Throughout human nature, people do not tell strangers as many details about themselves as they would a family member. Nathaniel Hawthorne examines these faces throughout the novel The Scarlet Letter. People that wear two faces will cause immense guilt for themself and negative consequences to others.
The Scarlet Letter was written by Nathaniel Hawthorne in the 1800s, but the book is placed in the Puritan times of the 1600s. Hawthorne is an anti-transcendentalist, which means he thinks society is good and nature is evil and humans are naturally evil. Puritanism is a very strict religion in the 1600s. If you are a Puritan you are against all earthly pleasure and your life is hell on Earth. Hawthorne uses multiple symbols in The Scarlet Letter, symbolism is a literary device that uses symbols to represent ideas. In this novel, The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne uses the symbolic significance of the Scarlet Letter, Dimmesdale, and Chillingworth to contribute to the theme of guilt.
The time period in which the Scarlet Letter takes place is centered around the strict moral codes and harsh punishments of the Puritan religion and culture. Puritan women convicted of adultery would be publicly shamed and punished by the community, which is the fate Hester Prynne suffers. As a result of her infidelity, the townspeople inflict public humiliation on Hester by forcing her to wear the scarlet letter “A” on her bosom and by ordering her to stand on the scaffold, a platform Puritans used to excommunicate sinners. The walk to the scaffold serves as a prime example of the isolation inflicted upon Hester within the novel because she underwent an "agony from every footstep of [the people who] thronged to see her, as if her heart had been flung in the street for them all to spurn and trample upon" (Hawthorne 64). Courageously, Hester decides to embrace her punishment on the scaffold by taking her baby on her arm and, with a contemptuous smile, looking directly at the townspeople, boldly revealing the “A” embroidered by her chest. However, the symbol of the scarlet letter soon leads to a change within Hester; her cheerful, graceful, and passionate character is replaced by a dark, dreary, and cruel personality.
Throughout the beginning of The Scarlet Letter, Hester Prynne is publicly insulted and shamed as a result of her punishment for breaking the Puritan faith by committing adultery. She is then forced into standing in front of the whole town for hours as the crowd is breaking her down with hateful and abusive language. After, she had been released, "the scene was not without a mixture of awe, such as much always invest the spectacle of guilt and shame of a fellow creature" (Hawthorne 63). They almost had satisfaction in her punishment, having the perception that they had cleansed the town, and therefore only leaving a pure society. The society had thought that if they treated her so horribly no individual would attempt in committing acts that
She receives three punishments from the townspeople, who claim they will free her from her sin. The community orders Hester to go to jail, wear a scarlet letter on her chest, and stand on the town scaffold for hours. Hester wears her scarlet letter proudly on her chest, and endures much suffering because of her public ridicule. Hester is “kept by no restrictive clause of her condemnation within the limits of the Puritan settlement” after she was released from prison, but she chooses to stay (Hawthorne 71). Later, Hester’s child, Pearl, symbolizes the Puritan view of Hester. When Pearl looks at her mother’s reflection in a convex mirror, she claims to exclusively see the A: “the scarlet letter was represented in exaggerated and gigantic proportions, so as to be greatly the most prominent feature of her appearance. In truth, she seemed absolutely hidden behind it” (95). Hawthorne clearly illustrates how Pearl and the public choose to see Hester merely as her sin. Even numerous years later, Hawthorne suggest that the townspeople still cannot view Hester
In conclusion Hawthorne cunningly used setting, allusion, characterization and symbolism to support his idea that the theme of The Scarlet Letter was to depend on ones self because it is not going to be every day that you have people by your
Literary devices are often used to capture a reader’s attention in a text. Nathaniel Hawthorne used many different types of literary devices in his book The Scarlet Letter. He uses symbolism to give hidden meaning to elements in the story, conflict to make the story interesting, and allusion to make references to historical events (ex. biblical references). While reading The Scarlet Letter, the literary devices did not jump out at me, but now as I reflect upon them they help me understand the book well. Literary devices can make a passage have a whole different meaning.
In Chapters Fifteen and Sixteen, of The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Hester recognizes her true hatred of Chillingworth just before she finds Pearl, playing at the beach, and creating a green letter A on her own chest out of seaweed. Later, Hester goes to hopefully “run into” Dimmesdale in the forest to reveal to him the truth about Chillingworth’s identity. Pearl comes along, and as they wait, she curiously asks her mother about the Black Man. When Pearl sees Dimmesdale’s figure appear in the distance, she asks whether the approaching person is in fact the Black Man himself, which Hester rejects. Pearl, however, ponders if Dimmesdale clutches his heart, as he does, because the Black Man has left his mark on him, similar to how the
Hester is accused of being unfaithful to her husband, Roger Chillingworth, despite his absence from her life for a long period of time. During one of Roger’s extended absences, Hester conceives a child born out of sin with Arthur Dimmesdale. Arthur Dimmesdale is a local holy man and is never exposed for his sin, while Hester is frequently mistreated, and eternally punished with a scarlet “A” marked on her clothing to represent Adulterer. Hester talks about wearing the “A”, and resents the fact that it may be pointed at as a sign of weakness. Hester says, “giving up her individuality, she would become the general symbol at which the preacher and moralist might point, and in which they might vivify and embody their images of woman's frailty and sinful passion” (91 Hawthorne). Hester dislikes the fact that the “scarlet letter” may be perceived as a sign of weakness, and instead learns to be empowered by the “A”. Ultimately, Hester actively made a positive impact on the community and proceeds to raise pearl, her child, without any assistance from Roger or Arthur Dimmesdale. Hester exemplifies her independence through her ability to maintain financial stability while raising her daughter and working. Hester eventually morphs the public's view of the scarlet letter into something positive. The narrator says, “many people refused to interpret the scarlet A by its original signification. They said that it meant Able; so strong was Hester Prynne, with a woman's strength” (Hawthorne 96). In a time when women were severely oppressed Hester manages to the defy the odds and lead a successful and fulfilling life on her
The scarlet letter begins its role as a symbol in the novel by bearing a penal meaning, as a punishment for an adulterer. The scarlet letter initially manifested itself as the embodiment of sin. If the sacred command, “Thou shalt not commit adultery” did not exist the rest of Hester’s existence would completely change and the sin would disappear. But alas, for Hester the strict puritan community forces her to wear the scarlet letter. Consequently, she must bear with her the association between the ornate fabric has:
Hawthorne uses symbolism throughout the Scarlet letter to display the sin and indecency people see Hester as. The detail represents ,the deep beauty Hester has inside although most people do not see her as a beutiful women. The deep red is a representation of adultery which shows her being an oncast from society. The symbol of the letter “A” is repetitive throughout the novel and grows with Hester and overcomes this with time as people start to see her as a person again and not just a adulterer.
Hawthorne uses the motif of the scarlet letter as a symbol of the Puritan ideas of shame which Hester is throwing away. The brook near which Hester throws the letter has a symbolic nature as well. Its association with sadness reminds the reader of the sadness which Hester has gone through since she began wearing the letter. Here, Hester decides that she must throw away the scarlet letter in order to rid herself of the negative influential power which it holds over her. This shows that the negative influence of the scarlet letter and Puritan ideas about morality in general change Hester for the worse, and only the metaphorical removal of the letter can reverse that
Hester works towards redemption of her sins after her experience on the scaffold. The townsmen “begun to look upon the scarlet letter as the token...of her many good deeds since” (147). The scarlet letter, as the title of the novel suggests, indicates Hester’s death in social status and in spirit. In the beginning of the novel, Hester surrenders to the society’s judgement, thinking about suicide. However, Hester redeems her reputation through labor and receives compliments from the townsmen. The color red symbolizes death but also paradoxically connotes birth. After she commits adultery, Hester gains Pearl as a result of her sin, but her child is the motivation for her to live to redeem her reputation because Hester does not want her child to live such a dark and ruined life of a sinner. The recognition of the society suggests that Hester’s dedication into labor and attitude of redemption is an act of bravery and she deserves compliments and reinterpretation of the scarlet letter as an award for her strive to live. The redness of the scarlet letter, nevertheless, is a sign of sin and death to Hester. In fact, she perceives the symbol as a “red-hot brand” (147). Hester, similar to Dimmesdale, suffers from the wounds that cannot be easily healed but realizes that her sacrifice is necessary to redeem and pay for her sins, as symbolized
This scarlet letter is his mark” (Hawthorne 168). Hester is explaining how she has seen the Black Man and/or the Devil for her mistakes; she knows what she has gotten herself into. She understands that she has to take responsibility for her actions and that sinning was also partially her fault. Even though Reverend Dimmesdale and Chillingworth are putting all the weight on her shoulders, she still continues to stand tall walking through the town and talking to other people. Hawthorne said at the beginning of the book that, “Man had marked this women’s sin by a scarlet letter, which had such a potent a disastrous efficacy that no human sympathy could reach her save it were sinful like herself” (Hawthorne 81). Nathaniel Hawthorne is explaining the responsibilities that Hester has bestowed upon herself, saying that no one felt bad for Prynne because they thought that she deserves it; they think that all the sinning that was committed in this book was all her fault. Even when Dimmesdale confessed his sins they still thought he was the greatest man alive, they still wanted to be buried next to him. In The Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne strengthens the theme of taking responsibility, through Hester
Hester, thus, was not only able to change herself, but also the image in which society viewed her by working hard to benefit the public. Likewise, the scarlet letter which was supposed to represent sin was instead “fantastically embroidered with gold thread, upon her bosom.” Even though the Puritans may have designated the letter as a representation of sin, Hester’s renewed sense of pride does not want society to define the A for her. Rather Hester wants to define it herself and by doing so she develops responsibility and power over her own actions. Because Hester has the power to change who she is, she also has the power to change what the Scarlet Letter represents. By letting the letter be “embroidered with gold thread” readers are able to see how for Hester sin is not something to be fearful of; furthermore, it allows one to see how Hester has developed into an independent individual who accepts who she is and the situation she is presented with. Hester’s lover unfortunately