Essay The Scarlet Letter By Nathaniel Hawthorne

Essay The Scarlet Letter By Nathaniel Hawthorne

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Early New England law specialist Douglas Greenberg describes “the popular image of dour Puritan magistrates and ministers humiliating transgressors” brought to life and reinforced by Nathaniel Hawthorne’s mid-nineteenth century novel, The Scarlet Letter (297). The main character, Hester Prynne, lives in the strict Puritan society of 17th century Boston where she has been condemned for her sin of adultery and punished by wearing a scarlet letter “A”. As she and her newly born illegitimate daughter, Pearl, stand on the scaffold while the town decries her, many in the community wonder who her lover is. Hester’s husband, Roger Chillingworth who was believed to be dead, happens upon the scene and remarks that he believes “the partner of her iniquity should [...] stand on the scaffold by her side,” and he makes it his mission to discover and uncover the other guilty sinner (61). Chillingworth finally achieves this purpose when he discovers the crudely branded “A” on the chest of Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale, identifying him as Hester’s lover. Whereas Hester publically endures her punishment, Dimmesdale fails to acknowledge his involvement in the affair and Hester does not want to jeopardize his reputation?. In an analysis of Hawthorne’s novel, literary scholar Richard H. Brodhead describes these characters as jailors and their minds as dungeons. In this manner, the reverend is his own personal jailor who tortures himself psychologically and physically because of the guilt from not confessing his sin, leading him to appear emaciatedemanciated and weak. This self-administered punishment through which Hawthorne represents the consequences of internal sin and guilt, makes Dimmesdale the "jailer" of his own mind.
Throughout the seven years fro...


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...e a happy ending now and is free.
Dimmesdale’s guilt and its impact on himself and others is a statement by Hawthorne on the merits of being honesty and opennessopen. Hawthorne urges the reader to “Be true! Show freely to the world, if not your worst, yet some trait whereby the worst may be inferred” (254). The story of Dimmesdale’s pain and misery springs from his refusal to be honest with his community. Until he is finally freed when he publicly reveals his role in Hester’s sin, Dimmesdale is tortured by his secret and is responsible? for the inhumanity of Pearl and Chillingworth. His guilt is only alleviated when he confesses to his crime publicly. Through this incapacity to confess and his self-inflicted imprisonment, Dimmesdale conveys Hawthorne’s moral that being true to not only himself, but others as well, is the only way to lead an honest and healthy life.

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