Aylmer lived in the latter part of the 18th century, and was intent on removing the scarlet little hand from the cheek that was considered by some to detract from the woman he was married to’s peerless beauty. In a dramatization of a death by plastic surgery, the man of science (Aylmer) stupidly kills his wife by removing her birthmark (it functions to keep her soul with her mortal frame). There’s a moral at the end of the story, that if he had reached a more profound wisdom he wouldn’t have robbed himself of the happiness he could have had with his wife. The final sentence of the story: The momentary circumstance of the story was too strong for him; he failed to look beyond the shadowy scope of time, and living once for all in Eternity, to find the perfect future in the present, could mean that Aylmer made a bad decision to give the potion to his wife and/or committed suicide after. The gold colored Elixer Vitae, has the power to cause a person to drop dead or live for a very long time, if not forever. This power that the husband possesses, the wife is curious of and he is defensive about. The linking of the husband to Pygmalion suggests, that he could have something like the power of bringing a marble block to life. This idea brings up its opposite, and the reader knows that Georgiana (who has fainted) is at his mercy.
The Elixir Vitae changes the husband from a man of science, to a godlike being capable of causing death. This characterization of the husband has a strong effect on the piece, as the mystery of the birthmark is a letdown, and plays an unimportant role in the story. Keeping the mystery of the birthmark throughout the piece raises the idea that it could be a mark of abuse or a symbol for her husband’s control over her. There are intimations of violence in the husband’s treatment of his wife, which is played up with the idea that he has power over life and death. There’s an idea of replacing Nature’s clenched hand birthmark, with the clenched hand of the husband, taking control. It gives a fuller characterization of Aylmer as a man that makes for a stronger warning that men, should not try to overcome nature in changing/enslaving/chiseling out an image of her. www.valiantdeath.com
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