preview

The Scarlett Letter: Civil and Natural Law

Failure to respect God's standards often roots obscurity in recognizing one's own sins. For this reason, Nathaniel Hawthorne attempts to maintain a dark and truthful view of mankind, his romantic historical fiction novel; The Scarlet Letter reveals both the author and man's common struggle to discern the difference between Civil and Natural Law, the means by which they deceive themselves, justify their actions, and seek redemption. Not to mention, the setting impacts the evolution of the plot dramatically as certain bold individuals take on the role of romantic heroes, fighting the Puritan Utopia in both a proper and improper manner. Consequently, a recurring theme is continually developed as transcendentalists view man as inherently good and Hawthorne exposes the reality of man’s wickedness. However, Hawthorne's conflicting views of human nature are clearly evident as he both sympathizes and rebukes the transgressions of the Puritan society though each of four main characters.

While venturing to portray an omniscient viewpoint, Hawthorne blurs the lines between relativity and reality regarding sin. Particularly, the author pities Hester Prynne's condition, but goes so far to rationalize and vindicate her sins. Hawthorne emphasizes his similarities to the marked mother, saying “That scarlet letter so fantastically embroidered and illuminated upon her bosom. It had the effect of a spell, taking her out of the ordinary relations with humanity, and enclosing her in a sphere by herself” (Hawthorne 37). Accordingly, the author establishes his connection to Hester by expressing his relation to alienation. The author confides that a man like himself with puritan values is not easily inclined to reveal sin that is hidden within his own...

... middle of paper ...

...falsehood depicts dismissal of wrongdoing and foreignness of sin, when in reality, error organically births forth in human nature.
The author's lack of resolve adds a conundrum to the way of salvation; therefore suggesting that man is ultimately doomed due to his sinful nature.
Unceasingly, several characters in the novel portray this conflict as they seek to evoke redemption and gain acceptance. As evidence, the narrator singles out Hester's compromise saying, “[She] never battled with the public, but submitted uncomplainingly to its worst usage; she made no claim upon it, in requital for what she suffered; she did not weigh upon its sympathies” (Hawthorne 160). Suggestingly, the composer is calling out her compromise in order to show her weakness.

Works Cited

Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Scarlet Letter. Pleasantville, NY: Reader's Digest Association, 1984. Print.
Get Access