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A Holographic Interpretation of the Scarlet Letter
Comprehension of anything requires a framework already in place in
order to place it in out sphere of reference. Especially those that are
"fuzzy" or difficult to nail down. The brain and the atom are not fully
understood, but by comparing functions, structures, and similar operations
to known items or concepts one can obtain a hold on the unknown and even
extrapolate unknown processes from known ones. (For example, the brain is
similar to a computer. They both have memory, input/output, and similar
structures-transistors to synapses.) This technique works with literature
and a deeper understanding a grasp of a book's meaning becomes possible.
The Scarlet Letter can be viewed through an understanding of the
operation and production of holograms. First, an understanding of the
holographic process is needed before any comparisons are possible.
First and foremost a hologram requires a source of coherent wave-
like energy. The second is a recording medium of extremely high resolution
to record the microscopic interference patterns of light. The third major
requirement is utter stability and freedom from vibrations. As for
producing an actual hologram, here is described a two-beam transmission
holograph. (So named because viewing it requires shining the same coherent
light back through it) The laser is placed on a platform in the sand and a
mirror directs the light diagonally across the table. A beamsplitter
divides the beam into two parts. One goes to a mirror that directs the
light through a spreading lens onto the photographic plate at an angle.
The other beam is bounced off a mirror and through a spreading lens onto
the object to be holographed. The table is allowed to settle and an
exposure made. The light from the first beam, called the reference beam,
and the reflected light from the object combine to produce microscopic inte
rference patterns through constructive and destructive interference. Since
light is a wave, when two coherent beams intersect depending on their phase
they either add or subtract strengths forming areas of lightness and
darkness that are captured by the photographic plate. After development
the hologram is viewed with light from the same laser at the same angle as
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when it was exposed and Presto!
You have read a rudimentary description of a hologram's function
but how could a book compare.....? By drawing parallels between components
of the story and those of holography and seeing how they correlate.
Major components of each system should relate; starting with the
most impotant component of holography, a coherent wave-like energy source.
Do humans see an object? Or do they mrely record the photons reflecting
off it. Of course they see the effects of light, not the object or light
itself but its effects. Just as humans cannot see light, in the imaginary
"holographic" Scarlet Letter "life" cannot be seen, only its effects. So
life, however defined, is the energy source to sustain that imaginiary
world. The second major component is the recording medium, which is the
characters themselves. From the subtle nuances possible in each character
comes the resolution to record all that effects a person. Some characters
are already developed (in the photographic sense)-their character records
no additional patterns. Chillingworth is static; he has one goal and
affects those around him, yet they don't change him at all.
Humans see in three dimensions due to their binocular vision. It's
a process similar to triangulation. If you observe an object from a
certain position and determine the angle to it then move a measured
distance and again find the angle the intersection of the lines is the
position in space of the object. The brain does the same operation
automatically to obtain the 3rd dimension. A hologram reproduces the way
light appears to the eye at different distances, but the amount of depth is
limited. Among holograms of all permutations, possible depths of field
vary from a few inches to several feet in complex setups. If the analogy
holds then characters must exhibit differences in depth, and they do.
Characters like Governor Bellingham and the stalwart ladies of the village
have little substance beyond what is readily visible.
While this "life energy" bounces around the setting of The Scarlet
Letter various important things change it in accordance with real light's
behavior. The rigidity of puritan life, the preponderance of law and order
produces the coherence and stability necessary for holograms. If an object
moves during exposure in the resulting hologram there will be a black
"hole" where it was. Just as if someone rattles Puritan society a hole
conveniently opens beneath their feet.
The "life-light" from the village and that from the forest are
totally different. The hard coherent "light" from the village marches on
the forest, but the border between them refracts (bends) the "light" and
each tree attenuates (scatters) it until it is no different from the
forest's natural radiation. The village then views as evil that which
withstands their society and represents, to a point, chaos.
Since waves combine in either constructive or destructive
interference, so also should characters in the book. Obviously the
relationship between Hester and Arthur is constructive. Perhaps love is a
synonym to a more complex reaction. Just as obviously, Chillingworth
produces a negative effect on Dimmesdale, one that eventually destroys him.
Many symbols in The Scarlet Letter are mirroric in nature. They
reflect the "light" from other objects and focus or spread it so different
characters receive different effects. The scaffold is merely the place of
chastisement to Hester, but it holds great attraction for Dimmesdale who
has yet to expiate his sin upon it. Yet other objects act as coverings and
some as absorbers. They shield the characters or absorb nuances in complex
ways. Dimmesdale's hand shields his heart from view, as if its nature
would be revealed to all or fresh knives drive into it.
All things considered, certain literature can be compared to a
hologram with the act of comparison making clear things not understood
before. Even as viewing a hologram from different angles reveals new
vistas so does examining the allegory peel away new layers of meaning.
Even in individual settings, such as the scene in which Hester reunites
with Arthur in the forest, they and Pearl seem to be in entirely different
worlds with separate lighting. Other scenes exhibit this dual nature and a
little examination brings it to light. An allegory can give you much
insight-look into it.