Aylmer twice uses plants to demonstrate scientific points, and in both instances they represent Georgiana herself and foreshadow the effect of the experiment on her. Aylmer shows Georgiana a plant that grows and flowers before her eyes. He tells her to pick the flower while it lives, for it will soon die. However, when she tries to pick it, the entire plant dies. Like Georgiana, the flower is perfect, and like Georgiana, it dies before its time due to Aylmer’s influence. The plants not only foreshadow Georgiana’s death, but also emphasize the role of nature in the story. Later, Aylmer pours liquid over a diseased plant before having Georgiana drinks the liquid. The liquid removes the plant’s discolorations, just as it removes Georgiana’s birthmark. Aylmer’s faulty control over the plants, products of the natural world, mirrors his disastrous attempt to alter the way nature has made his wife.
Plants Quotes in The Birthmark
Aylmer bade her cast her eyes upon a vessel containing a quantity of earth. She did so, with little interest at first; but was soon startled to perceive the germ of a plant shooting upward from the soil. Then came the slender stalk; the leaves gradually unfolded themselves; and amid them was a perfect and lovely flower.
"It is magical!" cried Georgiana. "I dare not touch it."
"Nay, pluck it," answered Aylmer,—"pluck it, and inhale its brief perfume while you may. The flower will wither in a few moments and leave nothing save its brown seed vessels; but thence may be perpetuated a race as ephemeral as itself."
But Georgiana had no sooner touched the flower than the whole plant suffered a blight, its leaves turning coal-black as if by the agency of fire.