5 September 2018
The Scarlet Letter
As Hawthorne describes the rose bush, he explains that, “It May serve, let us hope, to symbolize some sweet moral blossom, that may be found along the track, or relieve the darkening close of a tale of human frailty and sorrow” (Hawthorne 47). This passage symbolically sets the tone of the novel, because the reader can instantly tell that something bad has happened or is about to happen. Note that Hawthorne referred to the rose bush as a symbol. The rose bush symbolizes the good that can come from the bad.
Chillingworth and Hester’s eyes lock at a town gathering, Chillingworth saw that she appeared to recognize him, he slowly and calmly raised his finger, made a gesture with it in the air, and laid it on his lips” (Hawthorne 59). Hawthorne uses imagery to show how desperate Chillingworth is to not want to be seen with Hester. The reader can see that he doesn’t want to ruin his reputation in the town and be treated like Hester. Hawthorne shows this to the reader to stress the importance of a reputation to some people, regardless of how bad it may hurt others.
Pearl, Hester’s illegitimate daughter, seemed to be a bad seed. Hester knew, “that her deed had been evil; she could have no faith, … Day after day she looked fearfully into the child’s expanding nature; ever dreading to detect some dark and will peculiarity, that should correspond with the guiltiness to which she owed her being” (Hawthorne 87). Hawthorne gives Hester an epiphany. Hester sees in Pearl’s eyes that she has passed on her “sinful spirit”, making Pearl a human manifestation of Hester. This shows the reader that who people were raised by has an impact on who people may become.
When John Wilson, Chillingworth and Dimmesdale get to the Governor’s residence, they tease Pearl because of her individuality and the scarlet letter. Hester is later found in the room hiding behind the curtain, she begins to speak, “‘Nevertheless,’ said the mother calmly though growing more pale, ‘this badge hath taught me, – it daily teaches me, – it is teaching me at the moment, – lessons whereof my child may be the wiser and better, albeit the can profit nothing to myself'” (Hawthorne 108). Hawthorne can profit nothing to show now strongly Hester feels about this scarlet letter, and how important it is to her. He uses to show how different everyone else’s opinions really are regarding the scarlet letter. While others see this badge as a symbol of sin, Hester and Pearl see it as a symbol of individuality.
Dimmesdale’s guilt starts to make him hate himself. So he, “had plied it (a bloody scourge) on his own shoulders; laughing bitterly at himself the whole and smiting so much more pitilessly, because of that bitter laughter” (Hawthorne 141). Hawthorne uses imagery to show how the guilt of denying that he had an affair with Hester is slowly eating at him. He thought that he could just ignore the past, but eventually it caught up to him.
Hester was now getting more respect from the townspeople. She showed Pearl that, “The letter was a symbol of her calling. Such helpfulness was found in her, – so much power to do, and power to sympathize, – that many people refused to interpret the scarlet A by its original signification. They said it meant able; so strong was Hester Prynne, with a woman’s strength” (Hawthorne 168). The reader can start to see a bit of a theme here within the story now. The scarlet letter that Hester must wear as punishment is now a symbol of her selflessness, and her skill as a seamstress; this represents a theme of sin and individuality or conformity.
Pearl and Hester take a walk. Hester decides that it is a smart idea to tell Pearl, “‘A story child!’ Said Hester. ‘ And about what?’ ‘ O, a story about the Black Man!’ Answered Pearl, … ‘He haunts this forest, and carries a book with him, – a big, heavy book, with iron clasps; and how this ugly Black Man offers his book and an iron pen to everybody that meets him here among these trees; and they are to write their names with their own blood. And then he sets his mark on their bosoms!'” (Hawthorne 181). Hawthorne uses a metaphor in this passage Pearl and Hester spend a lot of this chapter discussing the ‘Black Man’ in the forest. The ‘Black Man’ is a metaphor for for people selling their soul to the devil.
Arthur and Hester are going to run away, but it’s harder for Hester because, “She had wandered, without rule of guidance, in a moral wilderness; as a vast, as a intricate and shadowy, as the untamed first, amid the gloom of which they were now holding a colloquy that was to decide their fate” (Hawthorne 197). Hawthorne uses simile to show how Hester used to be compared to now. Hester used to run free in the vast land independently with no one to care for her. Then, she met up with Arthur again and now she’s running with him. She found the light at the end of the tunnel through him.
Hester is on a boat going to go to Europe with Arthur, “and the deep, mysterious ocean will quench and hide forever the symbol ya have caused to but upon her bosom!” (Hawthorne 225). Hawthorne uses personification regarding the ocean. The author demonstrates to the reader how symbolic Hester’s passage to Europe will be. The distance across the ocean will diminish the meaning of the scarlet letter for Hester.
When on the scaffold, Dimmesdale says, “When we forgot or God, – when we violated or reverence each from the other’s soul, – it was thenceforth vain to hope that we could meet here after in a everlasting pure reunion” (Hawthorne) Dimmesdale then dies. Hawthorne uses analogy to create a theme of individuality vs. society. To Puritan society, Dimmesdale was always seem to have more individuality compared to everyone else. Everyone else thought he was free from sin, even though his lesson was that anyone can sin. Dimmesdale confesses and introduced Pearl and Hester into society before he died. Pearl and Hester however, remained individual, proving that sin is not the only thing keeping Hester away from society.