Kisses in the Scarlet Letter

Topics: The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Confession Pages: 3 (958 words) Published: December 30, 2012
The Scarlet Letter Final Paper
The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne, is set in a society of Puritan confinement. Not surprisingly, it contains minimal displays of affection among its characters, with only three crucial kisses depicted. Each kiss is between the Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale and his love child, Pearl, and accent the underlying theme of nature vs. societal repression. Each kiss represents a transfer, a clash or crossover of natural instinct and social conduct between Dimmesdale and Pearl. Each kiss stimulates developing change in the young, inhibited father and the fiery, unrefined daughter. At Governor Bellingham’s mansion, Pearl elicits the first kiss. She gently places Dimmesdale’s hand on her cheek, as if to ¬¬¬¬¬¬¬¬draw out a paternal response. Hester catches this encounter and finds it so out of character from her daughter’s typical petulance that she remarks, “Is that my Pearl?” (169). With important town officials nearby, Dimmesdale is touched but hesitant to return the sweet gesture. Still, he kisses Pearl on the brow, filling her with an uninhibited glee. In her joy, Pearl gives way to her usual, elfin self by appearing to dance on air. The kiss brings about a crossover of natural instinct and societal restraint. Pearl becomes kind before the kiss. Dimmesdale appears to lose his societal inhibition just before he kisses her. Both act in unfamiliar ways prior to the interaction. Though afterwards they return to their respective norms: Pearl to being the passionate, unconventional girl unaccepted by society, Dimmesdale to being the sober, conventional minister the Puritans expect him to be. The natural Pearl wants a natural family. What seems like a paternal response to her, the kiss represents a promise of a fulfilling father-daughter relationship and the natural family she desires. For Dimmesdale, whether the kiss is a genuine act of fatherly love or the act of a minister, a connection is established between them. The second kiss...
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