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Scarlet Letter Essay, Research Paper

The Influence of GOD In The Characters of The Scarlet Letter The scenes and characters in The Scarlet Letter amplify the Biblical Significance in that God s place is not only in the church but in the government as well. This creates a closed society based on strict principles and morals. In that, conviction lies not in breaking the laws, but in breaking the Commandments. Those in charge for go the governmental laws, for fear of Satan s take over. They then lose sight of all normalcy in their zeal for executing God s laws leading to societal chaos. The first scene shows Hester being publicly punished on the scaffold (Hawthorne 52). She is being forced to stand on it for three hours straight and listen to people talk about her as a disgrace and a shame to the community (55). Dimmesdale’s instantaneous response to the sin is to lie. He stands before Hester and the rest of the town and proceeds to give a moving speech about how it would be in her and the father’s best interest for her to reveal the father’s name (67). Though he never actually says that he is not the other parent, he implies it by talking of the father in third person (67). Such as, “If thou feelest it to be for thy soul’s peace, and that thy earthly punishment will thereby be made more effectual to salvation, I charge thee to speak out the name of thy fellow-sinner and fellow-sufferer” (67). Chillingworth’s first reaction is one of shock, but he quickly suppresses it (61). Since his first sight of his wife in two years is of her being punished for being unfaithful to him, he is naturally surprised. It does not last for long though, because it is his nature to control his emotions (61). Pearl’s very existence in this scene is the largest immediate effect of her parents’ crime (52). She obviously would never have been there had her parents resisted their love for each other. The second scene occurs several years later and shows the effects after time has had a chance to play its part. It begins with Dimmesdale climbing the stairs of the scaffold in the middle of the night because it is the closest that he can come to confessing his sin (152). This scene is especially important because it shows how pitiful he has become. Dimmesdale shows just how irrational he is when he screams aloud because he fears that the universe is staring at a scarlet token on his breast (153). It also shows how much guilt he is carrying by the way he perceives the light from a meteor as the letter A. He believes it stands for adulteress while other people think it stands for angel since the governor just passed away (Lathrop 161). This scene also shows how Hester is managing her new situation. When Dimmesdale tells her to come up the scaffold and asks her where she has been, she replies that she has been measuring the robe that the governor is to be buried in (Hawthorne 158). This statement implies that Hester’s reputation as a talented seamstress has spread. Ironically, her first well-known piece of work was the scarlet letter that she wore on her chest. As a result, she owes her own success to her infamy. Besides growing older, Pearl’s most significant change is in her perceptibility (158). In this scene, she constantly asks Dimmesdale if he will be joining Hester and herself on the scaffold tomorrow at noon and accuses him of not being true (162). Neither Hester nor Dimmesdale ever-told Pearl who her father was, but she figures it out by the way he always holds his hand over his heart (159). Chillingworth’s derangement is evident in this scene also. His contempt for Dimmesdale is so acute that he risks his cover when he gives him a look so vivid as to remain painted on the darkness after the bright meteor that just passed, vanishes (161). The third scene is very critical because it is the last glimpse into every character s mind and the last time that everyone is alive. At this point in time, Dimmesdale’s fixation on his sin has utterly corroded him to the point of death. After he gives his Election Day sermon, he goes to the scaffold and asks Hester and Pearl to join him because he is so weak that he can hardly support himself (Bloom 265). He finally exposes the truth and tells his followers of how he deceived them (267). The only good that comes out of conceding his guilt is that he passed away without any secrets, for he was already too far gone to be able to be saved (269). This scene is important to the characterization of Hester because it is the first time that she is not in complete control of her emotions (264). Her dream of escaping to England with Dimmesdale is lost when he decides to confess (264). The unanticipated arrival of Chillingworth and Dimmesdale’s feeble appearance distresses her, and for the first time, she can not control the outcome (264). The greatest transformation in Pearl’s life occurs in this scene. While she used to be perceived as elfish, she now shows the first signs of normal human emotion. After Dimmesdale confesses his sin, she kisses his lips voluntarily (268). “The great scene of grief had developed all her sympathies; and 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” (268). Ultimately, Chillingworth takes a severe turn for the worse when Dimmesdale reveals his sin. Since Chillingworth based the rest of his life on playing games on Dimmesdale’s mind, he was left without any goals, and his life became meaningless (268).The largest cause of Dimmesdale’s breakdown is the fact that he keeps his sin a

secret. As God’s servant, it is his nature to tell the truth, so the years of pretending are especially hard on him. His secret guilt is such a burden that instead of going with Hester to England and perhaps having a chance to live longer, he chose to stand, confess and perish on the scaffold (Hawthorne 268). Ultimately, Chillingworth responds to his wife’s betrayal by sacrificing everything in order to seek revenge. After he discovers that his wife bore another man’s child, Chillingworth gives up his independence. He used to be a scholar who dedicated his best years “to feed the hungry dream of knowledge,” but his new allegiance becomes finding and slowly punishing the man who seduced his wife (Crews 74). He soon becomes obsessed with his new mission in life, and when he targeted Reverend Dimmesdale as the possible parent, he dedicates all of his time to becoming his confidant in order to get his retribution (127). Vengeance was also one of the reasons that Chillingworth gives up his identity. The only way he can truly corrupt Dimmesdale is to live with him and be by his side all day, every day. The only possible way to do that is to give up his true identity as Roger Prynne, Hester’s husband, and become Roger Chillingworth. Since the only person who knew his true identity is sworn to silence, he succeeds for a long time in tricking Dimmesdale until Hester sees that he was going mad and finally revealed Chillingworth’s true identity (Hawthorne 204). His largest sacrifice is by far, his own life. After spending so much time dwelling on his revenge, Chillingworth forgets that he still has a chance to lead a life of his own. So accordingly, after Dimmesdale reveals his secret to the world, Chillingworth dies less than a year later because he has nothing left to live for (272). The novel revolves around two major symbols: light and darkness and the scarlet letter. The book is filled with light and darkness symbols because it represents the most common battle of all time, good versus evil. When Hester and her daughter are walking in the forest, Pearl exclaims mother; the sunshine does not love you. It runs away and hides itself, because it is afraid of something on your bosom. Now see! There it is, playing, a good way off. Stand you here, and let me run and catch it. I am but a child. It will not flee from me, for I wear nothing on my bosom yet (192) Hester tries to stretch her hand into the circle of light, but the sunshine vanishes (192). She then suggests that they go into the forest and rest (193). This short scene actually represents Hester’s daily struggle in life. The light represents what Hester wants to be, which is pure. The movement of the light represents Hester’s constant denial of acceptance. Hester’s lack of surprise and quick suggestion to go into the forest, where it is dark, shows that she never expected to be admitted and is resigned to her station in life. Another way light and darkness is used in symbolism is by the way Hester and Dimmesdale’s plan to escape is doomed. Hester and Dimmesdale meet in the shadows of the forest with a gloomy sky and a threatening storm overhead when they discuss their plans for the future (Lathrop 200). The gloomy weather and shadows exemplify the fact that they can not get away from the repressive force of their sins. It is later proven when Dimmesdale dies on the scaffold instead of leaving with Hester and going to England (269). A final example occurs by the way Hester and Dimmesdale can not acknowledge their love in front of others. When they meet in the woods, they feel that, “No golden light had ever been so precious as the gloom of this dark forest (206). This emotion foretells that they will never last together openly because their sin has separated them too much from normal life. In closing, one of the most important reasons that The Scarlet Letter is so well known is the way Hawthorne leaves the novel open to be interpreted several different ways by his abundant use of symbolism. This background, together with a believable plot, convincing characterization, and important literary devices enables Nathaniel Hawthorne in The Scarlet Letter to the develop the theme of the heart as a prison. Hawthorne describes the purpose of the novel when he says, “Be true! Be true! Be true! Show freely to the world, if not your worse, yet some trait whereby the worst may be inferred!” (Hawthorne 272). The theme is beneficial because it can be put into terms in today’s world. The Scarlet Letter is one of the few books that will be timeless, because it deals with alienation, sin, punishment, and guilt, emotions that will continue to be felt by every generation to come. Bibliography Of Sources Consulted Colacurio, Michael J., ed. New Essays on The Scarlet Letter. New York: Cambridge, 1985 Life Application Bible: New International Version. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1991 Martin, Terence Nathaniel Hawthorne. Boston: Twayne, 1983 Pearson, Holmes, ed. The Complete Novels and Selected Tales of Nathaniel Hawthorne. New York: The Modern Library, 1937 Bibliography of Sources Cited Bloom, Harold, ed. Nathaniel Hawthorne. New York: Chelsea House, 1986 Crews, Frank C., ed. Great Short Works of Nathaniel Hawthorne. New York: Harper & Row, 1967. Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Scarlet Letter. New York: Penguin, 1962. Lathrop, George P. A Study of Hawthorne. Boston: Riverside, 1876.


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