Conflict in the Scarlet Letter

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Conflict in The Scarlet Letter

Human nature, while impressively complex, also has various poor qualities. Often these imperfections result in conflicts which are in turn depicted in works of literature. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, set in an old Puritan community, is centered on several conflicts of human nature that result from the adultery and punishment of Hester Prynne. There are three major conflicts each for which Hawthorne created a specific main character to illustrate: Pearl, Hester's illegitimate daughter, depicts the conflict purity versus sin, Roger Chillingworth, Hester's former husband, depicts good versus evil, and Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale, who sinned with Hester, depicts the conflict love versus hate. Each of these characters has distinct qualities and actions that Hawthorne uses to establish and elaborate conflicts of human nature in The Scarlet Letter.

Pearl, while an extremely pure at heart child, came into existence as the result of Hester's impure and sinful act of adultery. Therefore, Hawthorne uses Pearl to depict the conflict sin versus purity. Pearl, on one hand, is the picture of innocence and purity. She is almost a part of nature, playing and finding company in the wild things of the woods. She also provides the only joy for Hester, while they live in isolation. Very perceptive, perhaps more so than her mother and other adults, Pearl asks innocent questions about the world around her, concerning herself especially with the scarlet letter on her mother's bosom and her father. Pearl, while very innocent and pure at heart is also a living reminder of Hester's adultery and sin. Consequently, Hester pays for her sin not only with the forced bearing of the scarlet letter but just by Pearl's company. Pearl's constant repetition of the questions, "What does the scarlet letter mean?" and "Why does the minister keep his hand over his heart?" cause Hester much concern (Hawthorne 178). Even when Hester attempts to get a...
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