What Is the Irony in "The Birthmark" by Hawthorne?

In Nathaniel Hawthorne's short story "The Birthmark," the scientist Aylmer is in love with his beautiful young wife, Georgiana. She just has one flaw -- a tiny red birthmark in the shape of a hand on her cheek. Aylmer soon becomes obsessed with removing the birthmark. In an ironic turn of events, the solution he thinks he has found ends up costing him everything he loves.

The Final Solution

Aylmer is so obsessed with his wife's seeming imperfection that he begins to have nightmares of killing her to remove her birthmark. He spends hours in the laboratory looking for a solution and finally creates an elixir that he is sure will work. The irony is that the elixir does remove her birthmark, but it also kills her. The elixir destroys her physical beauty in an effort to improve it. It is also ironic that Aylmer is a highly intelligent man, but has no wisdom. He does not see that his wife's inner beauty is what is really important.

Cite this Article