Open Endedness of the Scarlet Letter

Topics: The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne, John Winthrop Pages: 6 (2031 words) Published: April 8, 2011

Hawthorne wrote during the Romantic Period in American literature which lasted from 1830 to 1865. Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Herman Melville, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Edgar Allen Poe, and Walt Whitman were his literary contemporaries. The Scarlet Letter is considered a piece of American Romantic literature because it is set in a remote past, the Puritan era 200 years prior to Hawthorne’s time, and because it deals with the interior psychology of individual characters. Some of the qualities of the novel are that its themes are relevant still today such as: Alienation; Appearance versus Reality; Breaking Social Rules amidst others which are presented through the appropriate language (it is to be noted that In The Scarlet Letter Hawthorne tells the story using vocabulary and a writing style familiar to readers in 1850. The speech of the characters in the story, however, is that of Puritans in the early 1600s. Yet to many of contemporary readers, the speech of the Puritans seems more familiar than the “more modern” language of Hawthorne’s time. This is because the Puritans left England around the time when the King James Version of the Bible was written. Therefore, their language is similar to Jacobean (Jacobus is the Latin word for James) English of the King James Bible), Hawthorne uses precise language to provide his readers with vivid descriptions depicting the time, place, and mood, or the setting for The Scarlet Letter. In addition, he has been able to present a text with no definite ending which allows for several interpretations without being castigated for attack on the ‘ morality’ of readers. The ending of the movie based on the text is absolutely different from that of its archetype.

Nathaniel Hawthorn's The Scarlet Letter is a sad story about adultery and the strong consequences of the sin. Contrastingly, Demi Moore stated that a happy ending was appropriate for the movie because, according to the actress, people did not read the book anymore. However, from evidence throughout the book, it can be seen that no happy ending is possible in this book. The setting of the book, seriousness of adultery in the eyes of Puritans, and the weakness of Arthur Dimmesdale all add up to a sad ending for The Scarlet Letter. A happy ending to this novel is inappropriate and would ruin the entire masterpiece for all its readers. There cannot be a happy ending for this story because it is set in a Puritan society. Another story set in the time period in Salem as The Scarlet Letter is The Crucible by Arthur Miller. This play also ended up sadly, with many innocent people executed. These Puritan people did not show happiness, and were too strict to thrive as a group in the New World. The fact that this story is set in the Puritan settlement sends a strong premonition to the reader that the story ends in sadness. Furthermore, Hawthorne describes all the other Puritans, such as Governor Bellingham, in an unfavorable light; Hawthorne does not believe these people were superior. As Hester goes to visit Bellingham about the custody of her child Pearl, Hawthorne describes the home of the Puritan governor. He writes, "This was a large wooden house¡¦The brilliancy might have befitted Aladdin's palace, rather than the mansion of a grave old Puritan ruler" (Hawthorne 89). Here, the author attacks the Puritans for their hypocrisy. However, the greatest hypocrite of the book may be the reverend Arthur Dimmesdale. The Puritans also punished too severely for undersized crimes not affecting the community, such as adultery. Crimes such as these affected the reputation of the settlement, but the sin was only between three people, not the entire community to mock and punish. This severity is shown by the women at the scaffold in the second chapter. One judge says, "'This woman has brought shame upon us all, and ought to die. Is there not law for it? Truly there is, both in the...
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