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November 2015

The Nevus in Literature—More Than a Mark

Author Affiliations
  • 1Georgetown University School of Medicine, Washington, DC
  • 2Children’s National Medical Center, Washington, DC
JAMA Dermatol. 2015;151(11):1212. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2015.2540

In literature, birthmarks often serve an integral role as markers of identity. For example, in Cymbeline, Shakespeare’s tragedy about Celtic Britain, sinister Iachimo, after sneaking a glance of a sleeping unrobed Imogen, describes a distinctive (and usually hidden) mole under her breast, thus insinuating that they have had intimate relations. Similarly, in Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things,1(p70) a central character, Velutha, an Untouchable working for an upper-caste family, has, on his back, a “light-brown birthmark, shaped like a pointed dry leaf… that made the Monsoons come on time.” This cutaneous leaf instantly identifies Velutha, even when seen from behind.

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