At first sight the moral is simple. A man should love his wife as she is and not demand more.
Aylmer totally dominates his marriage. His wife exists only for him. This is shown in the major settings of the story, the laboratory and the boudoir. They don’t represent male and female respectively. They are in fact the same place. The boudoir is just a disguised part of the laboratory.
One might be forgiven for thinking that the story is only about a relationship between a man and a woman, or about male dominance, but Hawthorne had written in his Notebooks, “A person to be in possession of something as perfect as mortal man has a right to demand; he tries to make it better and ruins it entirely. For instance, a noble mansion, and in his attempts to improve it, he causes it to fall to the ground.”
The above suggests that the story is more generally about the dangers of a too aspiring idealism. It can be dangerous to try too hard for perfection on this Earth. Flaws go right to the heart of things. Aylmer does indeed have a dream in which he is about to cut his wife’s heart out to remove the birthmark.
The marriage union can be seem as a metaphor for the subject and object of such striving, and technology, as manifested in Aylmer’s laboratory, can be seem as a metaphor for the means.
The laboratory, which more than anything else, resembles a nineteenth century factory, is our crude means of trying to achieve perfection, and the boudoir is the result. It is just a cheap trick made up of optical illusions and scents, in which the outside world is denied. It is interesting that the story takes place almost entirely in the laboratory/boudoir and is just between two people.
The story is also about the relationship between matter and spirit. Although Aylmer seems to despise matter, he seems to think that with his alchemy he can mould it into spirit. When she reads her husband’s book Georgiana sees that he “handled physical details, as if...