Illustration of the silhouetted image of Hester Prynne with a letter "A" on her clothes

The Scarlet Letter

by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Sample Essay Outlines

Last Updated on April 14, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 388

The following paper topics are designed to test your understanding of the novel as a whole and to analyze important themes and literary devices. Following each question is a sample outline to help get you started.

Discuss Hawthorne’s blend of realism, symbolism, and allegory in The Scarlet Letter .

Outline I. Thesis Statement: The Scarlet Letter is a blend of realism, symbolism, and allegory.

II. Realism in The Scarlet Letter A. Historical setting B. Psychological exploration of characters C. Realistic dialogue

III. Symbolism in The Scarlet Letter A. The letter and its obvious manifestations B. Pearl as a human manifestation of the letter C. The settings as symbols 1. The settlement 2. The forest 3. The scaffold 4. The market-place

IV. Allegory in The Scarlet Letter A. Definition B. Character types 1. The beadle 2. Hester 3. Dimmesdale 4. Chillingworth 5. Pearl

How are Puritans represented in The Scarlet Letter ?

Outline I. Thesis Statement: Hawthorne’s opinion of the Puritans may be understood by examining their actions within the novel and the narrator’s comment on them.

II. Historical background on the Puritans

III. Hawthorne’s ancestors as described in “The Custom-House” essay

IV. The Puritan’s actions in The Scarlet Letter A. The ministers B. The common people 1. Attitudes toward work and relaxation 2. Attitudes toward their religious beliefs 3. Attitudes toward Hester and Pearl

V. The narrator’s comments about Puritans A. Negative comments B. Positive comments

Discuss Hester Prynne’s conflicts with herself, with others, and with Nature.

Outline I. Thesis Statement: Hester Prynne has several conflicts, and as these are resolved, her character is revealed.

II. Types of conflict possible A. Conflict with self B. Conflict with another C. Conflict with a group D. Conflict with Nature E. Conflict with the supernatural

III. Hester in conflict with herself A. Accepts her actions as wrong B. Retains a sense of pride

IV. Hester in conflict with another A. Settles initial conflict with Chillingworth B. Challenges Chillingworth about her promise C. Attempts to outmaneuver Chillingworth

V. Hester in conflict with a group A. Accepts the society’s punishment with patience B. Fights the power structure and Dimmesdale to keep Pearl C. Her thoughts defy conventional teaching D. Resumes her punishment years later of her own choosing

VI. Hester in conflict with nature A. Resists the “Black Man of the Forest” B. Accepts the natural forest as promising freedom

VII. Hester in conflict with the supernatural A. Resists the “Black Man of the Forest” B. Allows God to judge her sin without any pleading for mercy

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Critical Evaluation

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Nathaniel Hawthorne

Critical Essays The Scarlet Letter as a Gothic Romance


Hawthorne is chiefly remembered as the creative genius who sought to define the romance. He contributed four major romances to the world's literature: The House of the Seven Gables, The Blithedale Romance, The Marble Faun , and The Scarlet Letter . In each of these he sought, in the prefaces, to define what romance meant to him. In the Custom House preface of The Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne discusses part of his concept or definition of the romance novel. He explains that life seen through moonlight is the subject of the novel. If the writer is sitting in a room in the moonlight and looks around at the familiar items on the floor — a wicker carriage or a hobby horse, for example — he can discern a quality of "strangeness and remoteness" in these familiar objects. And so he has found a territory in which the familiar becomes enchanted and "the floor of our familiar room has become a neutral territory, somewhere between the real world and fairy-land, where the Actual and the Imaginary may meet, and each imbue itself with the nature of the other." Hawthorne believes that ". . . at such an hour, and with this scene before him, if a man, sitting all lone, cannot dream strange things, and make them look like truth, he need never try to write romances."

Finally, The Scarlet Letter is a psychological romance. Hawthorne proposes to study the effects of sin on the lives of his characters. Far ahead of his time, he delves into human alienation and what it does to the soul. Doubt and self-torture provide psychological shadows in the character of Dimmesdale. Rebellion and defiance in the face of repressive laws can be seen in his heroine, Hester Prynne. She may be forced to wear the scarlet letter, but she mocks that sentence with her elaborate embroidery. The Puritan concern with man's depravity and its effect on individual characters is intertwined throughout the plot. What happens when a person has an excess of passion or intellect? When a balance of the two is not achieved in an individual, what is the end result? Within the framework of the romance, Hawthorne lays out his evidence of the psychological conflicts within and around his characters.

The Real and the Imaginary

What this means for the modern reader of The Scarlet Letter is that, even though Hawthorne's story has a historical setting — Boston in the 1640s — the story includes elements that are not realistic. While the Puritan society was real and can be researched, the tale also contains elements of that society that are colored by marvelous imagination in his novel.

Does this mean that there will be no limits to what Hawthorne can manufacture in his fancy? No, there are restraints. Hawthorne attempted to explain those conventions in his preface to The House of the Seven Gables , his next novel:

"When a writer calls his work a romance, it need hardly be observed that he wishes to claim certain latitude, both as to its fashion and material, which he would not have felt himself entitled to assume had he professed to be writing a novel. The latter form of composition is presumed to aim at a very minute fidelity, not merely to the possible, but to the probably and ordinary course of man's experience. The former — while, as a work of art, it must rigidly subject itself to laws, and while it sins unpardonably so far as it may swerve aside from the truth of the human heart — has fairly a right to present that truth under circumstances, to a great extent, of the writer's own choosing or creation. If he think fit, also, he may so manage his atmospherical medium as to bring out or mellow the lights and deepen and enrich the shadows of the picture. He will be wise, no doubt, to make very moderate use of the privileges here stated, and, especially, to mingle the Marvellous rather as a slight, delicate, and evanescent flavor, than as any portion of the actual substance of the dish offered to the public."

Thus, the romance can have the imaginary, the supernatural, and the unbelievable, but it must also have events that do not swerve from what the human heart knows to be true. The setting of Boston in the 1640s is a perfect choice for this type of writing. Seventeenth century Bostonians believed in devils, witches, and a vengeful and angry God. So not only is Hawthorne truthful to present his setting in that light, but he also leaves ample room for the imagined and the extraordinary.

Romances can concern real settings but are not limited to the probable. The fantastic can be added, and, in The Scarlet Letter , Hawthorne adds the scarlet A in the sky at midnight, the same letter allegedly carved into Dimmesdale's breast, the sunlight that follows Pearl but not her mother, and Chillingworth descending into hell. But there must be a balance; the probable must outweigh the strange and improbable, which leads to another tenet of Hawthorne's romance definition.

Unity and Structure

Certain artistic laws must be faithfully executed so that the reader can follow the trail. There must be unity and structure, literary devices, and a subject kept ever in the reader's sight. In The Scarlet Letter , the scaffold scenes provide the unity and structure, and the literary devices include symbols, colors of light and darkness, irony, and the consistent subject of guilt to provide artistic wholeness. While Hawthorne can go beyond the probable and use the marvelous, he must also do so without chaos; hence, he must provide artistic balance.

Gothic Elements

These definitions of Hawthorne's romance are also joined by another tradition: Gothic elements. Gothic novels often featured supernatural events, gloomy atmospheres, castles, and the mysterious. While eighteenth century writers did not like these subjects, the Romantic authors of the nineteenth century and their successors did. Edgar Allan Poe, William Faulkner, and Stephen King all have elements of the Gothic in their stories.

Traditionally, there are a number of these Gothic elements. One used by romantic authors is a manuscript that is purported to be the origin of the story. In The Custom House preface, Hawthorne finds such a manuscript left by Surveyor Pue and a scarlet letter that is a magical artifact intertwining the real and the imaginary.

Besides magic, often Gothic stories have castles; in The Scarlet Letter, Governor Bellingham's home serves this purpose. It is covered with cabalistic figures and diagrams and has turrets like a castle. Inside is a set of armor, also a familiar element of the Gothic. In this armor which acts as a mirror, Pearl sees the distorted scarlet letter.

A crime, often illicit love, is usually the subject of a Gothic novel. Hester's affair is the crime committed in the Puritan community. Gothic novels sometimes have a villain who is identified as the evil person by some deformity. Chillingworth has such a deformed shoulder. And, finally, nature is often used to set the atmosphere of the story and provide some of the symbols. Nature abounds in The Scarlet Letter, and darkness, shadows and moonlight are all part of the Gothic ambience. The overall atmosphere of the novel is dark and gloomy, a proper milieu for the Gothic tradition.

In writing The Scarlet Letter , Hawthorne was striking out in a new direction, the psychological romance, while using some of the elements of a far older tradition, the Gothic novel. Modern readers should not be surprised to find horrifying revelations, sinister red light coming from a character's eyes, a precocious child who is a living symbol rather than a human being, and the dark recesses of the human heart and conscience. These elements have kept readers enthralled for generations.

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Last Updated 26 Jan 2021

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne Critical Essay

Her existence made most of society feel malcontent. Most of societies intellectual was a structured procedure, everything was played by the book. The novel "The Scarlet Letter" was published March 16,1850 by the astounding author Nathaniel Hawthorne. The novel is set in the 17th century within Boston, a state that was then governed by strict Puritan law.

Hester Prynne, the protagonist is led out of a prison by armed guards carrying her beloved infant daughter Pearl. A glaring red "A" is used to overemphasize the crime that has been committed by Hester, Adultery. Due to the Puritan law, Hester is now forced to encounter public shame for the sin that has been committed by climbing up a scaffold.

Furthermore, As Hester begins to analyze the crowd, she finds herself terrified because her estranged husband is there. Chillingworth, Hester's alienated husband recognizes her and is instantly appalled. While pretending not to know of Hester's existence ChillingWorth learns her story from another member of the crowd. Hester was married to a englishman who was supposed to follow her to Boston but never showed.

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After two years passed Hester had not only fell into sin but she's done so by committing adultery that resulted in her bringing another life into the nation and the scarlet letter "A" being embroidered onto her chest. Years past and Hester is released from prison, she now works in a small town working to provide for Pearl.

Chillingworth has become a physician and is now taking care of Dimmesdale, the man who committed adultery with Hester. Chillingworth has always had a severe hatred for Hester but wants her not to reveal that he is her husband. Hester promised to never reveal Chillingworth's identity. When Hester started to question Chillingworth's motive, he lies and tells her he doesn't want to be known as the husband of a faithless women. Chillingworth reveals it is his "Purpose to live and die alone". Chillingworth threatens Dimmesdale so Hester hesitates but agrees.

The letter "A" that was embroidered onto Hesters chest symbolizing the sin adultery that was committed was used to mortify Hesters well-being. Pearl is obsessed with the letter "A" embroidered into Hesters chest, but Hester swore to never tell Pearl the real meaning. The symbol took a toll on Hester's life in a sense of she wasn't able to be true to the one person she cared for,Pearl. This symbol has now become Hester's identity and soon to be Pearl's, she'll live off of her mother's public shame legacy. Within Pearls lifetime she won't possibly be able to flourish as it is her right, due to the sin that her mother has committed, it'll live on forever.

The way symbolism,theme, and examples of figurative language are used within "The Scarlet Letter" is quite phenomenal. Each character qualities were described in a senseless but yes astounding way. Each event was sequenced and had meaningful meaning. Symbols were revealed and used as identity. This sin that was commited haunted and tormented Hester, but she could never let her own fear show.

Identifying and taking ownership is the key to life and Hester pledged to those early in life. Most of societies intellectual was not a structured procedure and everything was not played by the book. Rules were broken, individuals were publically humiliated for their decisions, and identity was found.

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Critical Essay on The Scarlet Letter

Hawthorne is just that, the tragic story of Hester Prynne, a women found guilty of adultery, her rejection, public humiliation, and her inner feelings and the effect on her community in 1850. It is a tragic story. Hawthorne tries to bring some hope into the story, but largely it is a book of despair. With skill, he shares the paradox in human nature and sets off his romantic ideas against the rigid religious Puritan culture. The main question is why Hawthorne had to give it a tragic end? Was it essential to the success of his communication? I do not think so.

Hester is the principle character in the story line. She is branded and adulteress and must wear a scarlet A on her dress. Yet she is a strong likeable person. As Hawthorne develops his story, she goes through difficult times. We are given insight into her conflict and herself rejection. This creates an empathy for Hester and creates the desire that she finds happiness. As she is the tragic hero in the story, it becomes clear that she will not find happiness. Her downfall is inevitable, but such is Hawthorne’s power that you keep hoping she will overcome. Hawthorne deliberately hints to possible redemption.

Hester and Reverend Dimmesdale plan to escape and make their way to England. Hester deeply loves him and in England they could live free of the shame place on her by this puritan community. In England, their love would be “legitimate.” Instead, Dimmsdale confesses his sin in the matter and dies. The community is engulfed with the scandal and Hester leaves. Later she comes back and lives on her own until she dies.

Had Dimmsdale lived and taken her to live in England, would it have damaged Hawthorne’s communication? I don’t think so. The story was about Hester’s nature, the human paradox, and the “human condition.” Hawthorne is showing that suffering, tragedy is the essence of man’s being, and human nature will always find that is so.

I think in this book nothing shown about human nature would have been undermined if it had ended well. Life is filled with suffering caused by human nature, yet it is also softened with times of love, laughter and joy. In my view I would have seen their escape as evidence that no matter how dark the night there is at least the moon, if not noonday sun.

Hester’s self-image and Dimmsdales conflicting behavior and desires are tremendously insightful and they are interesting subjects. They would be no less so if Hawthorne had allowed them to get to England. There they would have been able to be free of the stigma of the scarlet letter, giving hope to people trapped in bigoted communities that there are other places and other people with different views. They would have shed light on their experiences and feelings, and given insight into a more realistic picture of life. The result is that Hawthorne admirably explored a part of live and the human nature. However, it is only part, because life consists not only of rejection despair fear and death that is only part of it. He did not have to give it a tragic end to make his point.

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Essay about The Scarlet Letter Critical Analysis

Physiognomy scarlet letter.

Hawthorne's Hester Prynne is the underdog protagonist that the reader cannot help but want to succeed. She is flawed but her flaws are outshone by her good heart and spirit. This shamed and humiliated woman is the one the reader, with the help of Hawthorne’s descriptions, wants to support. This sinful woman, with a child from wedlock, a diabolical “husband”, and a secretive lover is the motivating force that drives the reader to continue on with The Scarlet Letter. The language, descriptions, and plot of The Scarlet Letter show that Hawthorne believes the reader should look past gender stereotypes because not everything is what is

Essay about The Scarlet Letter: Change and Transformation

The setting of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet letter” is crucial to the understanding of the event that takes place in the story. The setting of the story is in Salem, Massachusetts during the Puritan era. During the Puritan era, adultery was taken as a very serious sin, and this is what Hester and Dimmesdale committ with each other. Because of the sin, their lives change, Hester has to walk around in public with a Scarlet Letter “A” which stands for adultery, and she is constantly being tortured and is thought of as less than a person. Dimmesdale walks around with his sin kept as secret, because he never admits his sin, his mental state is changing, and the sin degrades his well-being. Chillingworth

The Scarlett Letter

Set in seventeenth century Boston, The Scarlet Letter is a riveting tale about the life of an adulteress in the Puritan culture. The Scarlet Letter is written by Nathaniel Hawthorne. The century in which the book takes place has much to do with the way Hester Prynne and her daughter, Pearl, are treated and judged by the townspeople. People in that time did not seem to treat an adulteress and the offspring of the affair as human beings. Hester, Pearl, and Arthur Dimmesdale, the preacher, are the main characters in the story. The major theme in this story could almost be perceived as karma. All darkness must come into light, and all sin will soon be known.

Individualism In Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter

“Acutely aware of the power of history, [Hawthorne] wanted to control it”, by burning any early drafts and manuscripts of the Scarlet Letter. (Wineapple, 1) By doing this, Hawthorne was able to control how the world saw him, just as Dimmesdale does not reveal his relationship with Hester immediately. (Hawthorne, __________) He understands the importance of receiving the approval of the community. Another parallel between the two can be seen in their societal positions. “Hawthorne ranked highly in his class,” but he was constantly absent from his classes which hurt his standing in the college. (Wineapple, 2) Just as Dimmesdale was very well respected by the community, so much so that a “good widow [was] assigned to” care for him while he was ill, only to throw it all away with his affair with Hester. (Hawthorne, 122) Both held favorable positions in their individual societies, only to give them up to pursue other things that made them happier. The character of Dimmesdale not only served as a connection to Hawthorne’s years as a young man, but he also worked as a contrast to the character of Hester; thus strengthening the emphasis the Scarlet Letter places on the potential of women in 19th century

The Scarlet Letter Theme Analysis

The Scarlet Letter, a novel written by Nathaniel Hawthorne, is a novel that takes place in the town of Boston, Massachusetts in 1642. Hester Prynne, the main character of the story, commits the sin of adultery. Because of this sin, she is "blessed" with a child named Pearl. Her punishment is to wear a scarlet letter “A" on her chest for the rest of her life, which affects the way the townspeople look and act around her. Also, she must stand on the scaffold in the town for three hours for the whole town to recognize her grave sins. The man who should be standing upon the scaffold along with her and Pearl is the town minister, Dimmesdale. He is presented as a weak character because of his fear of losing his beloved reputation as such a holy

The Puritan Guilt in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Society Essay

Nathaniel Hawthorne portrays the ideology of Puritan society in the novel the Scarlet Letter; however reader also get to witness his characters being an illustration of hypocrisy and victims to their own guilt. In the Scarlet Letter, as in many of Hawthorne’s shorter works, he makes profuse use of the Puritan past: its odd exclusionary belief, its harsh code of ruling, its concern with sex and witchcraft. The Scarlet Letter is a story that is embellished but yet simple. Many readers may view this novel as a soap opera due to the way Hawthorne conveys this Puritan society’s sense of strictness and inability to express true emotion along with the secrecy and how deceiving the characters are being. As the story unfolds the main character Hester Prynne is bounded in marriage at an early age. She engages in an adulterous affair with an unknown member of their small village. Hester soon becomes pregnant and with her husband’s absence the chances of this child belonging to her husband are slim. The towns’ people know that she has committed a sin and imprisons her for her crime.

The Scarlet Letter By Nathaniel Hawthorne

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne is often renowned as his best work. The novel tells about the rigid ideas of 19th century Puritan New England through the story of Hester Prynne, Minister Dimmesdale, and Pearl. Hawthorne points out that the Puritans are often more ready to judge, punish, and damn someone than to forgive them. He is very critical of this idea, and goes against it by ending the novel with Hester Prynne becoming a respected individual that other women often look to for advice, and by changing the perception many people have of the Scarlet Letter from, “Adultery” to “Able”. Throughout the novel Hawthorne refutes the harsh ideals of the Puritans through the

Hester Prynne Change In Scarlet Letter

In The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne portrays how a young woman, Hester Prynne, is forced to live with the scarlet letter “A” on her breast to mark her shame of adultery. Hester commits the appalling crime with the widely known Puritan minister, Arthur Dimmesdale. Being punished to wear the scarlet letter brings about a change among Hester’s character due to the ridicule from the public, the constant reminder of her sin from Pearl, and becoming secluded from society. Knowing his reputation and importance to the town, Dimmesdale is forced to bury this sin, bringing about an increasing amount of guilt through the years. Along with Hester and Dimmesdale, the letter affects Pearl’s life, making it difficult for the poor child to reach acceptance

Hester Prynne Disregards The Puritan Society

Hester Prynne of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter disregards the Puritan Society's standards of women through her rebellious nature and confidence. Hester Prynne of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter disregards the Puritan Society's standards of women through her rebellious nature. In Hawthorne’s novel, Hester Prynne bares the scarlet letter “A” to emphasize her sin of adultery against her husband who has been missing for 2 years, with a reverend named Arthur Dimmesdale. Hester Prynne defied the Puritan’s standards and bore a child out of adultery, a girl named Pearl. The leaders of the town wish for her to reveal the name of her mister but she chooses to keep this a secret. The town’s people harass her to give up the name of

Scarlet Letter Protagonist Essay

Nathaniel Hawthorne's "The Scarlet Letter" is set in the early days of Puritan America. Hester Prynne, a seamstress, comes to the New World before her husband in order to prepare a place for them. During his absence, she develops a relationship with Arthur Dimmesdale, a rising minister in the newly founded Puritan community. Hester becomes pregnant. The novel is widely viewed to be a story about her trials and tribulations; however, critic Randall Steward argues that, "…Hester is not the protagonist, the chief actor, and the tragedy of the novel is not her tragedy but Arthur's. He is the persecuted one, the tempted one. He it was whom the sorrows of death encompassed…His public confession is one of

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“The Scarlet Letter” mainly revolves around sin and hypocrisy. Every character in some way, shape or form is considered a hypocrite to some level/degree. To start from the top and work our way downward, the officials. The officials in this book have such horrid views of Hester. You'd think that they have some sense of compassion or show remorse for Hester but that was never the case. Overtime, it all dulled down – her sin wasn't a big deal as opposed to when it first occurred. Her sin wasn't forgotten but the depth in actions in which people would take to make sure she felt miserable, faded away in quite sometime. The main characters each sin – the words in which Hawthorne uses in their dialect gives you a taste of their sins. Even the character to which is highly praised by society is a sinner. Roger Chillingworth, Hester Prynne and Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale are the perfect examples of hypocrisy in “The Scarlet Letter.” The way they're introduced in the story and the way the story carries them out to be is outrageous. You begin to question their motivates entirely.

Isolating Hester Prynne In The Scarlet Letter By Nathaniel Hawthorne

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne is a novel about guilt and innocence in Boston, Massachusetts during the 1640s. Hester Prynne, the protagonist of the novel, is a beautiful married woman who has committed adultery and had a child while her husband was lost at sea. She is now forced to bear the scarlet letter on her chest to let the public know what sin she has committed. Roger Chillingworth is Hesters lost husband who has returned back from seas to learn that his wife has been unfaithful to him. He has devoted himself to finding who Hesters lover is and seek revenge on him, even if it wreaks him. Arthur Dimmesdale is the town’s reverend and Hesters secret lover. He is in continuous conflict against himself since he is supposed to be

Hester And Dimmesdale

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne is a Romantic novel about two adulterers, Hester and Dimmesdale, who are forced to live with the repercussions of their sin. Hester Prynne is punished by wearing a scarlet ‘A’ which ostracizes her from Puritan Boston, leading to several years of solitude. During this time, Roger Chillingworth, her vengeful husband, preys on Dimmesdale, whose only source of repent is in his hypocritical preachings. When Dimmesdale finally speaks to Hester again, they plan to escape their wrongdoings by fleeing back to England, where they can live together as a loving family with their daughter Pearl. Although some may argue that Hester and Dimmesdale are in love, a closer examination of the novel shows that they are

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The novel The Scarlet Letter written by Nathaniel Hawthorne depicts 1800’s Puritan religious beliefs through Hester Prynne’s adultery and Arthur Dimmesdale’s infidelity. Hawthorne ties aspects of his life into The Scarlet Letter; the introduction to the novel takes place in a Custom House which is based on an actual Custom House where Hawthorne used to work (Scarlet). Hawthorne comes from an ancestry full of men involved in legalism, and dealt with the witch trials. He is very shameful when it comes to his past and writes The Scarlet Letter with a strong female lead (Diorio). Hawthorne was a part of a Puritan community growing up and, “He had ample cognizance of the Puritan conscience; it was his natural heritage; it was reproduced in him; looking into his soul he found it there” (James 228). Hawthorne

Out Of The Woods : Sin And Redemption

As a prose romance, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter sets characters up in opposition to each other to illustrate extremes of human experience. Dimmesdale is presented as the ultimate hypocrite, preaching moral righteousness to the Puritan community whilst being an adulterer himself. Hester, on the other hand, is painted in stark contrast to Dimmesdale: although shunned as an adulterer by the Puritan community, she lives out her life honestly, taking care of her illegitimate daughter Pearl. The forest is a place of liberation from oppressive social norms and a place of revelation for Hester and Dimmesdale, where they are able to reveal aspects of themselves that they

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English Literature

The Scarlet Letter: Critical Analysis

A hero can be interpreted by many things. Many people would say a hero is strong, uptight, truthful or moral . That’s not to say they aren’t allowed to have some faults, but usually a hero is someone who instills reverence and veneration in others for whatever reason. Nathaniel Hawthorne creates interesting thoughts provoking characters in the Scarlet Letter, but none of which give the right distinction that would give them the title hero . The actions and qualities of the characters in the story give no view to morality, strength physically or mentally and most of what they do is to please their own volatile and selfish desires.

Those who believe themselves to be closer to divine powers are most definitively sinful and hypocritical. Therefore, moral superiority, as Hawthorne argues in this story of Puritanical condemnation using the three scaffold scenes is false. Society has its ways of showing vengeance and in return got nothing but guilt. Many people keep silent of the wrong things they have done and have to deal with guilt, but guilt is definitely not a desirable punishment. Arthur Dimmesdale did not show any lack of guilt when he sees of guilt when he sees Hester and Pearl mocked by the community any time they are out.

Dimmesdales guilt gradually got him to bad health physically and mentally. Hawthorne did not cease to ignore the immorality Dimmesdale to confess his sin and Guilt is what leads Dimmesdale to confess his sin and guilt to the whole town. In Hawthorne’s eyes guilt was what kept people from becoming immoral sinners. Without guilt or conscience people would tend to be out of line and impulsive. In The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne tried to expose hypocrisy by showing the Puritan life in a very discrete manner.

Hypocrisy is shown in every character in the book by showing character development to convey his thematic purpose. Hawthorne describes the Puritan society as plain and dark. This is clearly described in the beginning where the setting is introduced. The whole hypocrisy issue is basically their in every sentence Hawthorne has written. The only person to be free of hypocrisy was Chillingworth because the only thing he was looking for was a way to get back at Dimmesdale. Not only was Dimmesdale a hypocrite, he was a coward as well.

The only thing that encouraged him to speak up was Hesters nearly death threat. Being marked for life is a never-ending punishment. Hawthorne shows the reader a vivid way of how anyone can be marked for life by just being born in a contradistinctive household. Although The Scarlet Letter was published in 1850, the author effectively describes the environment and setting via the use of a chronically ordered plot and the accurate perception of the world around him. Pearl is used effectively as a symbol of sin and a representation of impurity in the public view at the time of the novel.

The novel is a social commentary in that it disagrees with the concept of impurity and prejudice of the time. The central themes are sin and the direct results of sin. The Scarlet Letter illustrates the consequences of Adultery and the chances for redemption through the development of the two main characters Hester and Dimmesdale. Hester is able to confront her sins and work towards redemption and is thus rewarded with coming to peace with her past. Dimmesdale, on the other hand, weighted with the guilt of what he has done slides deeper into despair without hope of recovery.

As a conclusion, sin is not the focus of this book, but how sin will weigh on the heart and how sin causes a person to act. Throughout the story, sin was portrayed in a lot of ways, starting the adultery and the letter A in the first place. Then, baby Pearl is born and she is such a hassle. Some even believe that she is possessed. Then you see what sin not only does to the Reverend (don’t remember his name? ) and how his health deteriorates, but you also watch as revenge takes over Chillingworth’s personality and makes him look just as sickly.

The underlying message of it all is that sin is an awful thing, but everyone does it. Hester was judged for committing adultery and the other major characters were punished for their sins slowly. But I think with this sin, came a sense of pride. Yes, Hester committed adultery, but she had the power in her to keep fighting and to embrace who she was, no matter what everyone else thought. In the end, sin claimed its victims, but only when they let it and that is the fate of Chillingworth and the Reverend, but not Hester who persevered and made a life for herself, past her sins.

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Critical Essay: “The Scarlet Sin: Analyzing Secrets in “The Scarlet Letter””

The Scarlet Sin: Analyzing Secrets in The Scarlet Letter

            Whether intentional or not, keeping secrets is part of human nature. Be it a small and embarrassing habit, or even a brief moment of breaking the law, some things find it best to leave personal acts that they deem deviant out of day to day conversation. For some, keeping these secrets may be no problem, but for others it can be agonizing. In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter , multiple perspectives show the differing ways in which people deal with their “secret sins.” The calm, accepting manner of Hester Prynne juxtaposed with the debilitated Arthur Dimmesdale work to demonstrate the effects of secrets on the psyche; the longer one tries to conceal a dastardly secret, the faster it will diminish them from the inside.

           The time period in which this story is set holds a great deal of importance. While adultery is a devious act no matter how you look at it, it was especially devilish in this time period of Colonia America. In a 1996 talk given by Sacvan Bercovitch in Salem, Massachusetts titled “The Scarlet Letter: A Twice-Told Tale,” he explains that part of the reason this sin is so taxing on the both of them is because of the weight that their society places on it. Because of societal rules, Hester is ridiculed for her act of love after having felt imprisoned in a loveless marriage. Likewise, Dimmesdale is unable to profess his love due to the restrictions placed upon him; if he were to confess what he did, he would surely be punished, possibly with death (Bercovitch 12). Hester and Dimmesdale acted impulsively and, as Bercovitch claims, naturally, even though letting emotion takeover is rarely the best way to handle a situation. Hester and Dimmesdale’s woe is a direct result of the harsh implications that societal rules place on adultery. One might wonder if this story would have the same effect had it been placed in today’s day and age.

            Though initially filled with grief and woe over her act of adultery, Hester’s choice to embrace her action allows her to flourish, presenting the dreaded Scarlet Letter with a new meaning. Unlike Dimmesdale, Hester has no choice but to embrace their adultery, as everyone finds out due to her child. While this may seem like a horrendous punishment at first, it actually ends up working out very well for Hester. Initially, the villagers are cold to Hester, who feels guilt and shame from their cold gazes and commentary. One villager eventually tries to put an end to them, exclaiming “‘[n]ot a stitch in that embroidered letter, but she has felt it in her heart’” (Hawthorne 52). Additionally, Hester’s appearance begins to reflect her feelings; she wears more concealing clothing and sheathes her hair. Hester tries to go on with her life as normal, setting up residence on the outskirts of town and taking on sewing jobs as well as raising Pearl by herself. Hester is initially filled with dread, knowing full well that “she would become the general symbol at which the preacher and moralist might point, […] the figure, the body, the reality of sin” (75). But as she begins to distract herself with her work and realize the blessing of her child Pearl, the fiery “A” emblazoned on her chest begins to take new meaning. Once standing for “adulterer,” many begin to see it as representing “able” (152). The townspeople begin to appreciate the hard work that Hester will do for these people, and forget about her past. She even reinvents the letter on her chest, embroidering it with gold to call more attention to it. Hester’s choice to accept the sin that she committed and make the most of it allowed her to not only move on from the past, but indisputably flourish from it. Hester’s secret sin was revealed to everyone in town, which kept it from being able to eat her up inside. Rather than avoid the past, she instead attempts to complete tasks in an effort to seek forgiveness. Hester’s behavior is not unlike Mr. Hooper’s from another Nathaniel Hawthorne story, “The Minister’s Black Veil.” Both characters don symbols to represent their secret sins. Towards the end of Hooper’s life, he exclaims that he looks around at those surrounding him, “and lo, on every visage a Black Veil!” (Hawthorne 59). From this quote one must wonder if the hate projected upon Hester by the townspeople is more than just disgust, perhaps in an attempt to distract their neighbors from their own secret sins.

            In contrast to Hester, Arthur Dimmesdale refuses to reveal the act of adultery, instead allowing it to diminish him throughout the novel. The status of Dimmesdale is very different compared to Hester; a highly regarded reverend, Dimmesdale is determined to keep the sin a secret from the beginning. The deed already seems to be troubling him from the beginning, as he is described as having “an air about [him]—an apprehensive, a startled, a half-frightened look—as of a being who found himself […] at a loss in the pathway of human existence” (Hawthorne 63).  Despite this, Dimmesdale attempts to keep his composure to the best of his ability, although it becomes very obvious that something is wrong with him. As time passes, Dimmesdale’s health begins to plummet; he is described as “emaciated: his voice […] had a certain melancholy prophecy of decay in it; he was often observed […] to put his hand over his heart, with first a flush and then a paleness, indicative of pain” (113). Of course, most villagers attribute this to his unrelenting and exhausting devotion to his religious studies, unaware of the true evil that is troubling him. Dimmesdale’s condition becomes no better, especially under the intrusive care of Roger Chillingworth, Hester’s husband, who of course has ulterior motives for agreeing to be his caretaker. Towards the end of the novel, Dimmesdale’s conditions spike, but this time in a positive way; this of course occurring after he accepts his sin and makes plans to flee the town with Hester and Pearl. Racing through the town, Dimmesdale feels energetic and impulsive, wanting to say to everyone that he passes “‘I am not the man for who you take me! I left him yonder in the forest. […] Go, seek your minister, and see if his emaciated figure […] be not flung down there, like a cast-off garment!” (207). Ridding himself of the horrible weight that Dimmesdale carried upon himself for seven years is liberating. Of course, the weight of seven years is not so easily purged; Dimmesdale reveals to all of the townsfolk his sin and casts aside his garments to reveal his very own stigma. Dimmesdale suddenly becomes very weak, and dies. In his final moments, readers are left with the comforting truth that Dimmesdale rids himself of the weight that he carried for so long. However, this cautionary tale proves that spending our lives trying to store away our dark secrets is not advised, seeing as how this action resulted in Dimmesdale paying the ultimate price.

            While the aforementioned characters deal with their secret sin in very different ways, the connections between them are also very noteworthy. For starters, the secret is mutual; their act of adultery effectively bonds them together for the rest of their lives, whether they want to accept it or not. However, both characters are forced to deal with it in separate ways. Bearing a child without a father, Hester is cast aside by the community, and is forced to face the ridicule. Dimmesdale, while facing similar feelings, has the blessing as well as the curse of keeping his involvement a secret. Dimmesdale avoids public ridicule and maintains his position as reverend, yet must deal with the traumatizing secret internally. By the end of the novel, neither Hester nor Dimmesdale seem to regret the choices they made, for the miracle of Pearl was enough to justify their actions. As Pearl finally kisses Dimmesdale “ [a] spell [is] broken […] as her tears fell upon her father’s cheek, they were the pledge that she would grow up amid human joy and sorrow, nor forever do battle with the world, but be a woman in it” (Hawthorne 243).” While they are unaware of what awaits them in afterlife, knowing their ultimate fate is up to God, there is a mutual sense of peace between them knowing that Pearl will grow up to be okay. While the love story of Dimmesdale and Hester may be tragic, their assurance that Pearl will live a happy life helps them to rest easily.

           Keeping a secret is a daunting task, and may affect an individual in ways they do not realize. In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter , Hester and Dimmesdale are placed in a tough position where they have committed a devious sin. Watching their lives unfold, readers are given insight into how secret sin affects a person. Hawthorne seems to be urging his audience to avoid being put in such situations; for the end result can be deadly.

Works Cited

Bercovitch, Sacvan. “The Scarlet Letter: A Twice-Told Tale.” Nathaniel Hawthorne Review. p. 1-20. Hawthorne Hotel, Salem. 29 June 1996. Speech.

Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Minister’s Black Veil .  Fiction: A Pocket Anthology . Ed. R. S. Gwynn. 7th ed. Boston: Pearson Education, 2014. 47-59. Print.

Hawthorne, Nathaniel.  The Scarlet Letter . New York: Signet Classics, 2009. Print.

The Scarlet Letter Nathaniel Hawthorne

The Scarlet Letter essays are academic essays for citation. These papers were written primarily by students and provide critical analysis of The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne.

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