As a moral allegory, “The Birthmark" by Nathaniel Hawthorne is attempting to communicate a number of important ideas about a range of themes, including the power of science (and what happens when science is coupled with arrogance) as well as messages about what happens when human beings attempt to subvert nature. Interestingly, the main character, Aylmer, is obsessed with nature and perfection yet in a vain attempt to create something perfect, he only destroys it. This is a potent statement about science and the power of knowledge (dangerous knowledge) and similar themes can be found outside of the body ofNathaniel Hawthorne’s works in texts such as Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (the creature is a monster because of Victor’s attempt to perfect or subvert nature) and Doctor Faustus (since Faustus is, like Aylmer, interested in arcane arts and ends up destroying himself in his quest for ultimate knowledge). Unlike in the case of other works by Nathaniel Hawthorne such as The Scarlet Letter or The Minister’s Black Veil, or novels that also integrate gothic elements such as The House of the Seven Gables, the allegory or allegorical moral tale is infused with a statement about modernity rather than more vague notions of sin and other matters that were more pertinent during the Puritan period, for instance.

The characters in “The Birthmark" by Nathaniel Hawthorne are not necessarily complex, despite the rather long-winded passages Hawthorne devotes to some of their inner thoughts or personal stories. These characters are, however, archetypes, and as archetypal characters they stand to present larger meanings and themes within the short story by Nathaniel Hawthorne. For instance, Georgiana is hardly complex and in fact, is a frustratingly obedient, patient, and meek woman. She is, however, the symbol or archetype for feminine perfection, both in her looks (with, of course) the exception of the birth-mark and thus is a perfect victim for the final moral message in “The Birthmark" about man’s attempt to subvert nature. Her husband, Aylmer, is also not complex, although it seems easy to think he is because of the long passages regarding his thoughts and beliefs and science, nature, and perfection. As a character in an allegory, he is merely an archetype for a man driven mad by science. A mad scientist even. He is not deep nor complex, but is simply the vehicle for Hawthorne to use to communicate his message.

Another character who is not major in any sense but is nonetheless very important in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s short story is Aminadab. The significance of Amninadab should not be underestimated because like other characters, he too is an archetype of the “natural" man. His name is significant as well. As a predecessor of David and early figure in the Book of Genesis, in the context of “The Birth Mark" byNathaniel Hawthorne, he is a “true" man, one untouched by science and unlike his master, who dabbles in the unnatural world of science and alchemy he is described and explained as such in one of the important quotes from “The Birthmark" by Nathaniel Hawthorne as posessing: “vast strength, his shaggy hair, his smoky aspect, and the indescribable earthiness that incrusted him, he seemed to represent man’s physical nature; while Aylmer’s slender figure, and pale, intellectual face, were no less apt a type of the spiritual element." Even by his physical presence, Aminadab is more of a natural man, strong and possessed of himself than the spindly, wasted frame of his master, Aylmer. More importantly, as the servant helps his master, Aminadab says in one of the important quotes from “The Birth Mark" by Nathaniel Hawthorne, “If she were my wife, I’d never part with that birthmark.” Which means that a real natural / physical man, rather than a man of science (who is flawed because of his departure from nature) is, no matter how haggard he may look, better.

Many wonder about the significance of the laughter that Aylmer hears at the conclusion of “The Birth-Mark" and wonder who it is and what it is supposed to mean. One of the most suggested interpretations of this (somewhat campy) addition of the supernatural in this rather gothic tale in the vein of romanticism is that it is the laughter of Nature herself as she gloats over a man’s failed attempt to understand her ways and mess with her version of perfection. If Georgiana’s birthmark is a symbol of her being touched by nature (the fact that it is in the shape of a hand is an important symbolic detail and creates this meaning) then it is not unfounded to view nature as a character in “The Birthmark" as much as Alymer or any other.

Other essays and articles in the Literature Archives related to this topic include :Comparison of “The Birthmark” and “Rappaccini’s Daughter” by HawthorneNathaniel Hawthorne : An Overview of the Author and Thematic Analysis of Works Full Summary and Analysis of “The Minister’s Black Veil” by Nathaniel HawthorneAnalysis and Plot Summary of “Young Goodman Brown” by Nathnaiel Hawthorne Allegory in The House of the Seven Gables by Nathaniel HawthorneThe Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne : The Effects of Sin on the Mind, Body, and SoulPuritan Influences on Modern American Culture and Thought Analysis and Plot Summary of “Rappaccini’s Daughter” by Nathaniel Hawthorne