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The Scarlett Letter Essay, Research Paper

In the novel, The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne Hester Prynne wore a red letter ?A? on her breast. The symbol stood for adultery, a sin which she had been convicted of. This public humiliation of having to wear the bright crimson ?A? was her punishment for becoming pregnant without being married. Despite the efforts of the church, she would not however reveal the name of the second party involved in the affair. Ironically, the father of the child happened to be the young town minister, Arthur Dimmesdale. He was a man of the cloth, a pillar of the community, and greatly admired by all. If his act of adultery was exposed, it would have a major impact on the whole town, so Hester chose to remain silent.

Although Dimmesdale went without public punishment, the agony of guilt took toll on his conscience, and he became very ill. He soon invited his physician, Roger Chillingsworth, to live with him and care for his weakening condition. The young minister was so torn inside, that he finally exposed himself to his physician, who happened to be Hester Prynne?s long lost husband. Chillingsworth reappears in Hester?s life only to find her with a child that wasn?t his. He was determined to find the child?s father, and had long suspected Dimmesdale. His plan of recruiting Dimmesdale?s trust soon paid off when he revealed himself as the father of Hester?s child.

As the time passed, Dimmesdale grew weaker and with each passing day, as he sunk further and further into his sorrows and guilt. Even though he was very young, and in excellent health when the novel began, in just a few short years he became bedridden and eventually was so overcome with guilt, he parished. His few moments of pleasure led him to a miserable and lengthy death.

I believe that the point of Hawthorne writing about this eighteenth century drama was to reveal to the rest of the world of the importance of religion and the impact of the church on the people who lived in the early colonies. I also believe that he knew that adultery would be a prominent and controversial issue in the years to come. I think that he was trying to show his readers just how powerful the church was then, and how much authority rested in the hands of the trusted church authorities. You often times have heard stories about individuals being punished by the early church and how powerful he church was, but Hawthorne?s writing brought about a realistic view to history. Hawthorne knew upon writing the novel that adultery had been an issue in the past, and would be in the future. How the moral issue would be handled legally, and how the offenders would be punished would change with the times. I think this book is an excellent source of historical knowledge that took a more social approach to the time it was written, and therefore was more interesting to his readers. I found this socialistic approach very appealing, and would recommend reading this novel.

Even though the style and technique of writing were somewhat out dated, the message that Hawthorne was trying to convey was clear; adultery was a sin punishable by law in the eighteenth century. Although I understood the central idea and plot of the story, I found it challenging to understand some of the passage. I had to re-read several parts of the novel because some of the words used by Hawthorne are not used in the English language today. Hawthorne went into great detail into the characters thoughts and feelings. Several chapters were entirely based upon the cognition?s of one person. I think that some of the details could have been left out, and I would have still understood the plot. He was very thorough in his descriptions of his characters, and often times I could picture myself in the town or the scenes he was writing about. If this book were to be rewritten into today?s English, I think that it would be more popular than in is today.

Even though the novel was a work of fiction, I think that instances similar to those described in the Scarlet Letter are probably an accurate description of similar events that actually did take place. Hawthorne knew that the moral issue of adultery would be a timeless problem that would entice readers for generations to come. Hawthorne supports the ideas of the ever powerful church by the fact that church officials were the ones to give Hester her punishment, and carry out her sentence. She wasn?t imprisoned for a great amount of time, but was forced to be publicly humiliated for he rest of her life. This supports the idea that they were not as concerned with the crime, but with the moral issue of the sin she had committed. She was also more severely punished because she would not reveal the name of the second party involved in the adulterous act. This said to me that the officials were more interested in who had committed the sin, not the actual sin itself.

I believe that this novel portrays an accurate sense of the power of the church in the eighteenth century. It also portrays how the laws were carried out by humiliation instead of lengthy jail sentences, or other practices carried out today. I think that this novel adds a great deal of information to the body of political, religious, and sociological history. Hawthorne did a wonderful job of showing today?s generation that adultery was evident in early history, and is not a new issue. He knew that his portrail of an early ?soap opera? would be popular for years to come


Hawthorne, Nathanael. The Scarlett Letter.

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