VARIOUS TEXTS: 'A Beautiful Young Woman' by N. Hawthorne

A Beautiful Young Woman

PART TWO - "Perfection is dangerous"
Perfection is Dangerous While Aylmer worked in his laboratory, Georgiana looked at the books in his library. There were books by scientists, poets and philosophers. But the most interesting work was a big book written by her husband, in which he wrote down every experiment of his scientific career.

The book was the history of his intense and ambitious life. As Georgiana read it she loved Aylmer more and more. She knew he was a great scientist. However, many of his experiments were failures. And this made her very sad. One day she put her face on the open book and started crying.

When Aylmer entered the room and saw her he said, "It is dangerous to read a wizard's books."
"Now that I have read this book I adore you more than ever," said Georgiana.
"Ah, but wait for THIS success," he said, "and then adore me if you want. But now I would like to hear your beautiful voice. Please sing to me, my dearest."
So Georgiana sang and Aylmer was very pleased. Then he returned to his laboratory. But Georgiana had forgotten to tell her husband about a strange sensation she had felt on her left cheek for the last two or three hours. So she entered into her husband's laboratory for the first time.

The first thing she noticed was the furnace with its intense fire. All around the room there were tubes, cylinders and other scientific instruments. The air was filled with strange vapors and odors. But what really surprised her was Aylmer himself. He was as pale as death and worried as he prepared a strange new potion. He was so different from the man she had seen a few moments before!

"Carefully, Aminadab, carefully!" he cried. "This is a very important moment."
"Ho! Ho!" said Aminadab. "Look, master, look!"
Aylmer raised his eyes quickly and became very angry when he saw Georgiana. He went to her and took her arm.
"Why did you come here? Don't you trust 1 your husband?" he cried angrily. "Now go away!"
"No, Aylmer," said Georgiana firmly. "You don't trust me and you don't tell me your worries about this experiment. I will accept all the risks." "No, no, Georgiana," said Aylmer impatiently.

"I will drink any potion you give me. I trust you completely." "My dear wife," said Aylmer, "you must know that this red hand is deep inside you. There could be danger."
"Danger? There is only one danger — that this horrible birthmark remains on my cheek," cried Georgiana. "Remove it, remove it, or we will both go mad."
"Your words are very true," said Aylmer sadly. "And now, please go back to your rooms. The potion will soon be tested."
When Georgiana returned to her rooms she thought about Aylmer's noble character and his great love for her. He wanted her to be perfect because he loved her so much. Her thoughts were interrupted by Aylmer's footsteps. He carried a glass with a bright, colorless, transparent liquid. He was pale but didn't seem worried or afraid. "This potion is perfect," he said looking at Georgiana. "It cannot fail."

"My dearest Aylmer, life has become very difficult. I think death is the best solution for me."
"But why do you speak of death? The potion cannot fail. Look at its effect on this plant."

Near the window there was an old geranium plant. Its leaves were yellow and ugly. Aylmer poured a small quantity of the potion in the plant. After a short time the ugly yellow leaves became green.
"I did not need any proof," said Georgiana quietly. "I believe you. Give me the potion. I am happy to drink it."
"Drink then, my dearest wife. Soon your body will be as perfect as your spirit."
Georgiana drank the potion and gave Aylmer the empty glass. "It is like water from a magic fountain. Now, dearest Aylmer, let me sleep."
She fell asleep almost immediately. Aylmer sat by her side and watched her very carefully. He often looked at the birthmark on her white cheek. At first it was very visible. Then it slowly disappeared.

"It's almost gone!" said Aylmer to himself. "Success! Success! But Georgiana is so pale!"
He heard his servant laugh. He too was delighted.
Aylmer looked at Aminadab and said, "You served me well. Heaven and earth have done their part. The experiment is a success, Aminadab!"
These exclamations disturbed Georgiana's sleep. She opened her eyes and looked in the mirror. She smiled weakly when she saw that the little red hand had almost disappeared. Then she looked at Aylmer. She was worried.

"My poor Aylmer," she said quietly.
"Poor? No! I am the richest and happiest man! And you are my splendid wife! Now you are perfect!"
"My poor Aylmer," she repeated lovingly. "You have done your best. Your intention was very noble, but now I am dying."
It was true! The fatal hand was linked to Georgiana's life. When it disappeared, Georgiana's life disappeared too. And so she died.
Aylmer had wanted perfection but he did not realize that perfection was not part of this world. And so he lost the woman he loved and destroyed his happiness forever.
870 words

I. Read Part Two and answer the questions below.

1. What was the most interesting book in Aylmer's library?

2. What did it contain?

3. Why did Georgiana cry when she read this book?

4. What did Georgiana forget to tell Aylmer?

5. What was the first thing Georgiana saw when she entered Aylmer's laboratory?

6. How did Aylmer look when he was preparing the potion? Why was Aylmer angry with Georgiana?

7. What, according to Georgiana, was the only danger?

8. What did Aylmer tell Georgiana to do?

9. Why did Aylmer want Georgiana to be perfect?

II. Look at the title of Part Two, "Perfection is Dangerous". What do you think this means? What could the dangers be for Aylmer and Georgiana?

III. Put the events of Part Two in the correct order. The first one has been done for you.

a. Georgiana drank the potion and fell asleep immediately. __________

b. Georgiana entered Aylmer's laboratory for the first time. _________

c. Georgiana looked in the mirror and saw that her birthmark had nearly disappeared. _________

d. Aylmer sent Georgiana back to her room. _________

e. Georgiana died. __________

f. Aylmer warned Georgiana about the dangers of removing the little hand. ___________

g. Georgiana read Aylmer's book. __ 1 ___

h. Aylmer gave some of the potion to an old geranium plant and its leaves became green. _________

IV. Topic — Work

In the story, Aylmer worked as a scientist. What kind of work would you like to do? Talk to the class about the kind of work you'd like to do. Bring in a photo of someone doing this kind of work, and use these questions to help you.

a. What is your ideal kind of work?

b. Why did you choose it?

c. Which is more interesting, the work you have chosen or Aylmer's?

d. Will it be easy for you to find work when you finish your studies?

V. Look at the words from the story in the table below. Write the definition in the space provided in your own words (use a dictionary to help you if you need to).

Word Definition
a. furnace
c. passion
d. charm
e. wizard
f. envious
g. imperfection
h. potion
i. eliminate
j. fatal
k. portrait
l. proof

VI. Now complete the sentences below using words from the table on exercise before.

a. Aylmer painted a ________________________ of his wife.

b. There was a/an accident in the laboratory. The ___________________________ exploded.

c. Many women were ____________________________ of Georgiana's beauty. They weren't as beautiful as she was.

d. I always carry a "rabbit's foot" wherever I go. It's my good luck _______________________________

e. The scientists went back to work in their _________________________________ after the meeting.

f. Georgiana kissed Aylmer with a lot of ___________________________________ . She really loved her husband.

g. There are too many candidates for the job. We'll have to _____________________________ some of them.

h. Aylmer thought Georgiana's birthmark was a sign of her ____________________________ He wanted to remove it.

i. The __________________________ made a magic _______________________________ from strange ingredients.

j. Georgiana didn't need any ______________________________ that Aylmer could eliminate her birthmark. She trusted him.

VII. Let's talk about the story.

Answer the questions below in your own words, then ask your classmates what they think.

a. Do you think people's appearance is important? If so, why?

b. Do you think Georgiana was right to want to remove her birthmark?

c. Find out what this phrase means: "Don't judge a book by its cover." Is there a similar expression in your language? Do you agree with it?

Source: from pp. 54:

amazon.de Stories of Suspense
Nathaniel Hawthorne

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