Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Diction of
The Scarlet Letter
The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne presents the reader with the harsh, life changing conflicts of three Puritan characters during the 17th century. Hester Prynne, Arthur Dimmesdale, and Robert Chillingworth must endure their different, yet surprisingly similar struggles as the novel progresses. Despite their similarities, Hawthorne shows these individuals deal with their conflicts differently, and in the end, only one prevails. Nathaniel Hawthorne’s intricately critical diction helps determine his didactic tone; during the course of The Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne reveals that happiness can be harnessed through one’s perseverance.
Despite Hester Prynne’s disheartening sin of adultery, she constructs a beautifully crafted scarlet letter that she is told to wear for the rest of her life; the letter A. The scarlet letter is an “elaborate embroidery” against Hester’s breast with “fantastic flourishes of gold thread” (51). Hester first presents her “artistically done” apparel to her town as she stands high atop the scaffold, cradling her newborn daughter (51). While Hester is typically “dimmed and obscured by a disastrous cloud” in town, the scarlet letter she possesses constructs her new beauty, surprising those who now look upon her chest (51). Although the women in the crowd mock Hester for seeming to have pride in her sin, their eyes are all fixated on the “fantastically embroidered” symbol that “illuminates upon her bosom” (52). Despite the letter’s beauty, Hawthorne notes that Hester’s child is “the taint of deepest sin in the most sacred quality of human life” (54). Therefore, Hester and her daughter, Pearl, have caused the world to become “only the darker for this woman’s beauty” (54). Hawthorne infers that while Hester has become more beautiful from the scarlet letter and her newborn daughter, the world has inversely become a darker place. Regardless of what the townspeople say, Hester believes...
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