Birthmark : Top Ten Quotes
“He had devoted himself, however, too unreservedly to scientific studies ever to be weaned from them by any second passion.”
This foreshadowing near the beginning of the story warns that Aylmer was first a scientist, and second, a husband.
"Georgiana,' said he, 'has it never occurred to you that the mark upon your cheek might be removed?'"
Aylmer begins to work on his wife almost immediately about her one imperfection, the birthmark on her cheek, which others hardly notice. He immediately decides it has to be got rid of.
“'. . . you came so nearly perfect from the hand of Nature that this slightest possible defect, which we hesitate whether to term a defect or a beauty, shocks me, as being the visible mark of earthly imperfection.'"
Aylmer is upset by what he sees as his wife's disfigurement, deciding to interpret it as a symbol of her internal impurity.
“'. . . he found this one defect grow more and more intolerable with every moment of their united lives. It was the fatal flaw of humanity which Nature, in one shape or another, stamps ineffaceably on all her productions, either to imply that they are temporary and finite, or that their perfection must be wrought by toil and pain.'”
Aylmer becomes obsessed with Georgiana's defect, contemplating original sin and whether it can be remedied by human effort.
“'Perhaps its removal may cause cureless deformity; or it may be the stain goes as deep as life itself.'”
Georgiana begs her husband to remove the birthmark, no matter the cost to her, after he has nightmares about her sinful nature.
“. . . the illusion was almost perfect enough to warrant the belief that her husband possessed sway over the spiritual world.”
Aylmer entertains his wife with an invention of his using optical illusions of airy figures dancing on a screen before her. For a moment, she believes he can summon spirits.
“He gave a history of the long dynasty of the alchemists, who spent so many ages in quest of the universal solvent by which the golden principle might be elicited from all things vile and base.”
The alchemists wanted to produce a solvent that would transmute base metals to gold. The way Hawthorne words it, it also implies that there might be a golden perfection in humans that could be elicited from their base nature. His experiment on Georgiana is thus metaphysical, trying to remove her hidden evil.
“Georgiana, as she read, reverenced Aylmer and loved him more profoundly than ever, but with a less entire dependence on his judgment than heretofore.”
Georgiana awaits her operation with less trust than before, reading about Aylmer's failures in his book of experiments.
"'It is terrible to possess such power, or even to dream of possessing it.'"
Georgiana is frightened by the implications of Aylmer's power when he mentions he has the secret of long life and threatens to use it to control society.
"'I knew not the height and depth of your nature until now.'”
When Georgiana consents to the experiment knowing all the dangers, Aylmer is surprised at her nobility.