Skip Nav

The Scarlet Letter Critical Essays

After she is released from prison, Hester remains in Boston because

❶There, anonymity can protect an individual and allow him or her to assume a new identity. Even Pearl recognizes that Chillingworth is a creature of the Black Man and warns her mother to stay away from him.

Quality papers at the best prices

Testimonials
From the SparkNotes Blog
Nathaniel Hawthorne

The world of Puritan New England, like the world of today, was filled with many evil influences. Many people were able to withstan No one is perfect and no one is exactly the same.

Everyone sins, and that includes telling lies. Most everyone lies at some point, In him lies the central conflict o Society does not accept the fact that The past always comes back to haunt us throughout our lives. The Godly beliefs and punishments followed by the Puritans stemmed from their English experience and complete involvement in relig Hawthorn shows sins of several different kinds in numerous people, as well as the consequences and remedies of their sins.

God does not like the sin of adultery. He does not like lying. He does not like hypocrisy. There are two roads that one can choose Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, a dark tale of sin and redemption, centers on the small Puritan community of Boston duri Nathaniel Hawthorne, a critically acclaimed American writer of the 19th century, was born in Salem, Massachusetts in Governor Bellingham is the leader of the Boston Colony.

He is therefore supposed to be one of the most pious and upstanding member In Nathaniel Hawthorne's, The Scarlet Letter, Pearl, is the human symbol of the sin of adultery in the fact that she leads her mot The story begins with an unfortunate marriage between Hester and Roger Prynne, wich leads to adultery and revenge. Nathaniel Hawthorne, author of The Scarlet Letter, felt that the Puritans were people who believed that the world was a place wher Need A College Level Paper?

The Scarlet Letter Find more results for this search now! Generally speaking, a symbol is something used to stand for something else. In literature, a symbol is most often a concrete object used to represent an idea more abstract and broader in scope and meaning — often a moral, religious, or philosophical concept or value. Symbols can range from the most obvious substitution of one thing for another, to creations as massive, complex, and perplexing as Melville's white whale in Moby Dick.

An allegory in literature is a story where characters, objects, and events have a hidden meaning and are used to present some universal lesson. Hawthorne has a perfect atmosphere for the symbols in The Scarlet Letter because the Puritans saw the world through allegory. For them, simple patterns, like the meteor streaking through the sky, became religious or moral interpretations for human events. Objects, such as the scaffold, were ritualistic symbols for such concepts as sin and penitence.

Whereas the Puritans translated such rituals into moral and repressive exercises, Hawthorne turns their interpretations around in The Scarlet Letter. The Puritan community sees Hester as a fallen woman, Dimmesdale as a saint, and would have seen the disguised Chillingworth as a victim — a husband betrayed.

Instead, Hawthorne ultimately presents Hester as a woman who represents a sensitive human being with a heart and emotions; Dimmesdale as a minister who is not very saint-like in private but, instead, morally weak and unable to confess his hidden sin; and Chillingworth as a husband who is the worst possible offender of humanity and single-mindedly pursuing an evil goal. Hawthorne's embodiment of these characters is denied by the Puritan mentality: At the end of the novel, even watching and hearing Dimmesdale's confession, many members of the Puritan community still deny what they saw.

Thus, using his characters as symbols, Hawthorne discloses the grim underside of Puritanism that lurks beneath the public piety. Some of Hawthorne's symbols change their meaning, depending on the context, and some are static.

Examples of static symbols are the Reverend Mr. Wilson, who represents the Church, or Governor Bellingham, who represents the State. But many of Hawthorne's symbols change — particularly his characters — depending on their treatment by the community and their reactions to their sins.

His characters, the scarlet A, light and darkness, color imagery, and the settings of forest and village serve symbolic purposes. Hester is the public sinner who demonstrates the effect of punishment on sensitivity and human nature.

She is seen as a fallen woman, a culprit who deserves the ignominy of her immoral choice. She struggles with her recognition of the letter's symbolism just as people struggle with their moral choices. The paradox is that the Puritans stigmatize her with the mark of sin and, in so doing, reduce her to a dull, lifeless woman whose characteristic color is gray and whose vitality and femininity are suppressed. Over the seven years of her punishment, Hester's inner struggle changes from a victim of Puritan branding to a decisive woman in tune with human nature.

When she meets Dimmesdale in the forest in Chapter 18, Hawthorne says, "The tendency of her fate and fortunes had been to set her free. The scarlet letter was her passport into regions where other women dared not tread. In time, even the Puritan community sees the letter as meaning "Able" or "Angel. In her final years, "the scarlet letter ceased to be a stigma which attracted the world's scorn and bitterness, and became a type of something to be sorrowed over, and looked upon with awe, yet with reverence, too.

Often human beings who suffer great loss and life-changing experiences become survivors with an increased understanding and sympathy for the human losses of others. Hester is such a symbol. Dimmesdale, on the other hand, is the secret sinner whose public and private faces are opposites.

Even as the beadle — an obvious symbol of the righteous Colony of Massachusetts — proclaims that the settlement is a place where "iniquity is dragged out into the sunshine," the colony, along with the Reverend Mr. Wilson, is in awe of Dimmesdale's goodness and sanctity.

Inside the good minister, however, is a storm raging between holiness and self-torture. He is unable to reveal his sin. At worst, Dimmesdale is a symbol of hypocrisy and self-centered intellectualism; he knows what is right but has not the courage to make himself do the public act. When Hester tells him that the ship for Europe leaves in four days, he is delighted with the timing. He will be able to give his Election Sermon and "fulfill his public duties" before escaping.

At best, his public piety is a disdainful act when he worries that his congregation will see his features in Pearl's face.

Dimmesdale's inner struggle is intense, and he struggles to do the right thing. He realizes the scaffold is the place to confess and also his shelter from his tormenter, Chillingworth. Yet, the very thing that makes Dimmesdale a symbol of the secret sinner is also what redeems him. Sin and its acknowledgment humanize Dimmesdale. When he leaves the forest and realizes the extent of the devil's grip on his soul, he passionately writes his sermon and makes his decision to confess.

As a symbol, he represents the secret sinner who fights the good fight in his soul and eventually wins. Pearl is the strongest of these allegorical images because she is nearly all symbol, little reality. Dimmesdale sees Pearl as the "freedom of a broken law"; Hester sees her as "the living hieroglyphic" of their sin; and the community sees her as the result of the devil's work.

She is the scarlet letter in the flesh, a reminder of Hester's sin. As Hester tells the pious community leaders in Chapter 8, ". See ye not, she is the scarlet letter, only capable of being loved, and so endowed with a million-fold the power of retribution for my sin? Pearl is also the imagination of the artist, an idea so powerful that the Puritans could not even conceive of it, let alone understand it, except in terms of transgression.

She is natural law unleashed, the freedom of the unrestrained wilderness, the result of repressed passion. When Hester meets Dimmesdale in the forest, Pearl is reluctant to come across the brook to see them because they represent the Puritan society in which she has no happy role. Here in the forest, she is free and in harmony with nature.

Her image in the brook is a common symbol of Hawthorne's. He often uses a mirror to symbolize the imagination of the artist; Pearl is a product of that imagination. When Dimmesdale confesses his sin in the light of the sun, Pearl is free to become a human being.

All along, Hester felt there was this redeemable nature in her daughter, and here she sees her faith rewarded. Pearl can now feel human grief and sorrow, as Hester can, and she becomes a sin redeemed. Chillingworth is consistently a symbol of cold reason and intellect unencumbered by human compassion. While Dimmesdale has intellect but lacks will, Chillingworth has both. He is fiendish, evil, and intent on revenge. In his first appearance in the novel, he is compared to a snake, an obvious allusion to the Garden of Eden.

Chillingworth becomes the essence of evil when he sees the scarlet letter on Dimmesdale's breast in Chapter 10, where there is "no need to ask how Satan comports himself when a precious human soul is lost to heaven, and won into his kingdom. Eventually, his evil is so pervasive that Chillingworth awakens the distrust of the Puritan community and the recognition of Pearl.

Logging out…

Main Topics

Privacy Policy

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.

Privacy FAQs

Free the scarlet letter papers, essays, and research papers.

About Our Ads

The Scarlet Letter's first chapter ends with an admonition to "relieve the darkening close of a tale of human frailty and sorrow" with "some sweet moral blossom." These opposites are found throughout the novel and often set the tone and define which side of good and evil envelop the characters. Essays and criticism on Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter - Critical Essays.

Cookie Info

Free Essay: In The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne, the author presents three symbols that all reinforce the main idea of the novel. The main idea that. Free Term Papers on The Scarlet Letter available at fast-tri-29.cf, the largest free term paper community.