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Lessons Learned from Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter

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Lessons Learned from The Scarlet Letter

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne is considered by many to be a classic novel. In The Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne provides his audience with a real sense of the consequences of unconfessed sin, isolation from society, and the presence of evil everywhere. Through his portrayal of the main characters, his choice of setting, and his implied moral lessons, he teaches lessons that must be learned for humans to continue living in harmony with one another.

The setting of The Scarlet Letter provides a powerful connection between fact and fiction. Events such as the Salem witch trials, which occurred not long after the events of The Scarlet Letter, establish credibility for Hawthorne in that recounting historical details such as fear of witches makes him seem like he actually knows what he is talking about. Hawthorne's writing style has made him "one of the most widely read nineteenth century authors" (Jacobson 4). He upholds Puritan values and concepts while employing the classic allegorical characters of romanticism. One such Puritan value is that the devil resides in the forest. Anytime characters in The Scarlet Letter enter the forest, it is certain that something terrible just happened, is happening, or will happen soon. One such example is when the governor's sister, who is suspected of witchcraft, enters the forest and invites Hester to go with her. It is this woman who represents the idea that evil exists everywhere, especially among those who refuse to acknowledge its existence. Salem is a particularly intriguing setting because of its witch infamy. The occurrence of the witch trials in Salem creates an atmosphere where the evil and the right...

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Hawthorne's allegorical approach at real life situations provides his readers with a sense of accomplishment: a sense that if they learn lessons from others, then they will not have to learn from first hand experience. Although on the surface it may seem like another tale of Puritanistic virtue, The Scarlet Letter is the embodiment of life itself. After reading this novel, one may find that many events in real life today can relate directly to events in The Scarlet Letter.

Works Cited and Consulted:

Chase, Richard (1996). "The Lessons of the Scarlet Letter." Readings on Nathaniel Hawthorne (pp. 145-152). San Diego: Greenhaven.

Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Scarlet Letter. New York: St. Martins, 1991.

Jacobson, Gary. The Critical Response to Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter. New York: Greenwood, 1992.