In: English and Literature

Submitted By jennilea74
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Discussion Questions: “The Birthmark” English 1301
1. "The Birthmark" is such a rich story that when we begin to explore its deeper meanings we find ironies, ambiguities, paradoxes, and rich symbols, all of which invite a reader's individual interpretation. What irony, ambiguity, symbol, and paradox do you find most interesting in "The Birthmark"?
2. In much of his fiction, Hawthorne treats pride as an "evil." Is there an evil type of pride evident in "The Birthmark"?
3. In what ways is "The Birthmark" for all its promise of an "impressive moral" actually morally ambiguous? Why might some readers find it difficult to view Alymer, for instance, as purely and unambiguously "evil"?
4. Hawthorne didn't feel himself confined to an aesthetic that privileges "verisimilitude," like many 20th century authors (notable exceptions being Kafka, Borges, and Marquez). He felt comfortable allowing his fiction to include "the spirit and mechanism of the fairyland" (his words). What "fantastic" or "magical" elements appear in "The Birthmark"?
5. Consider Hawthorne's presentation of Georgiana in "The Birthmark." What attitudes about women seem to inform his portrait of her?
6. Given that certain themes tend to recur in Hawthorne's fiction, among them the limits of self-reliance and the evils of manipulation, can you analyze how these themes are expressed in "The Birthmark"?

Student Questions:
• Why did Aylmer marry Georgiana if he hated the birthmark so much? Why does he want to remove it now?
• What were Aylmer's real motives? Was there more to it than is obvious?
• If Aylmer really loved Georgiana, why couldn't he look past her…...

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