Discussed ago, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter contains
Discussed Themes Throughout The Scarlet Letter
The Puritans, a religious group in New England in the early 1600’s, believe in a ‘pure’ interpretation of the Bible and a sinless society, though inevitable in every society. Many Puritans commit adultery along with many other sins. This shows the many external truths about the Puritan society as well as today’s. Many of these Puritan ethics appear throughout many literary works of today and of the past. Although written almost 150 years ago, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter contains concepts and insights from traditional practices of the Puritans. Hawthorne makes distinctions in order for the reader to deal with realistic interpretations of human experiences and truths, which most can readily relate. Nathaniel Hawthorne often discusses themes of sin, alienation, and love throughout his novel The Scarlet Letter.
The Scarlet Letter reveals the theme of sin. An extreme sinner through the eyes of the Puritans, Hester Prynne goes against the Puritan ways and commits the sinful act of adultery. The townspeople often talk about Hester amongst themselves in the marketplace, ‘This woman has brought us shame’;, for her sin brings them much grief (99). For this irrevocably harsh sin the town magistrates sentence Hester to wear the scarlet letter ‘A’ as a constant reminder of her sin, and for all to recognize her as an adulteress. Pearl is the incarnation of her mother’s sin. Pearl, her mother’s sole joy and at the same time a constant reminder of her sin, gives reference to Hester’s shameful badge. Pearl was not conceived out of sin, but rather brought up amidst defying associations. As a direct consequence of her sinful passions she conceives a child, Pearl. Not an evil child in the true sense of the world, but in all actuality Pearl is a reflection of her parents love and immorality. Further, Dimmesdale lacks the courage to confess his sin for he cares more for his social reputation as a man of God. It becomes apparent that ‘Some men bury their secrets’;, when Dimmesdale does not publicly announce his sin until the end of the novel (121). His self-respect, his peace, love and soul all may go, as long as his reputation remains. He suffers privately in his zealously hidden sin. Dimmesdale often places ‘his hand over his heart’; to show his sorrow and guilt (173). Dimmesdale commits the most of fatal sins as a priest who supposedly provides protection, but he conceals his sin while preaching holiness to his congregation. It avails to Dimmesdale to live a life of saintly deeds and aims, rather than come true and openly accept his shame, and not to scourge himself.
Throughout the novel Nathaniel Hawthorne often reveals the theme of alienation. The townspeople generally shun Hester and her daughter Pearl. The Scarlet Letter ‘A’ alienates Hester among society and casts a lurid glow upon her pathway. Not of ‘such a Christian nature’; Hester’s sin alienates her among the townspeople (102). She feels ‘lonely’; and yearns for love as does Pearl (92). Pearl often tells her mother the ‘sun does not love you’; only making Hester feel more alienated (168). Hester, the social outcast, finds no invitation for repentance in the law that inevitably crushes her. Hester’s isolation in Boston forces her to take up residency in a small cottage at the edge of the village, alienating her among society. Also, before her release from prison, the town magistrate force her to stand on the public scaffold where all the villagers could see her enduring public disgrace. This punishment alienates her among commoners. Pearl comprehends her position as a born outcast from the world and retaliates with the bitterest hatred. She never creates a friend, and her favorite activities include playing with flowers and trees. Anything affiliated with the forest is considered evil in the eyes of the Puritans. Society ceases to neither have any concern for neither Hester nor Pearl as they both fail to come in harmony with their surroundings and society.
The theme of love frequently occurs throughout The Scarlet Letter. Born out of her adulteress sin, Hester still loves Pearl unconditionally. Pearl, a capricious and stubborn child holds a sacred spot in Hester’s heart. Hester’s emotional attachment often leads her to argue with Governor Bellingham to let her keep Pearl. Hester, Chillingworth, and Dimmesdale are all caught in ‘ a great scandal’;, or bizarre love triangle (57). Dimmesdale and Hester both retain an undying love for one another, but Chillingworth always seems to subsist in the middle. The ‘excitement of Dimmesdale’s feelings’; towards Hester give him a sort of new energy (196). Chillingworth loves his young wife, but knows he could not possibly ever exist as the type of man to make her a befitting husband. Hester holds both Dimmesdale and Pearl so dearly her heart. Pearl also bestows a persistent love towards Dimmesdale. Despite this, Dimmesdale does not, until the end, publicly announce his love for them. Receiving only excuses from him, Pearl yearns for Dimmesdale’s love. He so profoundly asserts the importance of his reputation that he does not let Hester or Pearl inside of his life. He denies himself of a love that he so desperately needs during his mental and physical breakdown, towards the end.
Readers can relate to the themes of sin, alienation, and love, along with many others apparent in the novel. Still important in today’s society, Hawthorne explores many ideas in The Scarlet Letter that frequently recur in other literary works. This novel, set in the days of the Puritans, reveals a lot about their regulations, concepts, and toleration of immoral and unlawful acts. Puritans have strict rules against the theater, religious music, sensuous poetry, frivolous dress, and many other things that the characters in this novel partake in. The Scarlet Letter, a romance set 200 years before Hawthorne’s time, is a historical novel about Puritan Boston. The Scarlet Letter thus becomes a discussion of historical events in which people break society’s rules and the outcomes of these events. Viewing it in this light the novel describes Hester, a woman who let her heart rule over her head and suffers the consequences.