Among the multiplicity of arcane elements hidden beneath the words in Hawthorne's "The Scarlet Letter", none is so apparent, yet strikingly subtle to the reader's perception and consumption of characterization than the allegorical play on words within the names of the characters. Both the protagonist and her rival within the plot are blessed with conveniently appropriate, fitting names. The four pillars supporting this novel are all cloaked with foreshadowing names, which silently clue the reader into what traits and significance the character holds as the story unfolds. These pillars that solidify the novel are Hester Prynne, Roger Chillingworth, Arthur Dimmesdale, and Pearl.
The first, possibly strongest column supporting the evolution of themes in the novel is Hester Prynne. Hester is the young woman who is abandoned by her older, disfigured husband, and falls in love with a young, passionately God-fearing man who subsequently conceives a child, thus revealing her "adultery" and is punished by the Puritan society that he represents. She is instructed to wear a red letter, hence the title of the book. Through her punishment, she acquires and applies several motifs that the novel boasts, the most powerful one being represented perpetually throughout the story, sin. Apparently, in efforts to stress her significance and origin of decisions in the story, Hawthorne skillfully gave this woman whom the story revolves around the name of Hester Prynne, comfortably in sync with the word she is faced with constantly: sin. Her last name, rhyming with the word is no mistake, and though subtle in its existence, is ingenious in its implication, and an almo...
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...r Dimmesdale divulges the less than resplendent qualities the young minister displayed in his lack of resolve and spirit. Finally, Pearl implies the costly, lamentable result of a debacle that was ironically conceived from affection and tender ardor. The intricate constituents of this endless metaphor of a novel would vaporize without concrete, stationary components that solidify the plot and stimulate its growth, each reactive and influential upon the other. Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter” would crumble into an insipid, low faceted pile of a couple plot twists, monotonous characters, juvenile prose, and a stack of aged papers from Hawthorne’s basement that would have never reached the new millennia without those four pillars of metaphorical ambiguity.
Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Scarlet Letter. Ed. Brian Harding. Oxford: Oxford 1990.
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