Irony in the Scarlet Letter

Topics: The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Hester Prynne Pages: 3 (1081 words) Published: May 29, 2011
Johnny Nguyen
Period 5

The Scarlet Letter Irony Essay

What if irony didn’t exist? If it didn’t, even at a minimal level, The Scarlet Letter wouldn’t be able to function in its complete and published form. Its frame and substructure of distinctly morose themes scrutinizing sin, knowledge, and the human condition would not exist without irony blistering beneath the surface. The symbolism and evocativeness of character names, for instance, the words “chill” and “worthless” can be derived from Roger Chillingworth, the “Black Man” in human disguise wouldn’t have the same clever power without the literary technique. Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter suggests that to find the true expression of each character, irony is essential, and must be employed and needled into the plot for the pages to turn with a weightier significance. “She's the embodiment of deep contradictions: bad and beautiful, holy and sinful, conventional and radical,” described Andrea Seabrook of NPR (National Public Radio). In order to see the veracity of this statement, the reader must note Hawthorne’s use in three major types of irony. The first type is situational irony, which is when the opposite of what is expected to happen, happens, and this is introduced in the first few chapters. For example, in Chapter II, the townspeople have perpetrated against Hester Prynne, exclaiming that she should feel ashamed as she stands on the scaffold bearing the scarlet letter “A” on her bosom. Yet, she stands there with “a marked dignity and force of character” and clasping her newborn child Pearl “with a burning blush, and yet a haughty smile, and glance that would not be abashed…” (Hawthorne 46) The intrinsic nature and indispensable quality of Hester’s character is perpetually fevered with strength, but it is most formidable and determined harbored by a backbone of obstinacy when she is standing on the scaffold. The townspeople have expected her to feel contrite, but if Hester stood...
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