Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter

Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter

Length: 1898 words (5.4 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Excellent

Open Document

Essay Preview

More ↓
In the scarlet letter the core of the story line revolves around a movement known as the Puritan. The Puritan movement began when King Henry declared England's independence from the Church of Rome and he appointed himself head of the new Church of England. King Henry did this because he wanted to divorce his wife Catherine of Aragon in order to marry Anne Boleyn. By appointing himself head of the Church of England he was able to grant himself his own divorce that the pope would not give him. At first there was little difference between the Church of England and the Roman Catholic but later with the spread of Protestant reformers such as John Calvin the church began to change. Some people thought the church of England retained too many of the superstitious practises of the Roman Catholic Church. They wanted simpler truths and less structured forms of worship like the earlier Christians, because they wanted to purify the Church of England, they got the name of Puritans. John Geree describes the puritans as "one, that honoured God above all, and under God gave every one his due"!
These Puritans followed a very strict code of practise; they were greatly influenced by the bible, their ministers and the government. They sometimes seemed to follow their codes of practise a little too seriously and seem almost hypocritical and farfetched at times, i.e. during the period of the Salem witch trials.
The history of Puritan Society itself portrays the Puritan society and its leaders as having the right intentions for a stable and necessary environment, the fact that they were trying to live "purely," shows that they had their hearts in the right place, but it was never their outright intentions to produce a hypocritical society.

How to Cite this Page

MLA Citation:
"Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter." 14 Aug 2018

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

Evil is In the Eyes of the Beholder: "The Scarlet Letter", by Nathaniel Hawthorne

- In society there are always two kinds of people, good people and bad people. The good people, the teachers pets who always do everything right. They follow the rules and always think of others. Then, you have to bad people, the trouble makers who always do the wrong thing. They break the rules and do things their way. Everyone is classified in one group or the other, and is always thought to be good or bad. In the novel, The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Pearl is evil. Pearl is doomed from the beginning to be evil....   [tags: Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne, characters, e]

Research Papers
1604 words (4.6 pages)

Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter Essay

- In Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, the Puritan community banned all forms of sin. Sin was looked upon as evil, being connected to the devil and his dark ways. Hester Prynne, the main character of the story, was shunned by the rest of the Puritan world after committing the sin of adultery. She lived in a world where it was not accepted. She was isolated from the world around her, having little hope. Throughout the novel, symbols such as the character of the kind woman, the wild rose bush outside of the prison doors and the character of Pearl, Hester Prynne's illegitimate child, are used to show that even in a world full of sin and darkness, there is always hope....   [tags: Scarlet Letter Nathaniel Hawthorne]

Free Essays
940 words (2.7 pages)

The Suffering of Arthur Dimmesdale in "The Scarlet Letter" by Nathaniel Hawthorne

- Guilt is a very strong emotion, and it can take a merciless toll on a person. For most people, guilt is often a short-lived feeling because we confess why we feel guilty and get it off of our chests. However, this is hardly the case for Arthur Dimmesdale, the father of Hester Prynne’s child in the novel The Scarlet Letter. Dimmesdale does not confess that he has committed a sin with Hester, and for a brutal seven whole years, he withholds his guilt inside of him. Throughout all of that time, he reverts to self-punishment in the form of fasting, consecutive, sleepless vigils, and relentless studying of the Bible....   [tags: Nathaniel Hawthorne, Scarlet Letter, guilt,]

Research Papers
994 words (2.8 pages)

The Forest as a Place of Truth and Freedom in Nathaniel Hawthorne's "The Scarlet Letter"

- The forest in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel, The Scarlet Letter, represents an array of personas. Both rumors and scandal surround the forest, causing a biased view of this secluded location within the Puritan community. Yet, Hawthorne designates the forest as a place of truth, independence, and joy to those with secrets. Boston’s Puritan society of the mid 1600’s feared the near-bye forest. Believing that “the black man that haunts the forest” (71) and that the witches who do the devil’s work there, the townspeople are warned to stay away the sinful place....   [tags: Nathaniel Hawthorne, Scarlet Letter, ]

Research Papers
761 words (2.2 pages)

Essay on Secrets in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s "The Scarlet Letter"

- Secrets can destroy even the most respected people. Sometimes is not the secret itself that drives people into exhaustion, but the emotional baggage that comes with it. In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, Reverend Dimmesdale physically deteriorates because of his guilt caused by a dishonorable sin. The Puritan society in which the story is set discourages the idea of the private self, which Hawthorne shows by creating distinctions between the characters’ private and public lives, specifically Dimmesdale’s....   [tags: Nathaniel Hawthorne, Scarlet Letter, secrets, ]

Research Papers
619 words (1.8 pages)

Essay on A Perception of Sin: Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter

- Through out the course of history, those who were considered sinners were often out casted from the society. This is much the case with Hester Prynne in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. After a public trial, Hester is considered a sinner due to her birthing of a so called “devil child”. Hester is convicted to the life long bearing of a scarlet letter on her chest. The Scarlet Letter that Hester Prynne wears symbolizes the change in perception of sin through out the novel. Due to the revelations of the governor Winthrop and the reverend Dimmesdale, the way sin is perceived changes from one of shame to the idea that every one is a sinner in their own right....   [tags: sin, religion, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Scarlet Letter]

Research Papers
878 words (2.5 pages)

Essay about The Mysterious Forest in Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter

- The Mysterious Forest in Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter      In Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, life is centered around a rigid Puritan society. In this society, people are not allowed to express their true thoughts and feelings. Every human being needs the opportunity to express how they truly feel; otherwise the emotions become bottled up until they begin to hurt the person. Unfortunately, the puritans were not allowed this type of expression. Luckily, at least for the four main characters, Hawthorne has created a forest to give them shelter....   [tags: The Scarlet Letter Nathaniel Hawthorne]

Research Papers
1006 words (2.9 pages)

Change in Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter Essay

- Change in Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter In life, one may see that there are not many guarantees. However, the closest one may come to a guarantee is that almost anything in life can change. I believe that change can come in many forms....   [tags: Nathaniel Hawthorne Scarlet Letter]

Free Essays
1566 words (4.5 pages)

Main Themes of Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter and The Minister's Black Veil

- Main Themes of Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter and The Minister's Black Veil Nathaniel Hawthorne’s works often have parallel themes and similar characters. His approach is quite gloomy and the atmosphere for his stories is many times sad and depressing. Hawthorne concentrates his novel and short stories around the Puritan community, which adds to the tense and unforgiving atmosphere. One of his most renowned novels, The Scarlet Letter and his short story, The Minister’s Black Veil contain many of his typical elements and are many times referred synonymously....   [tags: Nathaniel Hawthorne, Scarlet Letter, Black Veil]

Research Papers
776 words (2.2 pages)

The Scaffold Scenes in Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter Essay

- The Scaffold Scenes in Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter In Nathaniel Hawthorne?s The Scarlet Letter, the Puritans constantly look down upon sinners like Hester Prynne, both literally and symbolically. The use of the three scaffold scenes throughout the course of the novel proved to be an effective method in proving this theory and showing how Puritan society differs from that of today?s. In the first scaffold scene, Hester is being led from the prison where she has spent the last few months, towards the scaffold clutching her newborn baby to her bosom, covering the scarlet letter-the two symbols representing truth and her lost innocence....   [tags: Scarlet Letter Nathaniel Hawthorne Essays]

Research Papers
879 words (2.5 pages)

Hawthorne's own experiences greatly influence his attitude towards the puritan lifestyle. Hawthorne was a direct descendant of John Hawthorne who was a judge during the time of the Salem Witch trials. In the "Custom House," Hawthorne accepts the guilt and responsibility from the fathers and offers to repent for their crimes. This is an unusual way of viewing and dealing with guilt. This view of guilt and sin seems to be a main driving factor in Hawthorne's novels. Another thing that may influence Hawthorne's attitude towards the Puritans is that he seems to write a lot about the relationship between men and their reaction to sin and its consequences. He views the relationship between sin and its consequences very harshly at certain points throughout the novel. This can be seen as Hawthorne condemning society because of the fact that he portrays the puritan's throughout the novel as dealing with sin in a very harsh, almost too harsh manner.
Hawthorne opens the "Scarlet Letter," with an informative description of the Puritans around the prison door awaiting the arrival of Hester out of the prison. He describes them "as a throng of bearded men, in sad coloured garments, and grey, steeple -crowned hats, intermixed with women, some wearing hoods and others bareheaded." Hawthorn's description of these- people also gives us an insight into their personalities and characteristics. After Hester's release, "the scene was not without a mixture of awe, such as much always invest the spectacle of guilt and shame of a fellow creature". They almost took delight in seeing her punished, having thought they had "spiritually cleansed" the town, and therefore only leaving a "pure" society. They possibly took the view that if they struck fear into the citizens of the puritan society then no-one would commit any sins, for fear of the punishment they would receive.
As we start to read the novel the first thing we read about is the prison in the first scene, the prison was regarded as an important part of society as it was the first place along with a grave yard to be built. It was in place in society to maintain order but yet it seems to hold almost too high an importance amongst society, and Hawthorne condemns them and their society for this.
As the story begins the townspeople do not see Hester as a necessity but as a nuisance to get rid of. They seem to be a rather gloomy bunch of people, not portraying a lot of joy in their lives. Again we see this when Hawthorne reveals that the puritan view any form of fun as sin, "none of the a which popular merriment would so readily have found in the England of Elizabeth's time," and "all such professors of the several branches of jocularity would have been sternly repressed." These are just two of many incidents in the book where Hawthorne illustrates the Puritans opinions on "jocular" activities. Hawthorne also states that the Puritans were so strict in there ways that they even prohibited an elaborate dress code.
Another impression given by Hawthorne's first description of the puritan citizens is that they are a very sincere people. They take their laws very seriously. In the case of Hester Prynne they showed "great mercy and tenderness of heart," and saved her from death, instead they made her wear a scarlet A on her person for the rest of her life, which in a way was worse than a prison sentence or death. The Punishment for criminals was obviously necessary but most criminals serve a sentence and then are viewed as "free" but Hester's sentence was a "life sentence" and was never offered any forgiveness.
When we look at the adult Puritans and their children together, we see little difference in their attitudes. The children seem to convey their feelings in a somewhat more insensitive way; Hawthorne describes them as "being the most intolerable brood ever lived." They like their parents and under their parents influence and discipline saw Hester and Pearl as being ridiculed and outcast off society. They took great pleasure in scorning Hester and Pearl with their "hearts and more frequently with their tongues," This invoked hatred within Pearl towards these children and drove her away from making attempt to communication with the other children.
The mothers of the children in the community would point her out and tell their children not to be like her. They would use her as an example of the consequences what would happen if they rebelled against the rules of their society. "Children too young to comprehend wherefore this women so be shut out from the sphere of human charities. . . coming forth along the pathway that lead town ward; and, discerning the scarlet letter on her breast scamper off with a strange, contagious fear." However Hawthorne sets Hester up in a different way among the puritan women; she is portrayed as a rose among the thorns because of her persistency in praying for her enemies and keeping the puritan lifestyle. Hawthorne praises her for the lifestyle that she kept because it was the Puritans that had her go through her lifelong ordeal. "Except for that small expenditure in the decoration of her infant, Hester bestowed all her superfluous means in charity, on wretches less miserable than herself, and who not infrequently insulted the hand that fed them" which turn Hawthorne praises her further, and condemns the Puritan society for failing to recognise Hester's true character and personality. We can also see Hawthorne condemning the society through his use of imagery at the start of the novel as we see the image of a rose in the graveyard. Hawthorne here condemns the society by his use of imagery, in the way that the thorns are choking the rose. Hawthorne here shows us that Hester is not getting the chance to live among the Puritans and grow as she should. She stands out among the townspeople as a moral and good person, both physically and in her character. Instead the Puritans are choking her out and Hawthorne condemns them for this reason.
Fear was the motivation that drove the Puritans to exclude Hester Prynne from society. This new society was afraid that their core would fall apart "in a land where iniquity is searched out and punished" if they did not seek out those individuals that were immoral in their eyes. Their fear of sin and wickedness drove them in their quest to do what they felt was right. Their fault was that they only saw Hester for the crime she had committed not as the woman she was. When the community banished Hester Prynne they succeeded in upholding their morality but lost an individual and ruined her life to some degree. The community is nothing more than a collection of individuals. Since everyone within the community was subject to scrutiny, when someone one was singled out and punished the rest of the community could be relieved that they were not going to be made example off. This narrow minded attitude from the Puritans only allows them to have hatred for Hester Prynne and the need to identify her with the letter "A". This way everyone would look at her rather than one another, or to themselves.
This fear was enforced by the leaders of the puritan society. In the Scarlet Letter these leaders go by the name of Bellingham, Dimmsdale, and Chillingworth to some extent. It is these people that we see the biggest degree of hypocrisy, among the puritan society. We can see that Governor Bellingham asks Hester to make a pair of embroidered white gloves, when it is stated that earlier in the novel that fancy dress code was considered a sin by the puritan society. If something is considered a sin, then why does its "moral tag" (i.e. sin, not a sin) change as you move up through the social hierarchy But the most noticeable form of Hypocrisy is found in Dimmsdale, the minister was then regarded as a very outstanding, even godlike member of society. But yet he has been carrying a burden of knowing he has committed adultery.
This fear prevented Hester from attending. In a normal Christian society attending church would be seen as one of the most important aspects of life. t. Geree quotes that "All parts of the day were like holy to him, and his care was continued in it in variety of holy duties: what he heard in public, he repeated in private, to whet it upon himself and family," Yet we see here that Hester was made an example from the pulpit. Therefore driving Hester away from the church, Hawthorne condemns the Puritans for this, and for their hypocrisy from the pulpit

The fact that the leaders were respected in society shows a stable and necessary environment as people listened to the leaders and followed the rules and orders laid down by them. But again the other side to this is that they were hypocritical leaders and this is why Hawthorne condemns them. Hawthorne also condemns them for the harsh and intolerant treatment; especially the treatment of Hester, it is very obvious to the reader that Hester does not deserve the harsh treatment that she receives. She even tries to repay her debt to the society through charitable acts, like giving clothes to the homeless; but it seems that the harsh treatment of Hester flows straight through the society, and she does not deserve this. This is why Hawthorne shows condemnation towards the society, as it is not just the leaders, but even the lowest people like the homeless show an unnecessary attitude towards Hester.
Return to