Importance of Death in The Scarlet Letter and My Antonia
It is universally acknowledged that one who comes into this world must also leave. Just like everything else, even life and death is a binary composition. You cannot have one without the other. Although not many people like to think about it, death is a very important factor not only in life, but also in literature. Most often, death is portrayed as evil or gruesome, especially in commercial fiction. However, there are literary texts, which portray death through other factors. Through the depiction of the deaths of Arthur Dimmesdale and Mr. Shimerdas in Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter and Willa Cather's My Antonia, respectively, the reader is able to associate the significance of such issues as guilt, revenge/murder, religion, and the consequences of the two deaths. It may seem odd that instead of concentrating on the central female characters to portray these important issues, I have chosen two male characters. However, it is through the deaths of the male characters that the central females, Hester and Antonia are able to shine as women.
In both these novels, the death scenes of the characters are ambiguous. In relation to one issue or another there is always something vague or missing, which leaves the readers to judge for themselves. The death scene in The Scarlet Letter is very powerful and full of remorse .
Arthur collapsing into the arms of his loved one, after pleading with the people to look at Hester's scarlet letter once again, showing Roger how he had sinned as well, acknowledging Pearl and relieving her of her "...errand as a messenger of anguish" (Hawthorne 222) by kissing her, and fin...
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...moil and keep her father's past alive. Both deaths also imply more than what meets the eye. While Arthur's death is surrounded by the possibility of revenge, Mr. Shimerdas' death is encircled by the likelihood of murder. The two deaths also highlight the importance of religion. Arthur, being a Reverend, is given the strength by God to confront his sins, while Mr. Shimerdas, also a Reverend of sorts, is buried and forced to live an afterlife of uncertain paths due to his faith. Lastly, the aftermaths of these deaths, is what makes The Scarlet Letter and My Antonia two great works of literature. Through Arthur's death, Hester is once again able to display her inner strength by making her own choices and standing by her love, whereas Antonia through the death of her father is able to excel in a man's world, while not forgetting her womanhood.
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