Mortality and Imperfection
The central issue throughout the story is that of the human imperfection, as represented by the birthmark upon Georgiana's cheek. On the face of his otherwise perfect wife, Aylmer saw this symbol of her imperfect nature as a human being and her incurable mortality. Ironically, in trying to cure her of mortality, he actually ends up killing her.
The theme of mortality and imperfection crops up repeatedly in the statements made by Aylmer, even the less obvious ones. He talks about having the power to "prolong life" and concocting an "elixir of immortality" (426). He is eerily fascinated by alchemy, wishing to discover "the universal solvent by which the golden principle might be elicited from all things vile and base" (426). Indeed, every word that comes of of this man's mouth is, almost without exception, somehow related to perfecting everything and rendering people immortal.
In the end, as his wife lies dying, he says: "My peerless bride, it is successful! Your are perfect!" (431).
"He need not thus have flung away the happiness which would have woven his mortal life of the selfsame texture with the celestial." (Hawthorne 431)
"Georgiana is not guilty, like Hawthorne's greatest heroines, of adultery or murder --
she is guilty only of being human."
"Selecting it as the symbol of his wife's liability to sin, sorrow, decay, and death, Aylmer's somber imagination was not long in rendering the birthmark a frightful object."
"The birthmark, of course, is emblematic of
human mortality and imperfection,
the realization of which shocks Aylmer to the
point that he becomes obsessed."