Essay The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne

Essay The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne

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Nathanial Hawthorne’s The Scarlett Letter had many reoccurring, powerful themes, however, the most predominant was how far the ripples of a person’s actions reach; Hawthorne shows this by illustrating how people in a society viewed others’ actions, how individuals viewed their own actions, and how the actions had a physical effect on the body.
The first way Hawthorne showed this theme was how the puritan society viewed others actions, specifically those of Hester and Pearl. One of the ways Hawthorne detailed the society’s hate of Hester’s actions of adultery was very early in the book during Hester’s public humiliation. “Haughty as her demeanor was, she perchance underwent an agony from every footstep of those that thronged to see her, as if her heart had been flung into the street for them all to spurn and trample upon.” (Hawthorne, 38). Hawthorne uses great symbolism to detail how the people of Boston were so eager to not only see Hester being ridiculed for her actions but to rip her apart and make sure that she knew what she did was wrong in the most vengeful and callous ways. Another point Hawthorne uses to emphasize the people’s view of Hester’s actions is how the school children pelt young Pearl, the daughter spawned of sin, with mud. “‘Behold, verily, there is the woman of the scarlet letter; and, of a truth, moreover, there is the likeness of the scarlet letter running along by her side! Come, therefore, and let us fling mud at them!’” (Hawthorne, 70). This shows that even from a young age, the puritans were taught that a sinner should be ostracized and tormented. The final point Hawthorne uses to show others view on someone’s actions is the acceptance of Hester and the legend of the scarlet letter. “But, in the laps of...


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...everend’s death, Chillingworth did not know what to do with the rest of his life so, he eventually perished as well. The last and most symbolic physical effect on a person was the shadow across Hester. “’The sunshine does not love you. It runs away and hides itself.’” (Hawthorne, 126). Although more symbolic than most of the objects in the book, the darkness forever surrounding Hester shows that her sin is also forever there.
Hawthorne’s use of symbols and detailed explanations help show how people’s actions ripple across affecting everyone and everything in their life. From the beginning of the novel Hawthorne engaged in the actions of young Hester Prynne and how it ruined not only her life but also made it more difficult for that of Pearl’s and caused the eventual deaths of her lover, Dimmsdale and ex-husband, Chillingworth.

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