The Birthmark. By Nathaniel Hawthorne. The birthmark was nature’s flaw , but what nature could not perfect, science could. A ylmer gazed unhappily at his wife, Georgianna, across the room. She was beautiful, except for a small birthmark on her cheek.
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Georgianna’s complexion was healthy and delicate, and the birthmark was a tint of deep crimson, which also outlined its shape amid the surrounding rosiness.
When she blushed, it gradually became more indistinct and finally vanished amid the rush of blood that bathed the whole cheek with its brilliant glow.
But if any shifting motion caused her to turn pale, there was the mark again. Although quite small, its shape bore a similarity to the human hand.
Georgianna soon learned to shudder at his gaze. A glance from him would change her rosy cheeks into a deathlike paleness causing the crimson birthmark to stand out.
Late one night, when the lights were growing dim so as hardly to betray the stain on the poor wife’s cheek, she herself, for the first time, brought up the topic of the birthmark.
But then he added, in a dry, cold tone, trying not to betray his emotions, “I might have dreamed of it. Perhaps I did, for I have thought of the mark often before I fall asleep.”
Indeed, he did remember. It was very clear to him. He was in his laboratory, and he was pressing the blade of a knife into the soft skin of Georgianna’s cheek.
“Perhaps its removal may cause cureless deformity, or it may be the stain goes as deep as life itself. But let the attempt be made. You have learned science.”
Aylmer beamed. “Noblest, dearest, tenderest wife,” he cried, “please do not doubt my power. I have already given this matter the deepest thought.”
“Your happiness is what is important to me,” he answered. “And you have just admitted that you are dreadfully unhappy knowing how the mark disturbs me.
He had a different method, a chemical solution. For days, then weeks, he worked in his laboratory until at last he had discovered the right combination of chemicals.
As she stepped over the threshold, Georgianna was cold and tremulous. Aylmer looked cheerfully into her pale face, with intent to reassure her.
The walls were hung with gorgeous curtains, which fell from ceiling to floor and shut out all light that might interfere with his chemical experiments.
He told her he had been working to perfect a liquid to prolong life for years, perhaps forever. “Death is the ultimate flaw of nature, is it not?”
“Behold,” Aylmer said, and he held up a vial of silver liquid. On the table stood a diseased geranium, with yellow blotches that had overspread all its leaves.
In a little time, when the roots of the plant had drunk the moisture, the ugly blotches began to disappear as new, green tips of vegetation began to sprout and uncurl.
“No, it is not magic,” Aylmer said. “I am not a sorcerer with a book of spells and potions. I am a scientist. That is why you must trust me, my dear.”
“Oh, no. The mark runs too deep beneath the skin. You must drink the liquid. Unless science deceives me,” he told her, “it will not fail.”
“I submit,” she replied. “I will drink anything you bring me, but it will be on the same principle that would induce me to take a dose of poison if you offered it to me.”
“My dear wife,” Aylmer said, deeply moved. “I knew not the height and depth of your nature until now. But why do you speak of poison, of dying?”
“Danger? There is but one danger—that this horrible stigma shall be left upon my cheek and I shall go mad!” she cried. “Give me the glass.”
“I am grateful,” she said. “Now, dearest, let me sleep. My senses are closing over my spirit like the leaves around the heart of a rose at sunset.”
She stirred in her deep sleep and murmured, then sighed, and the mark faded even more. Aylmer scribbled another note. When he looked up again, he was jubilant.
Click this hyperlink and open the document called Questions for “The Birthmark.” Your group will need to answer these questions. There should be just one document for the group, and all group members should contribute to the success of the project. For the first seven questions, copy and paste the answer your group selects. For #’s 8-10, write complete sentences. Numbers 11-13 will be answered by the group. Each group member will get the same score for the first 13 questions. When you have answered the first 13 questions, print out a copy for each person in the group. Each person will then answer numbers 14 – 18 by himself (herself) by writing neatly with pen or pencil.
2. Georgianna agrees to the experiment becauseA. she hates the birthmark B. she is afraid of Aylmer C. she hates the way Aylmer looks at her because of the birthmark D. she is also a scientist
3. An event that warns of Georgianna’s fate isA. when Aylmer redecorates his private room.B. when the geranium plant’s leaves droop and fall off.C. when Georgianna begins moving around in her sleep.
4. The climax of the story occurs whenA. Georgianna drinks the liquid.B. she looks into the mirror and smiles faintly.C. she mutters “I am dying” and takes her last breath.
5. The irony is thatA. Georgianna never really loved Aylmer.B. Aylmer loves science more than he loves his wife.C. Aylmer sets out to make her perfect, and in the end he destroys her.D. Georgianna never liked geraniums in the first place.
6. In the line, “Its fallen leaves lay like autumn about its base of clay,” the leaves symbolizeA. Aylmer’s failed dream of making his wife perfect.B. Georgianna’s loss of love for her husband.C. Aylmer’s feelings of pride about his scientific skill.
7. This story has several themes. Select the 2 below that best convey the themes.A. Science can’t solve all of mankind’s imperfections.B. Wives should not do what their husbands tell them to do.C. Love conquers all.D. Life will always have imperfections.E. Marriages don’t always work out.
The next three questions must be answered by your group, and everyone should check spelling and work together to correct other errors in writing.
8. There is an adage that says beauty is only skin deep. In other words, there is more to a person than the outward appearance. Explain how Aylmer’s failure to understand these words of wisdom affects the outcome of the story.
9. Discuss the elements of Gothic literature that can be seen in “The Birthmark.” Refer to your notes on gothic literature. A good answer will have at least three characteristics of gothic literature.
At this point, your group should check all work and then print out a copy for each person in the group. On your own, each of you will handwrite your own answers to numbers 14 -18. If your answers are identical or almost the same as others in your group, you will not receive credit. Your ideas can be the same, but your words must not be!.
17. Before Aylmer married Georgianna, he scarcely noticed her birthmark. After a while, however, it bothered him greatly. Explain why you think his feelings changed. (4 points)
18. The geranium and the birthmark were two symbols in this story. Choose either the geranium or the birthmark. What did it look like? What did it symbolize, represent, or stand for? Finally, why was it important to the story? Answer all three of these questions. Be sure to tell whether you are talking about the geranium or the birthmark. (6 points)
Twenty-six points of this assignment will be earned working with a partner.
Sixteen points will be earned by you alone.
42 points total