a paradox.
The birthmark can also be seen as a paradox because it is considered a flaw, but without it Georgiana would not have been who she was. Symbol: The birthmark itself is a symbol. It represents the imperfection of human beings. The birthmark also symbolizes Georgianas strength and determination. She is able to overcome the birthmark and keep her husband happy.
Elizabeth Aylmer’s death after the birthmark removal is an example of how a woman who was perfect for a few days may die. Paradox: Something that appears to be at odds with common sense. During a discussion with her husband, Georgiana says that if he’s willing to take the chance, she would support him.
For me, danger is nothing; life, however, because this loathsome blemish makes you the object of your horror and repulsion… Common sense would tell Georgesville to inform Aylmer that if he did not like the beauty mark, he should leave her for a lady who could satisfy him in her eyes.
The irony in this situation is that Aylmer removes the birthmark, which leads to Georgiana’s death. The ambiguity comes in to question whether Hawthorne is suggesting that the birthmark was what was killing Georgiana or if it was her husband’s overwhelming guilt and obsession with the birthmark that led to her death.
Symbolically, the birthmark can be interpreted as anything from a physical representation of Georgiana’s imperfection to sin itself. Hawthorne uses all of these literary devices masterfully to create a story that is both intriguing and thought provoking.
Instead, Georgiana orders him to do anything necessary to get rid of the birthmark, even if it means paying any price. The actual birthmark is one of the most noticeable instances of symbolism in his narrative. The birthmark alludes to both life and death. Pride is bad in Hawthorne’s work because it leads to disaster. Is there an evil form of pride revealed by the Birthmark? I discovered a reader may interpret Aylmer’s pride as evil in the following two situations. Even Pygmalion, when his statue woman came to life, felt no greater pleasure than I will feel when my sculptured lady comes alive.
The birthmark is a stigma of imperfection, and provides Aylmer with an excuse to display hissuperiority over Nature. The birthmark also may be seen as a physical manifestation of Georgiana spiritual flaws. If so, then the birthmarks removal becomes Aylmers opportunity to demonstrate his moral and spiritual superiority over her. The Birthmark can also be read as an allegory about the dangers of science and technology.
The birthmark represents all that is natural, while Aylmer represents science and technology. The conflict between the two forces ultimately leads to tragedy. One final way to interpret The Birthmark is as a cautionary tale about the dangers of obsession. Aylmers obsession with removing the birthmark blinds him to everything else in his life, including his wife. The end result is tragedy for all involved.
Regardless of the repercussions, Aylmer is already experiencing the malevolence of his future work. His self-assurance could be considered a conceited pride. I’m sure if he was able to remove the birthmark, he’d have opened a freakshow to showcase his amazing creation.
The second reference to Aylmer’s malevolence comes in Is the Birthmark ethically ambiguous? He couldn’t overcome the momentary circumstances; he didn’t see beyond the dark distance of time and, living once for all in eternity, discovered the ideal future in the present. This description might be interpreted in several ways.
The Hawthorne leaves it up to the reader. The ambiguity of the statement creates a paradox. The paradox is that Aylmer wants to control time, but in order to do so, he must live in the present. The symbol in this story is the birthmark. The meaning of the birthmark could be interpreted many ways, but I believe it represents nature and human imperfection.
The irony in this story is that Aylmer is so obsessed with perfection that he destroys what he loves the most. The ambiguity and paradox creates a dark mood for the story. The mood is set by Hawthorne’s use of language and his choice of words.
Nathaniel Hawthorne uses irony, ambiguity, paradox, and symbol in The Birthmark to create a dark and moody story. Aylmer is obsessed with perfection, but in order to obtain it, he destroys what he loves the most. The meaning of the birthmark is ambiguous, which creates a paradox. The irony in the story is that Aylmer is so preoccupied with making his wife perfect, that he removes her one imperfection and in turn causes her death. The mood Hawthorne creates with his use of language is dark and dismal.