The Unveiling of Roger Chillingworth

In Chapter Ten, when Nathaniel Hawthorne illustrates the transformation of Roger Chillingworth from an unoffending man to a leech-like character seeking revenge on his host, Dimmesdale, the author implements comparisons along with specific word choice to characterize Chillingworth. His personality in the reader’s eyes metamorphoses into one of a fiendish parasite due to Hawthorne’s application of comparisons and connotations relating to both leeches and Satan. Together these literary techniques develop Chillingworth’s mutation from an upstanding citizen to a devilish bloodsucker and depict his relentless obsession with vengeance.

Hawthorne integrates similes and metaphors into his unveiling of Chillingworth as a less righteous man than originally believed to aid characterization. His examination of Dimmesdale is begun “with the severe and equal integrity of a judge, desirous only of truth, even as if the question involved no more than the air-drawn lines and figures of a geometrical problem” (Hawthorne 3-5). The comparison of Chillingworth’s investigation to that of a judge is a metaphor, while the juxtaposition of the question at hand to a geometrical problem is a simile.

Hawthorne goes on to convey that, as the inquiry continues, Chillingworth’s methods grow more like that of “a miner searching for gold; or, rather, […] a sexton delving into a grave, possibly in quest of a jewel that had been buried on the dead man’s bosom,” (9-10). The similes reveal that the doctor’s pursuit of knowledge is no longer innocent, portraying Chillingworth as obsessive in the searching of Dimmesdale’s soul. The comparison of Chillingworth to a miner is extended when Dimmesdale is compared to the soil he mines (16).

In addition, the “jewel that had been buried on the dead man’s bosom” symbolizes the supposed match to Hester’s embroidered A on the minister’s chest. The metaphor foreshadows Chillingworth’s discovery of something on Dimmesdale’s breast at the climax of the chapter. Yet another simile is used to describe the physician when the light gleaming from his eyes is likened to “a furnace, or […] one of those gleams of ghastly fire that darted from Bunyan’s awful door-way in the hill-side,” (14-15). The simile provides visual imagery and hints that Chillingworth is evil by the notion that the eyes reveal a man’s true nature.

The final metaphor again equates Chillingworth to a leech, in which he calls, ‘“Let us dig a little farther in the direction of this vein! ”’ (20). Together, these similes and metaphors highlight Roger Chillingworth’s leech-like and hellish qualities in his attempt to gain revenge on Dimmesdale. Word choice plays an integral part in Hawthorne’s characterization of Chillingworth, as connotation suggests the physician is one with the Devil. Chillingworth’s name alone evokes the kinesthetic imagery of chills. The surname informs the reader that the doctor is a coldhearted man.

Suggestions abound that Chillingworth is satanic due to diction alone. The necessity to gain knowledge pertaining to Dimmesdale “seized the old man within its gripe, and never set him free again until he had done all its bidding” (7-8). The connotation of bidding relates to the Devil, who is believed to possess men and force them to do his dirty work. Again, Chillingworth is compared to the Fiend when his eyes are said to be “burning blue and ominous, like the reflection of a furnace, or […] like [a gleam] of ghastly fire” (13-14). Burning, furnace, and ghastly fire all imply that Chillingworth is demonic.

Hawthone indicates that “[h]e now dug into the poor clergyman’s heart,” continuing the extended metaphor of Chillingworth’s relation to a leech with the connotation of dug (8-9). The word depicts teeth digging into flesh in the reader’s mind. Hawthorne’s integration of diction into the novel assists in characterizing Chillingworth as a parasitic demon. The development of Chillingworth’s character is the main purpose of the chapter, and Hawthorne describes his personality before and after the doctor’s obsession with Dimmesdale’s inner thoughts.

Hawthorne’s depiction of Chillingworth extends that “throughout life, [he] had been calm in temperament, kindly, though not of warm affections, but ever, and in all his relations with the world, a pure and upright man” (1-3). However, after the tale of Hester’s abandonment of her husband surfaces, his personality takes a turn for the worse. He is said to be “desirous only of truth,” which overwhelms the man’s life. His “terrible fascination, a kind of fierce, though still calm, necessity,” with revenge on Dimmesdale, “seized the old man within its gripe, and never set him free again, until he had done all its bidding” (7-8).

The personification shines a light on how his need for knowledge of the identity of Hester’s lover takes control of Chillingworth’s life. The aforementioned relations to a miner and sexton also characterize his endless search. The chapter is a commentary on how too strong of a thirst for knowledge can be detrimental, a common belief in the setting, where scientific advances were frowned upon for fear of questioning God’s power. The characterization of Chillingworth is an essential literary technique infused into the novel.

Hawthorne’s utilization of comparisons, connotation, and characterization transform Chillingworth from a respected medicine man with a religious background spiraled into that of a Devil’s servant, attempting to take the soul of one of God’s ministers, after Hester’s infidelity was revealed. The literary techniques identify Chillingworth as the antagonist of the novel by comparing him to both a leech and a devil. Hawthorne’s employment of these devices enriches the text and thoroughly brings Chillingworth to life in the reader’s mind.

Irony in the Scarlet Letter

“Irony regards every simple truth as a challenge. ” When reading a story, the events that have already presented themselves, lead a person to perceive what is going to happen, but when that person encounter an unexpected event, as commonly experienced through irony, it changes what the person perceives is going to happen. The Scarlet Letter exemplifies this use of irony to challenge truth. Hawthorne provides details about a specific character, but then creates an event which stands in contrast to these details.

Hawthorne’s uses irony, portrayed through characters’ names, the first scaffold scene, and the Puritan community, to express the truth throughout the novel. In The Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne uses characters’ names to contrast to their actual characteristics. He uses the name Pearl, which means purity, as a nickname for a mischievous character. He portrays Roger Chillingworth as a doctor, while Chillingworth’s main purpose involves causing the deterioration of Arthur Dimmesdale’s health. Arthur Dimmesdale, a saint-like figure to the Puritan Community, indulges in a great sin.

Being a minister, his life elucidates hypocrisy.

He has committed one of the greatest sins that he condemns in his sermons. Hawthorne uses these evident labels to contrast to character’s true characteristics. The scaffold scenes each reveal a truth through use of irony. The first scaffold scene connotes not only a connection between Hester and Dimmesdale, but also Dimmesdale’s wishes in regard to their sin. At the beginning of the novel, while the reader’s main question involves Pearl’s father, Hawthorne asides other characters by emphasizing Dimmesdale’s questioning of Hester. This emphasis exposes Dimmesdale as the prime suspect to be Pearl’s father.

Dimmesdale speaks curiously in third-person about what Pearl’s father should do. He also stresses that Hester should tell who she had an affair with, and that her partner will accept being exposed, as if trying to convince her that he wants to be revealed but is to scared to do so on his own. This event causes irony, as the focus on Dimmesdale and Hester in this scene foreshadows their relations later in the novel. Hawthorne portrays the Puritan Community as a body that lacks the ability to recognize truth, while their ideals involve creating a “city upon a hill” that has achieved the ultimate truth.

When Roger Chillingworth arrives in Boston, the community falsely believes that he has been sent from God to cure Arthur Dimmesdale. When Chillingworth wishes to house with Dimmesdale, few question Chillingworth’s intent. Even as they see Dimmesdale’s worsening condition, few blame it on Roger Chillingworth. The community also fails to recognize Dimmesdale’s attempts to confess his sin. In his sermons, Dimmesdale states that he is “altogether vile, a viler companion of the vilest” and that he should be “shriveled up before their eyes by the burning wrath of the Almighty.

The community, still believing that he has not committed any serious sin, thinks of him even the higher. The community’s inability to recognize evil characters and sin overshadows their wishes to perceive the ultimate truth. Characters’ names, the first scaffold scene, and the Puritan Community act as a means of expressing truth through Hawthorne’s use of irony. Hawthorne provides evident details on characters, allowing the reader to obtain truth through an ironic event. Hawthorne meets the quote in the beginning by the requirement that irony should regard every simple truth as a challenge.

The Scarlet Letter Scaffold Scenes

The Scarlet Letter Interpretive Essay In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, the Reverend Dimmesdale is the central conflict of the story. He is torn between his need to accept and pronounce his sin and Pearl as his daughter and his love of freedom. His demeanor drastically changes from the first scaffold scene, where he is seen as a two-faced criticizer to the third and final scaffold scene, where he humbly repents and acknowledges his sin publicly.

The three scaffold scenes in the book are very important, as they portray Dimmesdale’s gradual advancement from total hypocrite towards complete atonement for his sin.

In the first scaffold scene, Hester Prynne is seen on the scaffold, holding Pearl in her arms, unwaveringly acknowledging her sin. The Reverend Dimmesdale is there as well, taking on the role of her accuser and demanding that she reveal the person with whom she committed the adulterous act. Hester Prynne absolutely refuses to name the father of her child and declares.

I will not speak, and my child must seek a heavenly Father, she shall never know an earthly one! ” (Page 60) This scene shows Reverend Dimmesdale as a sheer hypocrite and, while he persists in having Hester name her lover, he secretly prays that she maintains her silence in order to keep his reputation immaculate. At the second scaffold scene, Dimmesdale, who is still maintaining his position as Hester Prynne’s accuser and a hypocrite, is suffering with the struggle of his perfect reputation battling his real self.

During the middle of the night, while the townspeople are all asleep, Dimmesdale makes his way to the scaffold, holding a silent vigil. He cries out in physical and mental pain. Hester and Pearl hear his crying as they are on their way home and go to him. There, at Dimmesdale’s request, that they join him on the scaffold where they stand in the darkness, holding each other. Pearl then asks Dimmesdale if he would stand with them at noontide the next day and he refuses, saying that instead, they will stand together on the great Judgement Day.

During the third and final scaffold scene, Dimmesdale is finally seen as humbly repentant for his and Hester’s sin. Immediately after his Election Day sermon, which makes him even more popular among the townspeople, Dimmesdale, leads the procession of people towards the town hall for a banquet. As he nears the scaffold, he calls for Hester and Pearl to help him up the stairs and asks them once again to stand beside him. At this moment, Dimmesdale confesses to the whole town, pronouncing his guilt but yet, at the same time, was able to salvage his soul.

Dimmesdale is finally able to free himself of all anguish and die with an open conscience. This is the only moment of pride for Dimmesdale throughout the entire book. He then dies, knowing that he will be warmly welcomed into God’s Heavenly Kingdom. Through the three scaffold scenes, Nathaniel Hawthorne shows the increasing mental and physical pain the Reverend Dimmesdale experienced by trying to hide his sin from the townspeople and God Himself.

In the first scaffold scene, he is Hester’s two-faced accuser; in the second scaffold scene, he displays unbearable bodily and psychological pain. Finally, in the third scaffold scene, he is publicly and humbly repentant for his sin, liberating not only himself, but also Hester and Pearl. Although one could say that he dies in shame in the eyes of the townspeople, because of his willful public confession, he is actually given a gracious acceptance into Heaven, where he will live with eternal happiness and completely free of any torment or anguish.

Dimmesdale Expressed His Guilt

Dimmesdale expressed his guilt internally and is forced to deal with it himself. He holds his lie and sin in until he finally reveals it and in that time he is released from his personal trap, when he dies. Not only does he fear the public rejection and judgement, he would also get in legal trouble and will have to deal with the same guilt. His guilt eats away at him as he is forced to life his day to day life.

Nearing the middle of Hawthorne’s novel Dimmesdale is able to communicate with Hester and find some peace when he befriended Chillingworth. Throughout the novel it is revealed many times the pain Dimmesdale is forced to deal with. “It is inconceivable, the agony with which this public veneration tortured him!” (Hawthorne 99). It is revealed why Dimmesdale experiences such tortuous guilt. Only he and Hester know the truth and he finds this even more immoral. The difference between how Dimmesdale sees himself and how the rest of town sees him is what leads to him always experiencing such guilt.

If he was seen as less of a perfect man, Dimmesdale may have been able to deal with the guilt more efficiently. The guilt eats him apart to the point where it causes him physical pain. “Happy you, Hester, that wear the scarlet letter openly upon your bosom! Mine burns in secret! Thou little knowest what a relief it is, after the torment of a seven years’ cheat, to look into an eye that recognizes me for what I am!” (Hawthorne 131). Dimmesdale must live with the guilt of sin. Unlike Hester, Dimmesdale must hide what he has done because of his position in the town. He tells Hester that she’s lucky to be able to live the truth unlike him, who lives with the scarlet letter burning on his chest secretly. Being with Hester gives him relief, because for once in the seven years of pain, he is able to talk to someone who knows him for “what he really is”. He feels with Hester he may be more open and helps relieve the symptoms of quilt temporarily before they are forced to separate again. Dimmesdale did not want to make his communication with Hester too frequent so nothing was assumed.

“What can a ruined soul, like mine, effect towards the redemption of other souls?-or a polluted soul, towards their purification? And as for as the people’s reverence, would that it were turned to scorn and hatred! Canst thou deem it, Hester a consolation, that I must stand up

in pulpit, and meet so many eyes turned upward to my face, as of the light of heaven was beating from it!” (Hawthorne 130). Dimmesdale sits with Hester in the forest, expressing him pain while revealing his internal conflict. Dimmesdale tells her how difficult it is for him to stand in front of the congregation and preach to the people about living a purified lives when he bares burden of sin himself. Dimmesdale tortures himself and is in the middle of a breakdown. It is obvious that he is not strong enough to live a double life, devoted to his job as a minster and is in love with an adulterous, as he is one. He says he feels the “light of heaven beats on him each time he lies to the people. As if the light illuminates the guilt he has,” (Hawthorne 92). The townspeople find the fact that Dimmesdale has sinner even better for their view of him. They think that if has sinned, what have they done. He finds this frustrating and only makes him all the more mad.

“Oh, Hester Prynne, thou little, little knowest all the horror of this thing! And the shame! the indelicacy! the horrible ugliness of this exposure of a sick and guilty heart to the very eye that would gloat over it! Woman, woman, thou art accountable for this! I cannot forgive thee!” (Hawthorne132). After Hester has told Dimmesdale her “lost” husband is Chillingworth he gets angry at Hester for keeping such a thing from him. He is upset and is reduced to the ground with his face in his hands. He implies to her that he had a guess that it was him, as if all the clues pointed towards Chillingworth but he refused to admit it to himself ,and he tells her that she can not imagine the horror of the situation. And he ends his part by saying “thou art accountable for this! I cannot forgive the,” (Hawthorne 164). Dimmesdale forgive Hester for lying eventually but still cannot forgive himself. At this point of the novel Dimmesdale is very sick and brittle. The pain has taken over him and he is nearing his end. Dimmesdale knows this and so does Chillingworth, who knows that Dimmesdale knows who he really is.

Eventually Dimmesdale admits at a service that he hides his sins but he does sin. Dimmesdale wants to truly expose his sin and tell everybody what he has really done. “All the dread of public exposure, that had so long been the anguish of his life, had returned upon him.” (Hawthorne 107). The fear of being seen as a sinner is what leads to him being unable to take responsibility for his actions, this then leading to his overwhelming guilt and internal conflict. Dimmesdale wants to stop hiding and be honest about his past, but he is very sensitive to public approval and fears the idea of being publicly shamed for his sins, just like Hester was years prior. It leads the reader to question why Hester found it easier to overcome her guilt and build herself to be better while Dimmesdale can not even admit it to himself. In addition to the statement made previously, we can further argue that Dimmesdale’s sin in literally killing him. “…the minister speaks again of ‘the law we broke’. The freedom of the forest has been replaced by the rules of the village. After confessing he dies.” (infobase learning). Once Dimmesdale admits his sin, he is released from his trap and collapses on the scaffold. Hawthorne slowly led up to Dimmesdale death by him torturing himself. Release is exactly was Dimmesdale needed to forgive himself.

Not only has Dimmesdale had to live with the pain of the guilt he has caused himself but he also admits to Hester that he has felt betrayed by Chillingworth and also mention mostly the guilt from the beginning of the quote and that nobody understand the pain. The second half of the novel is more intense guilty feelings and pain and add more debt to him and just make his seem more sorrowful. It is ironic that he feels this was and can admit it for certain and immediately but it has taken him so long to figure out his own guilt and even admit it to himself because he has already admitted he sins to the town people. Everything that happens in the novel leads back to the scarlet A on the adulterer chest. One is burned in, expressing the real pain and one is simply sewn on her chest that can be removed and is only temporary. Dimmesdale thinks this is all that represents him. It can be concluded that Dimmesdale’s sin is his ultimate demise and breaks him down over many years.

Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter words is communicated by the

Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter words is communicated by the symbols. Even more, all though The House of the Seven Gables he used similar images in the Pynchon women, he explored a forerunner who communicates with future generations through symbols. Alice Pynchon, Phoebe’s great, great, great-aunt, reveals the necessity of an inventive sensibility during the music of her harpsichord or musical instrument and her posies. In The House of the Seven Gables Alice’s posies are linked to the rose cipher in The Scarlet Letter since flowers are a medium by which a previous generation can communicate with the next.

Both novels are slightly related to the women who communicate to their next generations people through signs, the female character of The House of the Seven Gables are more self-possessed in their individual and they convey their message.

Whereas Ann Hutchinson and Hester Prynne passively accepted their punishments to a certain extent, the women of the house of the seven gables boldly resist male oppression.

Alice does not imply her message as Ann Hutchinson does since Alice actively warns Phoebe about the importance of reading symbols. Alice’s symbols are more over Alice’s harpsichord is heard on occasion throughout the house, and her posies bloom when the judge dies. Just as the women of The Scarlet Letter represent feminine reformers, so do the women of The House of the Seven Gables. Alice, perhaps, dies a martyr’s death, Hepzibah does not passively resist male domination, and Phoebe actively changes her own community instead of leaving it, as does Pearl. What makes The House of the Seven Gables distinct from The Scarlet Letter is how artistic sensibility becomes a major theme of the novel, and Hawthorne exposes this issue when Phoebe learns to read the symbols that represent her ancestor Alice, and, more literally, when she marries an artist. It is only when the audience focuses on Phoebe’s interpretation of her ancestor’s Symbolic language that the reader discovers this hidden message, or warning, in Hawthorne’s novel. American culture had yet to develop an art of its own; therefore, they lacked a national identity.

As American culture became more independent, it would also have to develop for art. Hawthorne stresses this idea through Phoebe’s process of reading symbols. It is identically as important for the characters to understand the meaning of symbols in the narrative as it is for the reader to be cognizant of art’s purpose in American society, in particular, the art of fiction’s function as a means of cultural sophistication. Hawthorne communicates to his audience through his narrators, but what he converses depends on which perspective we consider as readers. When the reader encounters the symbol of the rose, he or she must consider that this symbol is not only directed at his audience, but also at other characters within the narrative. The multiple perceptions of Hawthorne’s narrators and characters will point the reader into his or her own interpretation of Hawthorne’s narratives. Each heroine gains independence by being true to her individualism; therefore, the reader must consider every heroine’s perspective. Each heroine has her part as a reformer of American society in The Scarlet Letter, and this again occurs in The House of the Seven Gables.

The premise of The House of the Seven Gables and The Scarlet Letter is similar in that both novels are set in a community that is overrun by dominant male figures. Both novels also portray individuals struggling to escape the heavy – handed hold such dominant figures have on repressed individuals within a community. In The House of the Seven Gables, Hawthorne creates an outlandish display of how a subjugated individual becomes liberated from a sturdy male ancestor through the death of a dominant male figure. Hawthorne makes a strong statement in The House of the Seven Gables about how individuals may gain independence. Judge Pyncheon, the dominant male figure in the novel, bafflingly dies at the end of the novel. The death of the Judge may perhaps have symbolized freedom for a repressed individual, and Hawthorne may have also been symbolically liberating himself from strong male figures within his own community.

Though Hawthorne may seem to be discrediting prominent male ancestors in The House of Seven Gables, since not only creates an obnoxious character, the smiling Judge Pyncheon, but he kills this symbol of the patriarchy, the author may have been using the novel as a intermediate to criticize one of his political opponents while at the same time elevating name of the Hathornes. Hawthorne’s unpleasant characterization of the powerful Judge has much to do, as DeSalvo explains, with a history Charles Wentworth Upham wrote in 1831 about the witchcraft trials in which Upham emphasized John Hathorne’s involvement and concluded that “John Hathorne was largely responsible for the excesses of that period” (82).

Upham explains what Hawthorne was attempting to do in his “assassination” of a tyrannical male figure in the novel, and Hawthorne’s attitude toward Upham seems even more spiteful when the narrator maliciously describes the Judge’s dead corpse and rejoices in the idea that the Judge will be unable to attend his own party that night because he is dead. In Hawthorne’s novel, the narrator not only confirms how overbearing males affected Hawthorne, but more generally, Hawthorne displays how dominant males cause hierarchies to control entire communities. Powerful males were the only figures who held back intact populations, and Hawthorne illustrates to what extent the Judge dominated not only the Pyncheon family but the entire town. Since after the Judge’s death, the Pyncheon family no longer has a place within the community.

Though the remaining Pyncheons move to the Judge’s country home and remain

dependent on Judge’s economic holdings, they have learned to understand the value of self – reliance and progressive ideas since Hepzibah is not inhibited by her family pride and learns the value of self-reliance, Clifford is free from the Judge’s ordeal and finds happiness in the simple pleasures in life, and Phoebe and Holgrave learn the value of art in American culture. Yet, the heroines’ success in this novel can best be measured by what they realize, though they may still indirectly depend on the Judge, Phoebe has learned to understand why an artistic sensibility, such as her partner Holgrave’s, is necessary for the development of an distinctive American culture. Hawthorne produces a parallel situation between his character Phoebe and his reader’s development of an appreciation for art, and compares them to the Pyncheon family’s lack of cultural refinement and America’s lack of refinement. If the reader not pass to understand the message Hawthorne conveys through his character, then they miss to understand the value of Hawthorne’s art.

The first day Hepzibah opens the fragrance shop, she still refuses to accept that American society is becoming more democratic, as Cunliffe argues, when she does not allow Holgrave to pay for a biscuit because she wants to linger “a lady” for as long as she possibly can (HSG 46). Hawthorne perhaps implies that American society during his lifetime held too firmly to traditions. Male characters in The House of the Seven Gables are lost within American society unless they are dominant male figures. According to progressive thinking in the nineteenth – century, America needed to smash from tradition for social progress to occur. Holgrave, we would expect should be aware of his station in life, as an artist; he is capable of making educated observations about the Pyncheon family and is aware that they represent outdated hierarchies that still exist in modern society. The anarchical whim in old Matthew Maule lives on in Holgrave in a more modern guise” (Kehler 148). Holgrave, though he lives in the house of the seven gables, perhaps does maintain enough distance from the Pyncheon reign to allow him to observe the residents of the house and how Judge Pyncheon maintains dominion over his family and the entire town. When Phoebe arrives, however, his involvement becomes more intimate as he takes interest in the young girl. Since Phoebe’s well-being depends on establishing herself within the house, she is subject to the Judge’s rule as long as she lives in the house. Holgrave begins to think of a “home” in a more traditional sagacity when he encounters Phoebe, and by the end of the novel, he is part of the Pyncheon dynasty. Neither traditional nor progressive ideas, furthermore, can precisely depict the idea of progress in American society.

Change had not occurred in the house of the seven gables because its inhabitants accepted the idea that to progress meant the family had to stop believing in the reputation of the Pyncheon family name. Not only do the Pyncheons represent tradition, but, more importantly, as long as they maintained pride in their family name they also represent conformity. Although the novel is set in the nineteenth-century, the Pyncheon family is still bothered by their Puritan ancestors; they have failed to accept progressive ideas of democracy and individualism. With the exception of Phoebe, Hawthorne’s portrayal of the Pyncheon line is anything but flattering. Hepzibah and Clifford are ascetics who do not know how to function in the world, and Judge Pyncheon is an ambitious oppressor just as his male ancestors were. The less powerful inhabitants of the house of the seven gables and the entire community are all controlled by one man. Why the Judge maintains his power has much more to do with the community rather than with the Judge’s overbearing nature.

Emerson and Thoreau their idea can exist in reality emerge from its

Emerson and Thoreau, their idea can exist in reality emerge from its own perceptions. These American writers emphasizes the position to develop entire as individual persons, not just intellectually, but also spiritually, pupil have to perceive nature’s discipline. He also applied this concept by having natural elements as flowers in The Scarlet Letter and poises in The House of the Seven Gables agree his characters insight into the expansion of an individual’s artistic responsiveness is so decisive.

The women in Hawthorne’s first two major novels did not search for change organization; they wanted to alter their own place within their communities.

In seventeenth century, women did not seize positions of power within their Puritan communities; they were neither juries, senates, nor, with some exceptions, ministers of the gospels. Hawthorne recreated a time and place in remarkable America where a woman was be subject to a man’s control; in the case of Hester Prynne, Hawthorne created a character whose situation was frantic because even her very name was disgraced.

In The Scarlet Letter, Hester became a symbol for how a “disreputable” individual in Puritan terms, with the least amount of hope for emancipation, could gain a sense of individuality and unrestraint for herselfEmerson and Thoreau, their idea can exist in reality emerge from its own perceptions. These American writers emphasizes the position to develop entire as individual persons, not just intellectually, but also spiritually, pupil have to perceive nature’s discipline. He also applied this concept by having natural elements as flowers in The Scarlet Letter and poises in The House of the Seven Gables agree his characters insight into the expansion of an individual’s artistic responsiveness is so decisive.

. Hepzibah, in The House of the Seven Gables, similarly became a symbol for the transformation of a demoralized individual rising from poverty to the position of a strong feminine figure who is able to re-examine her identity. As a result, Hepzibah dispossess herself in a sense: though she had the status of a noblewoman through the Pynchon reign; she gained self-sufficiency as a common shopkeeper, thus overcoming centuries of domination by prominent male figures in the Pynchon family. Romantic writers such as Emerson and Thoreau presented the idea that the individual is capable of overcoming, or transcending, religious and political authorities and that the development of a national identity begins with the individual; yet it was Hawthorne who, in his fiction, first put these ideas into practice especially in The Scarlet Letter and The House of the Seven Gables. He created female characters such as Hester and Pearl who defeat a powerful religious society. Moreover, Hawthorne demonstrated through Phoebe’s elucidation of Alice’s artistic sensibilities that Americans could create a national identity for themselves through a mingling of art and democracy.

Hawthorne’s heroines are powerful female figures because they have become symbolic of the individual reaching his or her fullest prospective, which was a major element of nineteenth century ideology. Yet, Hawthorne’s readers come to a more intimate understanding of the symbolic allusion of his heroines because he grasps the process of self-actualization for each one of his female characters in his few novels. Hester Prynne, for example, does not seek to belittle the entire Puritan faith when she chooses to live outside her community and begins to closure to make a living for her. She stitches because she needs to provide for her daughter, but also to give intention to her life. Her work infiltrates the Puritan community, and with it so does Hester’s spirit. Hester does not seek to change a woman’s lot radically in life during the seventeenth century; rather she merely wants to help fellow women in need. Hester’s good works in her community make her seem saintly, a “sister of mercy,” by the end of the novel. Neither does her daughter Pearl seek revenge on her father or those who banish her for her community. Puritan officials allow her to remain with her mother, accepting the fact that as an untamed, natural being, she need not stick to Puritan ideologies.

In The House of the Seven Gables, Hepzibah finds that her place as a noblewoman in her community’s past does not transfer to a new democratic American society. When Hepzibah finds that she is trapped by her Pynchon name and is bound to remain a dependent of the male Pynchon dynasty, she seeks self – sufficiency by opening a cent-shop. In the case of Phoebe, she has little anticipation when she arrives at the house of the seven gables as she finds that she has no home of her own and lives only as a dependent of her wealthier Pynchon relatives. She does not search to help Hepzibah change hundreds of years of history; however, she does help Hepzibah with the housework, assists her in running a more efficient shop, and becomes a vital link between the Pynchon past and the family’s place in a democratic America. Phoebe learns to understand the value of appreciating culture from Alice Pynchon and she knows how it is a part of a modern American democracy; artistic sensibility is appreciating beauty, such as Alice’s posies and her organ music.

The strongest movement for change on the part of the women in Hawthorne’s first two major novels, however, stems from the past, which Ann and Alice represent. These two characters may not be major characters in The Scarlet Letter and The House of the Seven Gables, respectively, but they became powerful symbols for new generations of women. Without guidance from their feminine ancestors, future generations of women might have not been guided in the proper direction, and they might have missed how critical an understanding of aesthetics is within a culture. These two novels involve three generations of women because each generation represents the past, present, and future. Ann and Alice, as feminine figures of the past, do not ignite change during their lifetimes. Alice could perhaps have begun the progression of developing her family’s artistic sensibilities, but instead her life ends early and with it hope for the change in American society that Hawthorne foresaw in The Scarlet Letter that is, development of America’s potential to produce its own art.

Hester is contained by Puritan officials and Hepzibah’s livelihood is subject to the conservative figure of Judge Pynchon. Nevertheless, the persuade women of previous generations hold on future generations is quite the opposite. They do not confine, but instead free the heroines in Hawthorne’s novels. The influence of the past on the present, when women are concerned, is what leads to progress in the future.

A woman’s past may be riddled with shame or guilt, even so, they do not pass their infamy to future generations of women; their offspring, in fact, seem to live significantly different lives than their feminine ancestors. Hester finds she is shunning from her community just as her feminine ancestor, Ann Hutchinson, had been banned from her town. Rather than accept her ancestor’s fate and, defeated as a fallen woman, leave her community behind, Hester makes a place outside of Boston for herself and influences her community through her artwork her needlework and her good deeds as she becomes a caretaker for downtrodden women in her community. Neither does Hepzibah inherit her feminine ancestor Alice’s fate. Though Hepzibah and Alice first appear as proud noblewomen in the novel, Hepzibah changes before it is too late for her and rises above centuries of male domination while Alice holds to her family pride until her death. Hepzibah, then, influences the social structure of her town by becoming a merchant in an increasingly consumer-driven American society.

The most significant measure of female progress through the generations that Hawthorne depicts, however, comes from the youngest female characters in The Scarlet Letter and The House of the Seven Gables: Pearl in the former and Phoebe in the latter. Pearl disinherits herself from Puritan traditions and becomes a natural woman who eventually liberates herself from her community when she leaves Boston. Phoebe is straightforward about her rejection of Pynchon male domination when she refuses the Judge’s kiss and leaves the structure that had kept all of her family prisoner for centuries, the house of the seven gables. She has discovered that the Pynchon name was not prestigious in a democratic society, but what was significant was herm understanding of the value of art in nineteenth – century America.

In The Scarlet Letter and The House of the Seven Gables for two reasons; how Hawthorne created a vision of a more liberal American society by giving women power over men and what the author felt was the right direction for American culture the development of his country’s art, in particular, the art of fiction. These two novels show the progression of feminine figures over the span of several generations. It is this familial bond that unites the women in the novels to gain one common goal: a full development of their individuality.

Hawthorne also illustrates how it is possible for an individual to come into their full potential whether spiritually, intellectually, or artistically, through the women in his fiction. Where the men do not change have to change to gain power in a society where they are helpless. What makes the women in The Scarlet Letter and The House of the Seven Gables most dynamic is the revolution of each woman from the beginning of the novel until the end. Hester, for example, early in the novel may be categorized as a dark female figure that is morally corrupt according to the mores of her society; but by the end she becomes an angelic figure: the townspeople even believe the “A” stands for Angel.

Of course, this categorization of a dark female figure does not appear to be a fitting category for Pearl: she is neither light nor dark; she is just a natural child whom the narrator describes as a “bird,” a creature of the natural world. Hepzibah is not one of Hawthorne’s dark heroines since she is not sexually appealing or morally corrupt, but she still proves a threat to the patriarchy. The reader is first introduced to Hepzibah as she hesitates to open her shop out of shame; she is a noblewoman who thus, according to mores of the time, should not involve herself in commercial ventures. By the end of the novel, however, she opens her shop and overcomes centuries of male domination. Phoebe also changes significantly; she begins her personal expedition as an optimistic, yet na?ve girl and can be best categorized as one of Hawthorne’s light heroines. When she involves herself with the dark past of the house of the seven gables and its occupants, however, she develops darker characteristics herself that make her a stronger, more compelling character.

It is curious why, after the composition of these two novels, Hawthorne in his last two novels, The Blithedale Romance and The Marble Faun, failed to create such dynamic female characters. Rather, in these last works, Hawthorne seems to delineate narrow pathways for his heroines: his women appear to be stereotypically light and pure or dark and corrupt!.

The Dual, Blurred Symbolism of The Scarlet Letter

In The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne creates a startling vision, rife with meaning and symbolism. The book is unique in that Hawthorne leaves the reader in a state of flux; there is no “bad guy,” there is no definite conclusion, good is not triumphant over evil. The finish of the story does not end in “happily ever after,” but in a feeling of inscrutability; the loose ends are tied, yet left open for the reader to image what comes next. “The Scarlet Letter’s strange power over its contemporary readers derives from its unresolved tensions”(264).

There are no clearly defined roles of good and evil, only lesser and greater forms of both, with which the characters have to deal with. Hawthorne asks his “readers to sympathize with Dimmesdale and Chillingworth as “mutual victims”(272). The book is one of human and moral weakness; Hawthorne hopes “to symbolize some sweet moral blossom, that may be found along the track, or relieve the darkening close of a tale of human frailty and sorrow”(54).

The abundant symbols in the volume are constantly evolving and developing, creating different mood and tone shifts within the text. The scarlet letter takes on many forms throughout the book, meaning both “adultery” and “angel,” and a myriad of other significant tokens.

A close examination of the text reveals the major role metaphors play in the tale. The patterns within the writing evolve and develop; henceforth the meanings of these metaphors also evolve and change. The strongest of these metaphors is the scarlet letter itself, the letter is powerful; it becomes a fixation point for all who meet its wearer. The A is initially the outward representation of Hester’s sin of adultery. The whole community turns out to see her present the “ignominious letter on her breast”(58). It is a powerful scene, when “that Scarlet Letter, so fantastically embroidered and illuminated upon her bosom”(58) is revealed. “It had the effect of a spell, taker her out of the ordinary relations with humanity, and inclosing her in a sphere by herself”(58). Hester is, in effect, taken out of reality at this point. She is no longer an active participant in the world; she is a spectator, held up as an example of fallen grace in her harsh society. It is her public exhibition of the letter that allows her the moral fortitude to withstand its shame.

She is able to bear the burden of the letter because it is in the open; there is nothing she can do to hide it from the world. It is in this way that she can begin to transform herself and the ignominious A into something greater. She lives on the outskirts of society, subsisting on little and giving what she can to charity: “Hester bestowed all her superfluous means in charity, on wretches less miserable than herself, and who not unfrequently insulted the hand that fed them”(78). She becomes an Angel of Mercy; “none so ready as she to give of her little substance to every demand of poverty”(131). The letter became a beacon in the dark, for those who have lost their way. “The letter was a symbol of her calling. Such helpfulness was found in her, – so much power to do, and power to sympathize, – that 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”(131).

Hester is not the only one afflicted by the letter; it also mars the Reverend Dimmesdale. He is Hester’s unidentified lover; the father of Pearl and a man persecuted by his own demons. He wishes he were strong enough to expose himself as the adulterer he is, but he lacks the moral fortitude to admit his own flaws. Late one night, he climbs the scaffold that Hester had been sentenced to stand upon seven years before. As he is standing there, Hester and Pearl come by and he asks them to join him. It is through this action that he is able to feel “a tumultuous rush of new life, other life than his own, pouring like a torrent into his heart, and hurrying through all his veins, as if the mother and the child were communicating their vital warmth to his half-torpid system”(125). As he stood there with Pearl and Hester, he looked “upward to the zenith, and beheld there the appearance of an immense letter, –the letter A, — marked out in lines of dull red light”(127). The A becomes a visual symbol for both Dimmesdale and Hester, representing their joined sin. The light is also seen by a few of the townspeople who, ironically interpret it as standing for “Angel,” in regards to the passing of the governor on that night. Throughout the story the scarlet “A” evolves and shifts its meaning, creating many different ideas and emotions.

The scarlet letter is not the only metaphor present in the text. There are numerous smaller, less prominent, yet powerful symbols. The rose bush in front of the jail is a prime example. The red flowers contrast strikingly with the somber and oppressiveness of the prison and its “beetle-browed and gloomy front”(53). Nestled among the weeds that surround the jail, the rose is a symbol of strength and beauty, among a desolate, foreboding landscape. It has survived for years in a inhospitable climate, surrounded choking plants, and noxious weeds. The rose among the weeds can be seen as a metaphor for Hester. She is “a figure of perfect elegance… ladylike, too, after the manner of the feminine gentility of those days”(57). Hester is the rose among the “grim rigidity” and “severity of the Puritan character”(54); she is the only spot of color in an otherwise gray society.

As the reader delves into the text of The Scarlet Letter, it becomes apparent that there are not the clearly defined roles of good and evil. The novel does not dwell in the realm of black and white, but in the indiscernible shades of gray that perpetuate in the real world. This is not to say that there is uniformity in the players, or that they all are of the same moral character. There exist those who are inclined to good and those who are inclined to evil; what is plain in the book is that there is also evidence of evil within those who are good and vies versa. Mr. Dimmesdale is a prime example of basically good, yet with some definite moral weakness; Dimmesdale understands his sin and has a desire to confess it and relieve the burden he carries with him. He wishes “long ago to have thrown off these garments of mock holiness, and have shown myself to mankind as they will see me at the judgment-seat”(152). What prevents him from revealing himself, and in doing so lifting the burden of shame from his heart, is his moral weakness.

Dimmesdale justifies his actions because he feels that it would cause more harm to the community if they found out; if he were to “shrink from displaying themselves black and filthy in the view of men; because, thenceforward, no good can be achieved by them; no evil of the past be redeemed by better service”(111). Dimmesdale’s justification is a hollow one at best. He is unable to reconcile himself, and in this way he perpetuates the sickness that is slowly destroying him. It is not till the end, when he is able to understand and reconcile himself, that he is able to confess his sin and finally be relieved of his burden and is able to die in peace: “With a convulsive motion he tore away the ministerial band from before his breast. It was revealed! But it were irreverent to describe that revelation. For an instant the gaze of the horror-stricken multitude was concentred on the ghastly miracle; while the minister stood with a flush of triumph on his face, as one who, in the crisis of acutest pain, had won a victory”(196). In his revelation Dimmesdale can finally redeem himself; he is able to feel the weight and burden of his sin lifted from his own mind.

Chillingworth is by far a closer representation of total evil than Dimmesdale is of total good. However, even he is not a two dimensional character of darkness, Chillingworth is not an evil man at the beginning of the story. It is only after discovering the truth about his wife, Hester, that he is first contorted in rage: “A writhing horror twisted itself across his features… His face darkened with some powerful emotion”(62). Even this discovery and the rage it brings does not truly turn him to the “dark side.” Hester is distraught and hysterical about the appearance of her husband, and, ironically, it is he who is allowed to examine her and the child. Hester initially fears that the medicine he prescribes is poison. Upon her expression of this fear to Chillingworth, he simply laughs it off, “what would ail me to harm this misbegotten and miserable babe? The medicine is potent for good; and were it my child, -yeah, mine own, as well as thine! – I could do no better for it”(70). It is this expression of concern, though tinged with anger and bitterness, that shows that even the personification of evil has his limits. It is not until he starts to examine Dimmesdale closely that there occurs a dark shift in his soul. The change occurs when Chillingworth begins to suspect Dimmesdale of being the father of Pearl. Initially, he hopes to use Dimmesdale as a way to discover the individual who committed the crime with Hester.

He soon starts to suspect Dimmesdale; this causes him to transform from the scholarly physician into someone with “something ugly and evil in his face”(108). As Chillingworth’s suspicion deepens, he begins to press harder and harder at the feeble preacher, relentlessly questioning him without revealing himself. One day while Dimmesdale is asleep he creeps up on him and opens his shirt: “how Satan comports himself, when a precious human soul is lost to heaven, and won into his kingdom”(116) is the expression that is revealed upon his face. Chillingworth is now sure of the identity of the other adulterer; he then takes almost a certain glee in being able to press and torment the poor preacher at any time he wishes. The tormenting continues throughout the book, until the time of Dimmesdale’s death. When Dimmesdale reveals himself as the other bearer of the scarlet letter, he breaks Chillingworth’s hold on him. Now the vengeance that was sustaining Chillingworth has disappeared, and he no longer has a reason to exist. Shortly after the death of Dimmesdale, Chillingworth also dies. His transformation is a perfect example of the evolution of a person moving through the stages of a sort of moral development. Transforming from scholarly physician, to cruel inquisitor, to sadistic torturer, and finally to a defeated and broken old man.

Yet Hawthorne does not leave everything happily ever after, because it quite simply cannot be done. The scarlet letter will forever brand Hester, even if the stigma diminishes in time; she has lost her only true love, and, in essence, became his widow, and lives out her days in solitude.

The Scarlet Letter is truly an astounding vision. The constantly evolving symbols and metaphors imbibe in the reader an abundance of tumultuous feelings, and logical thought. The unique way Hawthorne blurs the line between good and evil leaves the reader feeling, at times, wanting and fulfilled. This duality is present throughout the book, and is one of the reasons why The Scarlet Letter is still so heavily examined over one hundred years after its penning.

Hypocrisy in “The Scarlet Letter”

THis paper presents a critical review on Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel, “The Scarlett Letter”, focusing on the issue of hypocrisy evident within it.

The Scarlet H The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne is about the trials and tribulations of Hester Prynne, a woman living in colonial Boston. Found guilty of adultery, Hester’s punishment is to wear a visible symbol of her sin: the scarlet letter “A.” Through the book, the reader comes to know Hester, the adulteress; Dimmesdale, the holy man Hester had the affair with; and Chillingworth, the estranged husband of Hester who is out for revenge.

The Scarlet Letter examines the interaction of these characters and the reaction of these characters to Hester’s sin. Although Hester’s sin is at first supposed to be adultery, in fact adultery is just one of the many bases Hawthorne could use to build the story around. The underlying sin that Hawthorne deals with in The Scarlet Letter is hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is the practice of professing beliefs, feelings, or virtues that one does not hold or possess.

All three main characters, Hester, Dimmesdale, and Chillingworth, commit the sin of hypocrisy. Hawthorne shows that hypocrisy is indeed a sin by punishing the offenders. Hester Prynne is a strong, independent woman who deals with her sin of adultery very well. Instead of running away from it, she lives with it and accepts her punishment. However, while succumbing to the will of the court, she does not for an instant truly believe that she sinned. Hester thinks that she has not committed adultery because in her mind she wasn’t really married to Chillingworth. Hester believes that marriage is only valid when there is love, and there is no love between Hester and Chillingworth. In the prison, defending her actions against him, she declares, “Thou knowest, thou knowest that I was frank with thee. I felt no love, nor feigned any” (74). Then, later, speaking to Dimmesdale, Hester further imparts her belief that she has not sinned, saying, “What we did had a consecration of its own. We felt it so” (192). Therefore, Hester, in her mind, has not committed a sin. The fact that she accepts the courts decision so meekly and wears the scarlet letter denoting her as an adulteress is the first way in which she is hypocritical. Hester, although she does not believe she has sinned, portrays herself as a sinner by wearing the scarlet letter without complaint. Over the ensuing years, Hester endures the shame and ridicule brought about by the scarlet letter. However, the true source of the shame and ridicule is not adultery, but her own sin of hypocrisy. If Hester had not been hypocritical, if she had instead told the townspeople how she truly felt, then perhaps she would have earned their respect and not have forced to undergo the humiliation and punishment of the scarlet letter. Hester’s acceptance of a false sin is not the only hypocritical act she carries out. Another way in which Hester is hypocritical is her agreement with Chillingworth to keep his name a secret. Hester, even though she claims to love Dimmesdale, agrees with Chillingworth to keep Chillingworth’s name and mission secret (76). Hester is responsible for the pain that Chillingworth causes Dimmesdale, because she allows him to enter Dimmesdale’s house without warning Dimmesdale. Arthur Dimmesdale, Hester’s partner in adultery, is another character who is punished for his hypocrisy. Dimmesdale is a minister, one whom the people look up to for guidance and direction. The people consider him almost sinless, the perfect model which to follow. The townspeople thought of him as “a true priest, a true religionist, with the reverential sentiment largely developed, and an order of mind that impelled itself powerfully along the track of creed” (120). Believing himself to have committed the grave sin of adultery, Dimmesdale’s responsibility is to step down from his clerical position or at least admit his sin to the public. Instead, Dimmesdale hides his sin and actually uses Hester’s sin in his sermons. A “true priest” would not hide his sin from his congregation, as Dimmesdale does. The fact that Dimmesdale hides his own sin while expounding on Hester’s sin, which is actually the same, makes Dimmesdale a hypocrite. Dimmesdale is not only hypocritical to his congregation, but to Hester as well. Dimmesdale commits an act of adultery with Hester. He does so secure in the knowledge that he loved her, and she loved him. However, when it comes time to pay for their actions, Dimmesdale declines. Dimmesdale refuses to climb the scaffold with Hester to acknowledge the sin. Dimmesdale, although professing his love for her, refuses to be associated with her. Hester explains this to Pearl, saying “[Dimmesdale] will be there, child. But he will not greet thee to-day” (224). Dimmesdale’s refusal to be associated with Hester is cowardly, as is his refusal to climb the scaffold. It is hypocritical because he claims to love her, but he wants to keep that love secret. Roger Chillingworth, the husband of Hester Prynne, is the third character who commits the sin of hypocrisy. Chillingworth’s hypocrisy is directed towards the practice of medicine. All doctors are supposed to care for their patients, according to the Hippocratic Oath. Chillingworth, a doctor, should adhere to this oath, but instead he breaks his vows and consciously uses his skill to hurt his patient, Dimmesdale. For Chillingworth, it is a matter of revenge, but that does not justify his betrayal of the vows which he took. Boasting to Hester, Chillingworth relates how he enjoyed torturing his patient (168). When Hester asks him if he hasn’t tortured poor Dimmesdale enough, Chillingworth responds, “No! no! He has but increased the debt!” (169). The fact that Chillingworth takes pleasure in his patient’s discomfort while at the same time claiming to be a physician of the highest caliber makes Chillingworth a hypocrite. He is punished by Hawthorne for his hypocrisy. Hawthorne makes Chillingworth deformed, both physically and mentally. Chillingworth has been gnarled with age, but his mental condition is worse. He has turned into a man bent on revenge, with no regard for anything except sating his thirst for revenge. Chillingworth proceeds to lay blame of his own present deformities on Dimmesdale. According to Chillingworth, it is Dimmesdale’s fault that he, Chillingworth, is a “fiend.” Aside from being hypocritical towards his medicine, Chillingworth is hypocritical regarding Hester as well. Chillingworth admits to Hester that he is to blame for their poor marriage. He says, It was my folly!. The world had been so cheerless! My heart was a habitation large enough for many guests, but lonely and chill, and without a household fire. I longed to kindle one!. And so, Hester, I drew thee into my heart, into its innermost chamber, and sought to warm thee by the warmth which thy presence made there! (74). Chillingworth goes on to admit that he has no desire for vengeance against Hester: “I seek no vengeance, plot no evil against thee. Between thee and me, the scale hangs fairly balanced” (74). Later on, Chillingworth shows that he was lying when he says “I have left thee to the scarlet letter. If that have not avenged me, I can do no more!” (169). Chillingworth, despite what he said earlier, had been avenging himself not only on Dimmesdale, but on Hester as well, demonstrating again the lying, hypocritical ways he practices. Through the punishment of the three main characters, Hester, Dimmesdale, and Chillingworth, Hawthorne clearly shows that hypocrisy is a sin meriting terrible punishment. The sin of adultery, for which Hester is branded, is not the true sin in The Scarlet Letter. Rather, it is just one possible sin that can lead the sinner and those involved into the treacherous depths of hypocrisy, the true sin of The Scarlet Letter.

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter”

A review of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter”, focussing on the character, Hester.

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter” In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter Hester Prynne and her daughter Pearl are isolated from society; this is shown by where they live, the action from people toward Pearl and Pearl’s reaction, and finally the response of the community toward Hester’s scarlet letter. Hester and Pearl are isolated by living so far out as they do. Pearl shows signs that she is brought up without a friend in the world but her mother.

The response toward Hester’s scarlet letter from the town’s people show how she is isolated. Hester and Pearl are isolated from everything in the world but each other. Hester’s new home is the biggest factor in saying that they are isolated from the world. Hester finds an abandoned cottage on the outskirts of town, within verge of the peninsula, but not in close vicinity to any other habitation (Hawthorne 77).

Hester must ask the magistrates if she can live in the abandoned cottage (Hawthorne 78). Hester tells the magistrates that she is going to stay in town, since it reminds her of her sin and in that way punishes her(Hawthorne 78). This house was far enough from civilization that Hester and Pearl did not have a friend in the world besides each other. Pearl, is a descendent both of sweet children who fashioned a play maiden out of snow and of the friend’s infants who stoned the gentle boy(Van Doren 130). Pearl causes several disturbances to Hester throughout the novel. Governor Belligham plans to take away the child, if it was not for Dimmesdale Pearl may have left her mother’s arms(Hawthorne 109). All that Pearl and Hester had were each other(Hawthorne 85). Hester Prynne is constantly pointed out for her sin, because of the scarlet letter she is forced to wear. Hester, whose solitary thought takes her far beyond the confines of the code, she is not the subject of a sermon; she is the heroin of a tragedy and understands the tragedy(Van Doren 132). After Hester settled in to her life she had to get a job, so she sewed. People looked upon Hester’s sin rather than Hester’s ability to sew, in that she was not allowed to sew on bride’s dresses(Hawthorne 79). Hester was pointed out as a flaw in the society which she was not even a part of. Hester and her daughter live a life isolated from the world. They depend only on each other. Society immediately isolated them because of Hester’s sin. There is no solution in life for Hester’s sin. There was no other solution for Hawthorne’s story, given Hester’s strength, Dimmesdale’s weakness, and Chillingworth’s perversion, than the one found(Van Doren 132).

Puritan Society in the Scarlet Letter

In the introductory sketch to Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel the “The Scarlet Letter”, the reader is informed that one of the author’s ancestors persecuted the Quakers harshly. The latter’s son was a high judge in the Salem witch trials, put into literary form in Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible” (Judge Hawthorne appears there). We learn that Hawthorne feels ashamed for their deeds, and that he sees his ancestors and the Puritan society as a whole with critical eyes. Consequently, both open and subtle criticism of the Puritans’ practices is applied throughout the novel.

Hawthorne’s comments have to be regarded in the context of the settlers’ history and religion. They believe that man is a creature steeped in sin, ever since Adam and Eve’s fall from innocence. To them, committing the original sin strapped human beings of their own free will, so that God now decides about their lives. Everything that happens is seen as God’s will, and providence plays an important role.

Through the sacrifice and righteousness of Christ, however, there is a chance for people to be saved.

One cannot definitely know who will be saved, although pious and faithful people are of course more likely to. The experience of conversion, in which the soul is touched by the Holy Spirit, so that the believer’s heart is turned from sinfulness to holiness, is another indication that one is of the elect. Faithfulness and piety, rather than good deeds are what saves people. If someone has sinned, public confession is believed to take some of the burden of this sin off him. The initial reason for the Puritans to leave their homes was the treatment they had to suffer from in their native England.

They were brutally persecuted and were not allowed to practice their religion, because they said that the beliefs taught by the Anglican church were against the Bible. When they arrived in the New World, they were confronted with numerous threats from the outside. Their trying to take land away from the Indians caused many fights and attacks. Moreover, they had to deal with the total wilderness surrounding them. Under these frontier conditions, they needed harmony and peace inside the community in order to survive.

Read also: The Ministers Black Veil Literary Devices

As a result, Hawthorne’s founding fathers immediately saw the necessity to set up a prison, right next to the graveyard in order to keep their settlement together and stable. This shows that “the city upon a hill” and “God’s visible kingdom on earth” could not be put into practice without punishing and persecuting others. The prison’s door is made from heavy, antique oak and is secured with iron spikes. The age of the wood symbolizes another reason why the Puritan ideas could not be realized without violating human nature, namely that they came to a New World, but built their settlement on an antique, even anachronistic basis.

Their pessimistic belief that the human species is doomed and has no free will also contributed to the failure of their Utopia. The heavy look of the door also shows that people do not accept their punishment, and Hawthorne suggests that in its strictness, the Puritan code of law is against human nature. These rules and regulations are mostly directly taken from the bible, going so far that religion and law can be called almost identical. This is the reason why people look at deeds we would not even consider crimes as if they were capital sins, showing the same gravity during the public punishment.

Their modes of punishment are “outrages against human nature”, as culprits are publicly humiliated on the pillory, not being able to hide their faces. Hawthorne criticizes this method of punishment in particular and the Puritan society in general with irony by calling the pillory “as effectual an agent in the promotion of good citizenship as the guillotine in France”. As has been pointed out in the introduction, this mode of confessing and suffering publicly was seen as a way to help the culprit. These cruelties show the discrepancy between the way the Puritans behave and the original idea of Christianity.

Most of them, for example the “morally coarse” women who cry at Hester, are not capable of forgiving, mercy or neighbourly love. They claim to be pure Christians, but what they actually practise is a perversion of what Christianity really is. Together with their difficult situation and their religion, the suffering they had to endure in England partially explains their behaviour. They were brutally persecuted themselves because they were thought to endanger the present order, now they persecute others for exactly the same reason.

The Quakers, who believe that God can speak through every man and woman and that everyone can be enlightened by God, are harassed because their beliefs question the hierarchy of the Puritan church. Those who are at the top of this hierarchy, most of them learned scholars and men of great intellect, are highly respected by the citizens and are seen as “mortals in fellowship with angels. ” The respect they earn even goes so far that they can directly grasp political power. Hawthorne shows that concerning some of these clergymen, this respectability and piety is only a veneer.

They do not practise what they preach, Wilson for example surrounds himself in luxuries which are entirely forbidden to the normal citizens. Furthermore, the reader learns that Hester’s scarlet letter gives a “sympathetic throb” when she passes by one of the ministers, showing that he has sinned also. Besides the clergy and the soldiers, the statesmen are the third group of the tripod that forms the fundament of Puritan society. Although not as learned as the ministers, they also are respected by the citizen.

Like the clergymen, some of them also enjoy the pleasures forbidden to the general public, see for example Governor Bellingham’s house. They are leaders because of their experience, their hereditary reverence and firm character, not because they are intelligent or give new ideas and impulses to the community. As they can be easily replaced, they try their best to do what they think will help and protect the community, showing some of the better sides of the Puritan society. They are influenced by their traditions, portraits are hanging everywhere, as if critically regarding their descendants’ actions.

Therefore, they do not change their mind easily. Together with the conviction that faith counts more than good deeds, this accounts for the fact that they need a very long time to start accepting Hester. The multitude of “simple” people does not feel suppressed by these leading classes as in most other countries at that time. On the contrary, they support them and the law. “General sentiment gives law its vitality”, Hawthorne puts it critically. They are proud to be members of a community “where iniquity is dragged out to the sunshine”.

In spite of the cruelties they are capable of, Hawthorne in some cases attests them a “large and warm heart” and even “tearful sympathy”. Generally, the common people are characterised by their gloominess, but on the New England Holiday before the election, they seem to come to life. It is on that day and during the procession that their English origins show. Hawthorne detects a “dim reflection of former splendour”, a reflection that wore off entirely in the course of time; the next generations were not at all capable of celebrating freely.

Interestingly, the single day of the year on which Hawthorne depicts the Puritan crowd in high spirits is also the day on which the contrast between the Old World they originate from and the New World they have come to and to a certain extent created becomes most obvious. The New World is full of purity and piety, strong emotions and feelings have to be suppressed. Only when the settlers’ roots are discernible from their actions, the discrepancy between past and present can be conveyed to the reader.

The election day is also the only time of the year when “uncivilised” people like Indians and sailors add a little colour and “depth of hue” to the scene. Surprisingly, the rather wild and rough sailors are not frowned at, although they do not act according to Puritan laws. Those who chose to are even able to become integrated in the Puritan society, Hawthorne informs the reader, because a certain amount of respect is paid to them due to the hard battle with nature they fight every day. Nature is generally seen by the Puritans to be something that has to be fought, as it presents the complete opposite to Puritan nurture.

Only in the forest can Hester and Dimmesdale be “themselves”, and Pearl, a symbol of nature, is the subject of many rumours. The townspeople consider her to be the devil’s offspring. It is revealing that when Pearl grows older and inherits property from Chillingworth, Hawthorne says that she could easily marry into a reputable Puritan family. All in all, it can be said that Hawthorne draws a differentiated picture of Puritan society. Although harsh criticism of their practises prevails, he tries to see at least some good will and other favourable features of his ancestors. Nevertheless, he hardly manages to.