The Birthmark

Plants Symbol Icon

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

The The Birthmark quotes below all refer to the symbol of Plants. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Science, Nature, and Religion Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Vintage edition of The Birthmark published in 2011.
The Birthmark Quotes

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.

Related Characters: Aylmer (speaker), Georgiana (speaker)
Related Symbols: Plants
Page Number: 184
Explanation and Analysis:
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Plants Symbol Timeline in The Birthmark

The timeline below shows where the symbol Plants appears in The Birthmark. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
The Birthmark
Science, Nature, and Religion Theme Icon
Fatal Pride Theme Icon
Mortality Theme Icon
Next, Aylmer presents Georgiana with a pot of dirt. As she watches, a plant sprouts and flowers. Aylmer tells her to pick it and smell its scent, because it... (full context)
Science, Nature, and Religion Theme Icon
Perfection Theme Icon
Mortality Theme Icon
...not die, and to demonstrate the effect of the liquid, he pours it into a plant with blemishes on its leaves, and the leaves become entirely green. (full context)