Seducing human passion, The Scarlet Letter examines the struggle of a condemned sinner and the power of love. As one of the most widely read books in American fiction, Nathaniel Hawthorne describes the fictional account of Hester Prynne, Arthur Dimmesdale, Roger Chillingworth, and Pearl in the epic style of Romanticism in one seventeenth-century Puritan village in New England. After two long years, she assumes that her spouse may have perished at sea; Hester considers herself a widow, however, Roger Chillingworth appears in the New England town indeed alive concealing his identity. He discovers his wife wears the infamous scarlet letter “A” on the chest as a penance of her adulterous affair with Arthur Dimmesdale thus, he sets out to seek revenge. Ultimately, in his renowned novel The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne illustrates a stylistic approach in the quest for justice while revealing a complex rendering of love, sin, remorse and redemption in seventeenth-century America.
Love, Sin, Remorse, and Redemption
Coupled together with the predominant image of the embroidered scarlet letter “A” as well as Hester’s struggles of love, sin, remorse and redemption; Hawthorne creates a wide range of contemporary thematic patterns and character types such as, feminism; literary symbolism; morality; and Puritanism (Habich & Nowatzki, 2010). The Scarlet Letter encompasses both romantic and anti-transcendentalist views and traditions organized throughout the central theme of sin. Hawthorne frequently implied anti-transcendentalist or dark romantic themes in The Scarlet Letter as he unveils his difference with the Romanticism point of view by recounting the evidence of sin and immoral behavior in man, or individual inclination toward evil (Turner, 1936).
Hawthorne’s perceptiveness of tradition is illustrated in The Scarlet Letter. For instance, Hawthorne delved into the outcome of long-established Puritan domestic and theological tendencies on three categories of sinners: the unfaithful (Hester), the hypocrite (Dimmesdale) and the revenger (Chillingworth), only to lay the foundation for the penance they impose on themselves takes precedence on the public criticism (Hawthorne, 1850). Although, the scarlet letter worn on the dress is certainly a reflection of a terrible sin to Hester Prynne, the letter shifts to be a blessing upon her. Therefore, as the themes of the novel evolve along with the letter “A”, Hester exemplifies the most evolved and redeemed in the story more than any other individual in the novel.
Major Characteristics of Romanticism evident in The Scarlet Letter
Captivated by the inner reactions of sin, remorse, and even redemption; Hawthorne’s conviction with the consciousness of sin, impact characteristics in The Scarlet Letter (Boonyaprasop, 2013). What is more, Hawthorne epitomizes as an anti-transcendentalist or dark romantic writer in The Scarlet Letter. Additionally, Hawthorne similarly dwelled greatly in the innermost, clandestine passionate and perceptual psyches of each of the characters (Boonyaprasop, 2013). Hawthorne did not favor the unsparing view of an individual’s behavior taken by the Puritan’s and used his account of passionately painful chastisement to express such tone in The Scarlet Letter (Turner, 1936). Over the length of the novel, Hawthorne provides Hester an impervious view that personifies her character. When the townspeople attempt to discipline Hester through various punishments including disgracing her on the town platform, an imposed dress requirement, and critical declarations, Hester’s behavior metamorphoses. Hester stands confident, her child in hand, upon the unpleasant township scaffold; appearing impervious by the intolerant outrage of the New England inhabitants (Hawthorne, 1850). The Scarlet Letter successfully captures the development and characteristics of individuality and self-confidence from America’s Puritan and traditionalist roots, which embodies much of Romanticism in American Literature (Habich & Nowatzki, 2010).
Major Narrative devices of The Scarlet Letter
Along with Hawthorne’s characteristic outlook of Romanticism, He further employs numerous narrative devices in The Scarlet Letter. Throughout the book, Hawthorne writes from the viewpoint of a third-person narrator. Hawthorne’s use of formal language makes evident that he expresses a lot of admiration towards Hester and deems women are accomplished souls that warrant treatment with value and respect. Hawthorne exercises various methodologies to convey his opinions and attitudes towards Hester, such as forms of dictions, forms of appeal, and various forms of figurative language (Turner, 1936). The diction adapted to describe the scarlet letter on its own is artful and prevailing, indicating the power of the letter “A” had in affecting how the public viewed Hester Prynne “It was so artistically done, with so much fertility and gorgeous luxuriance of fancy that it had all the effect of a last fitting decoration to the apparel which she wore…” (Hawthorne & Murfin, 2006). The scarlet letter worn stood as a prominent mark of Cain to Hester Prynne labeling her sin, offense of infidelity and the scarlet letter branding her until death as an adulteress. Furthermore, the tone, diction, and imagery of Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter invoke a set of awful affliction, intensifying dishonor and finally redemption with the use of solid imagery and diction help set the mood from this novel.
Such methods have been adapted by authors for centuries to set stronger and more substantial settings and tones. The Scarlet Letter is abounding amid dynamic images and foreboding language to help set the overall mood of suspicion, regret and intolerance in Puritan New England. Hawthorne heavily hints through the novel Dimmesdale is Pearl’s father, thus the disclosure of his being should be a revelation to the reader, which could be reflected as foreshadowing. Hawthorne additionally uses symbolism to communicate a thematic awareness that people are not always what they appear on the surface. His use of the scaffold and the letter “A” together serves this purpose. The scaffold initially is a place of disgrace for Hester and concealment for Dimmesdale. This symbol surfaces occasionally throughout the course of the book until its symbolic meaning changes. At the induction of the new governor, when Dimmesdale stands on the scaffold for what will be the final time, it becomes a place of redemption mutually for him and Hester. Furthermore, to add to foreshadowing and symbolism, Hawthorne’s use of tone is highly skeptical, It initially marks Hester as a shamed woman, an outsider to the strict rules of Puritan society, but again through the progression of the novel, the significant shifts and the “A” takes on the meaning of able. This again reveals to the reader that who Hester was at the core was not who she seemed to be.
In modern-day life, strong emotions manage to guide the actions individuals make on a daily basis. Having such an intense emotion can lead an individual to believe a deceitful or unlawful action is one of good. Take, for example, this tale of Hester Prynne’s shameful journey, The Scarlet Letter. Moreover, The Scarlet Letter examines the heartbreaking tale of sin and chastisement in the unkind circle of one traditional Puritan town in New England. Creating powerful imagery of seventeenth-century Puritan New England, elements of dark Romanticism, thematic and literary diction create the impactful narrative of Hester Prynne’s tale of love, sin, remorse, and redemption.