The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

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Nathaniel Hawthorne, author of famed novel, The Scarlet Letter, came from a long line of puritans. The family name of Hawthorne, was one of strict puritanistic ideals, which translated into topics covered in his literary works. When Hawthorne’s father died of yellow fever at sea when he was only four, his mother became overly protective and pushed him to isolation. All of Hawthorne’s fictional characters are believed to be figurative confrontations of good and evil. Almost all of his characters can be classified as one of these two types. Most of Hawthorne's early stories were published anonymously in magazines and giftbooks, 19th century, lavishly decorated compilations of collected essays, short fiction, and poetry. Through both emotional and physical drama and literary elements such as symbolism, Nathaniel Hawthorne conveys his thoughts about who can truly judge a person for their sins, saying that it is not society’s job to judge but rather God himself.
Emotionally dramatic scenes in The Scarlet Letter show Hawthorne’s opinions about judgement. For example, when Hester leaves the jail and is revealed for the crowd, her first instincts were to clutch her baby closer to her and brace for what was about to happen. “In a moment, however, wisely judging that one token of her shame would but poorly serve to hide another, she took the baby on her arm, and, with a burning blush, and yet a haughty smile, and a glance that would not be abashed, looked around at her townspeople and neighbours. On the breast of her gown, in fine red cloth, surrounded with an elaborate embroidery and fantastic flourishes of gold thread, appeared the letter A”
Carpenter 2
(Hawthorne 39-40). This passage shows how Hester accepts h...

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...was powerful and peculiar. All the light and graceful foliage of her character had been withered up by this harsh outline” (Hawthorne 125). These passages reflect the true power that the most prominent symbol in the story, the scarlet letter ‘A’ had. Writer, Charles Feidelson, Jr., comments on additional meanings of the scarlet ‘A’ regarding when the narrator came across the manuscript. “It is not primarily a moment of conscience, for Hawthorne carefully avoids any explicit reference to the theme of
Carpenter 4 adultery or even to the idea of sin. As a single letter, the most indeterminate of all symbols, and first letter of the alphabet, the beginning of all communication, Hester’s emblem represents a potential point of coherence within a manifold historical experience” (Feidelson 33). Throughout the story, the ‘A’ of ‘adultery’ turned into an ‘A’ for ‘able’.
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