December 10, 2012
Irony & The Scarlet Letter
Nathaniel Hawthrone’s Scarlet Letter is praised as one of the most revolutionary and compelling literary works in modern American history. The narrator’s omniscient, descriptive lingustics enfore the story’s captivating plot as well as invokes insights on the moral fiber of each character. For some, the novel is an inspiration to readers in regard to the powerful protagonist, Hester Prynne, with her feminism and strength in the face of adversity; or by her daughter’s pure spirit, or even the devotion of the minister Dimmesdale to his congregation. As popular and coveted is the complex plot, Hawthorne’s literary talents excel within each paragraph. The story is historical in its characters and what they represent, but is exciting because of its constantly misleading irony. The author uses irony systematically throughout the book to keep the reader guessing, whether verbal irony in Chillingworth’s words, situational irony - Hester and Dimmesdale’s burst of joy before a tradgic ending - or the dramatic irony of Dimmesdale’s secret relationship with Hester. The deceptive techniques used by Hawthorne are what makes this elderly tale so relevant today.
Each story with an inspirational protagonist must be countered by a sinister antagonist who wants to soil the positive efforts of the hero or heroine. Although some might argue that society would be the only rival to Hester and Dimmesdale, Hawthorne uses his words to prove otherwise, painting the villain Chillingworth as a dark, heinous figure. The first instance of irony that had me beside my self was the doctor Chillinworth’s words to Hester in Chapter 4 “’…as a man who has not thought and philosophized in vain, I seek no vengeance, plot no evil against thee,’”(Hawthorne 70). Chillingworth swears not to be intrusive in Hester’s struggles and presents himself as an innocent bystander in the town of Boston. The verbal deceit...