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November 2017

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Birthmark”

Author Affiliations
  • 1Drexel University College of Medicine, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
JAMA Dermatol. 2017;153(11):1173. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2017.3543

A short story titled “The Birthmark,”1 written by Nathaniel Hawthorne in 1843, revolves around none other than a prominent birthmark. The main character, Aylmer, is an intelligent, retired scientist whose love of science is only matched by his love for his spectacularly beautiful new wife, Georgiana. But soon after the two wed, Aylmer becomes obsessed with a crimson, hand-shaped mark on his bride’s left cheek, a mark Georgiana had considered a “charm” prior to Aylmer’s mention. Georgiana’s perception of her mark turns to disgust with each passing day of her husband’s obsession. Aylmer believes he can liberate his wife from this mark, her only flaw, and he spends the length of the story seeking a method to do so.