The Scarlet Letter - Analysis

Topics: The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Hester Prynne Pages: 7 (2881 words) Published: October 8, 1999
Adultery, betrayal, promiscuity, deception, and conspiracy, all of which would make an excellent coming attraction on the Hollywood scene and probably a rather erotic book. Add Puritan ideals and writing styles, making it long, drawn out, sleep inducing, tedious, dim-witted, and the end result is The Scarlet Letter. Despite all these unfavorable factors it is considered a classic and was a statement of the era (Letter 1).The Scarlet Letter is pervaded with profound symbolism and revolves around the idea that hidden guilt causes more suffering than open guilt. This theme along with its symbolism is demonstrated through the lives of the three main characters - Hester Pyrnne, Arthur Dimmesdale, and Roger Chillingworth throughout the story. Their personalities are shown most clearly during the scaffold scenes. These scenes are the most substantial situations in the story because they illustrate the immediate, delayed, and prolonged effects that the sin of adultery has on the main characters (Analysis1).In the first scene, everyone in the town is gathered in the market place because Hester is being questioned about the identity of the father of her child - Pearl (analysis 1). Hester experiences open guilt through being publicly punished for adultery. She is being forced to stand on it for three hours straight to be ridiculed and ostracized by the community. Dimmesdale however refuses to admit that he committed adultery and thereby eventually suffers hidden guilt. His instantaneous response to the sin is to lie. He stands before Hester and the rest of the town and proceeds to give a moving speech about how it would be in her and the father's best interest for her to reveal the father's name (letter 3). Though he never actually says that he is not the other parent, he implies it by talking of the father in third person. Such as, "if thou feelest it to be for thy soul's peace, and that thy earthly punishment will thereby be made more effectual to salvation, I charge thee to speak out the name of thy fellow-sinner and fellow-suffer."Chillingworth's first reaction is one of shock, but he quickly suppresses it. Since his first sight of his wife in two years is of her being punished for being unfaithful to him, he is naturally surprised. It does not last long though, because it is his nature to control his emotions.Chillingworth, subordinating his intellect to his desire for revenge, ultimately destroys himself (stack 34 1). Everything about him gradually changes into evil. Even his facial expressions become noticeably different. The main characters sharply contrast each other in the way they react to Hester and Dimmesdale's sin. To begin, Hester becomes stronger, more enduring, and even more sympathetic. She becomes stronger because of all the weight she has to carry. She is a single mother who suffers all of the burdens of parenthood by herself. They live on the edge of town, and Pearl has no one to give her food, shelter and emotional support besides Hester. Pearl is especially difficult to raise because she is anything but normal. Hawthorne gives a pretty accurate description of Pearl when he writes: The child could not be made amenable to rules. In giving her existence, a great law had been broken; and the result was a being whose elements were perhaps beautiful and brilliant, but all in disorder; or with an order peculiar to themselves, amidst which the point of variety and arrangement was difficult or impossible to be discovered (analysis 5).Pearl serves as a representation of Hester's relationship with Dimmesdale. Initially Pearl symbolizes the shame of Hester's public punishment for adultery. Then as Pearl grew older, she symbolizes the decimation of Hester's life and mental state by harassing her mother over the scarlet "A" which embroidered on her dress. Although Hester had so much trouble with Pearl, she still felt Pearl was her only treasure. Without Pearl, Hester's...
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