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Revenge & Shame in Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter” Essay

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Updated: May 13th, 2021

Introduction

The Scarlet letter: A romance is a novel by an American author Nathaniel Hawthorne. It was written in 1850. It tells a story of a young woman, Hester Prynne, that becomes a victim of her own passion. The woman’s lover cowardly betrays her. However, Hester’s husband strives for vengeance. This book is Hawthorne’s main work. It is a comprehensive text that demonstrates the struggle between emotions and the mind. The main goal of this paper is to analyze The Scarlet Letter to reveal the author’s idea of the frustration of revenge and victory over shame.

Analysis

To understand the author’s motives, it is important to discuss a social situation in which The Scarlet Letter was written. The main purpose of creating this novel was to demonstrate Puritan society’s false virtues (Richardson). The author implied that numerous people were falsely accused of all kinds of sin during those brutal times. In this book, the author raises the question of the impact that sins have on a personality and community.

A modern audience cannot fully comprehend the significance of the violation of moral norms. The Puritans “viewed the commission of any sin as evidence of the sinner’s corruption and preordained damnation” (“The Scarlet Letter”). However, the major theme of this novel is the pointlessness of vengeance and overcoming the fear of condemnation. Hawthorne spent 12 years, observing and understanding the true nature of human beings to elaborately express it in this work.

Hawthorne perceived sin as a state of otherness. Sinners neglect God, other people, and themselves. Eventually, it brings shame on them. The protagonist gets pregnant, and she has to wear a scarlet A on her dress that symbolizes her adultery (Hawthorne 159). Hester is marginalized and cannot interact with people around her. However, she becomes closer to God and realizes the truth about herself. After overcoming various obstacles, she changes the people’s attitude towards herself.

Afterward, “they said that it meant Able,” referring to the scarlet letter (Hawthorne 164). Two other characters, Arthur Dimmesdale and Roger Chillingworth do not feel any pressure from society. Dimmesdale is a reverend. Citizens deeply honor and respect him. Chillingworth is a well-known doctor (Hawthorne 70). However, the reverend realizes his guilt, and it does not let him live in peace with God and the citizens. On the other hand, Chillingworth allows anger to take control of him what makes this character totally isolated. Chillingworth is unable to reconsider the evil way he had chosen.

“It is our fate. Let the black flower blossom as it may,” Chillingworth explained to Hester (Hawthorne 174). There is no place for forgiveness in his soul. Chillingworth’s nature becomes irreversibly corrupted.

Hawthorne demonstrated obvious differences between sins caused by passion and sins based on prejudices. Even the reverend realizes this difference (Hawthorne 198). However, he fails to reveal his sins, and the feeling of being guilty eventually worsens his health, and he dies. On the contrary, Hester cultivates virtues of sympathy and empathy (Hawthorne 264). She gains integrity and accepts herself and the world around her. Eventually, Hester overcomes her shame.

The author incorporated various symbols in the narrative. The scarlet letter symbolizes real Hester’s nature and experience. Dimmesdale is presented in the story rather as a symbol than a true character. The scaffold is an allegory of sin and remorse concepts.

Conclusion

This book raises the timeless issues of human nature. The author presented the concepts of sin, virtue, and their influence on communities and individuals. These problems are still relevant in modern societies. The author created an outstanding work that is rightfully considered to be a masterpiece of world literature.

Works Cited

Hawthorne, Nathaniel. The Scarlet Letter. Ticknor and Fields, 1850.

Richardson, Jane. “” NewHistorian. 2014. Web.

“The Scarlet Letter Critical Evaluation – Essay,” ENotes. Web.

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"Revenge & Shame in Hawthorne's "The Scarlet Letter"." IvyPanda, 13 May 2021, ivypanda.com/essays/revenge-amp-shame-in-hawthornes-the-scarlet-letter/.

1. IvyPanda. "Revenge & Shame in Hawthorne's "The Scarlet Letter"." May 13, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/revenge-amp-shame-in-hawthornes-the-scarlet-letter/.


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IvyPanda. "Revenge & Shame in Hawthorne's "The Scarlet Letter"." May 13, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/revenge-amp-shame-in-hawthornes-the-scarlet-letter/.

References

IvyPanda. 2021. "Revenge & Shame in Hawthorne's "The Scarlet Letter"." May 13, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/revenge-amp-shame-in-hawthornes-the-scarlet-letter/.

References

IvyPanda. (2021) 'Revenge & Shame in Hawthorne's "The Scarlet Letter"'. 13 May.

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