The Scarlet Letter By Nathaniel Hawthorne

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Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel The Scarlet Letter has a very wide cast of characters, but settles upon three distinct main ones. These three characters are all very different, but still suffer from the same internal conflict regarding their relationships with one another. One theme can be associated with each individual character, but a single trait is common among all three. Love, fear, and revenge are all primary themes present in The Scarlet Letter, but no other emotion is as prevalent to the characters’ developments than their guilt. These themes give us a sense of how different, but also how similar, these characters are. The very heart of the novel’s conflict begins with the protagonist, Hester Prynne. Her crime of adultery is presented at the beginning with her public shaming, and her burden of wearing the scarlet letter A. As the book goes on, we find out who her fellow sinner was, and how their situation developed. This is where love is evident as the starting emotion for Hester, later developing into guilt after her punishment begins. After leaving Rodger back in the old world, she had fallen in love with a man she knew she could not have. She has expressed it through her actions throughout the book, but finally states it so at the end of the book. “Such was the ruin to which she had brought the man she once…so passionately loved” (159)! This love soon returned to her as guilt for what she had done. Her old husband, Rodger Chillingworth, had finally made his way to the New World, and his first sight is his own wife standing upon the scaffold in the square for her crime of adultery. Hester recognized him, and later spoke to him back in her jail cell about what had happened. Rodger states, “My heart was a habitat large enou... ... middle of paper ... ...Dimmesdale that he feels as if he has no purpose to live in the months following the minister’s death. Even though he managed to suppress his initial guilt, the revenge that ensued consumed his life and his own mental sanity, leading to his own tragic demise. In conclusion, a simple common trait such as guilt can have both good and bad results on a character’s individual personality and development. This guilt can be influenced by several factors, such as another prevalent trait. Identifying these traits can allow the reader to feel a greater connection to the characters. Such is the case with Hawthorne’s characters. Taking such a stressful case and providing three different points of view on guilt and how it influences each character can give a story depth and appeal. In the end, whether in fiction or reality, guilt can prove itself to be a very powerful emotion.
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