I had never heard of The Birthmark before and when I saw that it really is very short, I read it right away.
On a few pages Hawthorne creates a very uncomfortable, creepy atmosphere and he needs nothing but two protagonists and a supporting character. We have a scientist who thinks he will triumph over nature, a pliant wife, a somewhat pessimistic assistant and an obsession to create perfection where there is no need to.
I have to admit I am not sure whom I disliked more. The man who gets obsessed with the removal of his wife’s birthmark or the wife who is so under his influence or is so willing to please her husband that she starts to dislike it even more than he does.
In fact she should have been a little more suspicious of his achievements and not trusted him so easily (even though she was ok with even dying in the process, so it didn’t matter). On the one hand he tells her he has found the elixir of immortality and could make anyone live or die at will, on the other hand his journal is a list of failures (by his own standards). I found this discrepancy rather odd.
Apart from the topics whether man should try to meddle with nature, perfection vs. imperfection and all that symbolism of the birthmark being the manifestation of sin (give me a break!) etc., what interested me most was the aspect of what sort of relationship Aylmer and Georgiana were leading. Definitely not a healthy one! If transferred to nowadays Georgiana’s online name would most probably be “aylmerswife” and I thoroughly dislike that sort of attitude.
Anyway, this story is super creepy, a perfect short Halloween read. But not only that. It leaves you with a distinct uncomfortable feeling that will linger for some time. Haunting!
Read The Birthmark for free by downloading, for example, Little Masterpieces at Project Gutenberg.
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