The Scarlet Letter - Analysis English Composition Essays, Book Reports, Term Papers

This essay The Scarlet Letter - Analysis English Composition Essays, Book Reports, Term Papers has a total of 2805 words and 11 pages.

The Scarlet Letter - Analysis Adultery, betrayal, promiscuity, deception, and conspiracy, all of which would make an excellent coming attraction on the Hollywood scene and probably a rather erotic book. Add Puritan ideals and writing styles, making it long, drawn out, sleep inducing, tedious, dim-witted, and the end result is The Scarlet Letter. Despite all these unfavorable factors it is considered a classic and was a statement of the era (Letter 1). The Scarlet Letter is pervaded with profound symbolism and revolves around the idea that hidden guilt causes more suffering than open guilt. This theme along with its symbolism is demonstrated through the lives of the three main characters - Hester Pyrnne, Arthur Dimmesdale, and Roger Chillingworth throughout the story. Their personalities are shown most clearly during the scaffold scenes. These scenes are the most substantial situations in the story because they illustrate the immediate, delayed, and prolonged effects that the sin of adultery has on the main characters (Analysis1). In the first scene, everyone in the town is gathered in the market place because Hester is being questioned about the identity of the father of her child - Pearl (analysis 1). Hester experiences open guilt through being publicly punished for adultery. She is being forced to stand on it for three hours straight to be ridiculed and ostracized by the community. Dimmesdale however refuses to admit that he committed adultery and thereby eventually suffers hidden guilt. His 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 (letter 3). Though he never actually says that he is not the other parent, he implies it by talking of the father in third person. 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-suffer." Chillingworth's first reaction is one of shock, but he quickly suppresses it. 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 long though, because it is his nature to control his emotions. Chillingworth, subordinating his intellect to his desire for revenge, ultimately destroys himself (stack 34 1). Everything about him gradually changes into evil. Even his facial expressions become noticeably different. The main characters sharply contrast each other in the way they react to Hester and Dimmesdale's sin. To begin, Hester becomes stronger, more enduring, and even more sympathetic. She becomes stronger because of all the weight she has to carry. She is a single mother who suffers all of the burdens of parenthood by herself. They live on the edge of town, and Pearl has no one to give her food, shelter and emotional support besides Hester. Pearl is especially difficult to raise because she is anything but normal. Hawthorne gives a pretty accurate description of Pearl when he writes: The child could not be made amenable to rules. In giving her existence, a great law had been broken; and the result was a being whose elements were perhaps beautiful and brilliant, but all in disorder; or with an order peculiar to themselves, amidst which the point of variety and arrangement was difficult or impossible to be discovered (analysis 5). Pearl serves as a representation of Hester's relationship with Dimmesdale. Initially Pearl symbolizes the shame of Hester's public punishment for adultery. Then as Pearl grew older, she symbolizes the decimation of Hester's life and mental state by harassing her mother over the scarlet "A" which embroidered on her dress. Although Hester had so much trouble with Pearl, she still felt Pearl was her only treasure. Without Pearl, Hester's life would have been meaningless. Once a while Pearl would bring joy to Hester's life. In a way she symbolizes a rose to her mother, but at other times she could be wilting. It was at these "wilting" times that brought Hester the most grief. In another aspect, Pearl symbolizes God's way of punishing Hester for adultery and was really the scarlet letter (analysis 5). If Pearl had never been born, Hester would have never been found guilty of adultery, and thus never would have had to war that burden upon her chest. Without that burden, she would have led a much better life. Pearl, from being a rose, to representing the scarlet letter "A", she was a kind of burden, yet love for Hestor. Not only was Pearl her mother's only treasure, she was her mother's only source of survival. Hester becomes a highly respected person in a Puritan society by overcoming one of the harshest punishments, the scarlet letter (puritan 1). This object on "her bosom"; however, does the exact opposite of that which it was meant for. Eventually, Hester inverts all the odds against here due to her courage, pride and effort. Hester went beyond the letter of the law and did everything asked for here in order to prove that she is "able". (letter 4). Hester became quite a popular seamstress, admired all over the town of Boston for her work. After years of proving her worth with her uncommon sewing skills and providing community service, the colonists come to think of the scarlet letter as "the cross on a nun's bosom." (analysis 5). The only piece of clothing forbidden to create was the wedding vail. Hester also becomes more sensitive to the feelings and needs of other people. She feels that her own sin gives her "sympathetic knowledge of the hidden sin in other hearts". (analysis 5). So even though the people she tried to help "often reviled the hand that was stretched forth to succor them." Although she does the job willingly and rarely ever looks back to the horrid past behind. The scarlet letter was constantly worn by Hester with pride and dignity (stack 34 2). Hester knew that what was done in the past was wrong and that the scarlet A was the right thing to do, therefore it is worn with a sense of pride. While Hester tries to make the best out of her situation, Dimmesdale becomes weaker by letting guilt and grief eat away at his conscience, reducing him to a shriveling, pathetic creature. Dimmesdale can not accept the loss of innocence and go on from there. He must struggle futilely to get back to where he was. Dimmesdale punishes himself by believing that he can never be redeemed. He feels that he will never be seen the same in the eyes of God, and that no amount of repentance can ever return him to God's good graces. He is so touchy on this subject that when Hester says his good deeds will count for something in God's view, he exclaims, "There is no substance in it! It is cold and dead and can do nothing for me!" (Hawthorne 202). The Reverend seems to want to reveal himself, at times he realizes his hypocrisy and comes to the verge of confession, only to retreat into vague proclamations of guilt. But Chillingworth's influence and his own shame are stronger than his weak conscience. Dimmesdale cannot surrender an identity which brings him the love and admiration of his parishioners. He is far too intent on his earthly image to willingly reveal his sin. This inability to confess causes Dimmesdale great anguish and self-hatred. At one point he lashes himself with a whip, and at the end of the book we find that he has inscribed the letter "A" into his own chest. Dimmesdale also believes that his sin has taken the meaning out of his life. His life's work has been dedicated to God, and now his sin has tainted it (analysis 6). He feels that he is a fraud and is not fit to lead the people of the town to salvation. The feeling is so oppressive that the chance of escaping his work and leaving with Hester and Pearl makes him emotionally (and probably mentally) unstable. He walks through the town with twice as much energy as normal, and he barely stops himself from swearing to a fe

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