Plot And Themes In The Scarlet Letter English Literature Essay


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According to Spark notes website, "The Scarlet Letters symbolism helps create a powerful drama in Puritan Boston: a kiss, evil, sin, nature, the scarlet letter, and the punishing scaffold", (Sparknotes, 2003). The novel is an allegory with Puritan lifestyle and how sinners will never be forgiven by God. Nathaniel Hawthorne he developed his talent by writing short fiction and the novel Fanshawe, but later gained international fame by publishing The Scarlet Letter. The plot revolves around the three scaffold scenes, the first which only Hester, the next with Dimmsdale, and the last with the sinned family. Hester Pyrnne has committed adultery is punished to wearing the Scarlet Letter on her chest for life; she is brave for doing so. The Reverend Arthur Dimmsdale is the father of Pearl isn't willing to reveal this to the city, so he is overcome by guilt. If, The Scarlet Letter, written by Nathaniel Hawthorne in 1850 can be considered a great American novel, then perhaps the historical accuracy, the author's own life, as well as the plot and major characters help readers understand the novels major themes.

Even though some readers may find The Scarlet Letter difficult to understand, nevertheless the novel contains many universal themes and ideas that continue to interest contemporary readers because outside information suggests that the noel itself relates to Puritan lifestyles. "Set in 17th-centurr Puritan Boston, it tells the story of Hester Prynne, who gives birth after committing adultery and struggles to create a new life of repentance  and dignity" (Wikipedia 2009). The Puritans emerged because they wanted to "purify" themselves from the Church of England. They had five basic beliefs. The first is like Adam and Eve everyone is born a sinful person. The next is God will save only those he wishes too. Next is Jesus dies for only a select few. God's grace is freely given; it cannot be earned or denied. Lastly, those elected by God have full power to interpret the will of God. The first idea is a basic concept which goes with The Scarlet Letter, Hester and Dimmsdale are born sinful, they commit adultery, and have Pearl.

"Nathaniel Hawthorne ranks among America's major authors. Between about 1825 and 1850, he developed his talent by writing short fiction and the novel Fanshawe (1828). Then he gained international fame for his novel The Scarlet Letter, a masterpiece of American literature" (World Book Online 2009). The male was born, born July 4, 1804 Salem, MA and died May 19, 1864 Plymouth, New Hampshire. He was born into a family with great Puritan heritage. His great-great-great-grandfather, William Hathorne, was among the first Puritans to travel to New England. Next, William's son, John Hathorne was one of the few who oversaw the Salem Witch Trials. This led to Nathaniel Hawthorne wiring about Mistress Higgins being a witch. Before being realized as a famous writer, Hawthorne was offered a job of about $1,500 as a weighter at the Boston Custom House. He married Sophia Peabody on July 9, 1842 and moved to Concord, MA where he wrote multiple tales.

The plot of the story helps the reader to understand many themes in the story. The Scarlet Letter opens off with a person walking out of a jail cell. This turns out to be Hester Pyrnne, she is committed of adultery, shown by the young daughter she carries in her hand. Hester must stand on the scaffold for three hours and wear the Scarlet Letter for the rest of her life. The women of the town suggest killing her, but she is not put to death because she has a young daughter. This scene shows how Puritan religion is law. The next scaffold scene is when Dimmsdale goes to it in the middle of the night. He does so as a vigil, by going there the night before Hester was put to shame. A vigil is a period of purposeful sleeplessness, an occasion for devotional watching, or an observance (Wikipedia, 2009). This plot shows that no matter where you are, guilt will overcome you. The last scaffold scene is towards the end of the novel, just after Dimmsdale finishes his sermon for retirement. He calls up Hester and Pearl to the scaffold to stand with him, Pearl goes running. Dimmsdales then reveals to the town that he is the father of Pearl and rips his shirt off to show the Scarlet Letter embedded into his chest, but shortly afterwards dies. This is significant because it shows the sinned family united in front of the city.

"Although The Scarlet Letter is about Hester Prynne, the book is not so much a consideration of her innate character as it is an examination of the forces that shape her and the transformations those forces effect", (Sparknotes, 2009). The story begins with Hester on the scaffold, being punished for adultery. She is questioned on who the father is, but gives no response and is not willing to tell anybody, not even her own husband, Roger Chillingworth. After she has completed her punishment, she is free to go anywhere in the world, instead, Hester decides to stay in Boston. She is brave to stay in the city that has punished her and thinks she is an outcast. Besides this, Hester wears her Scarlet letter with great pride, after becoming stable in her needlework; she weaves herself a Scarlet Letter that stands out. THE letter itself is Gold with a red outline covered over a black dress. As she earns money weaving for other people, she cares for the poor by giving money, food, and cloth. As time passes, the community, mostly women, come to recognize that Hester has become a pro feminist model to the community.

"Arthur Dimmesdale, like Hester Prynne, is an individual whose identity owes more to external circumstances than to his innate nature", (Clifffnotes 2009). We learn that he is a scholar from Oxford University. He is the father of Pearl and is afraid to commit that he has committed adultery. Later on, Dimmsdale falls ill and is taken care of by Roger Chillingworth. Dimmsdales starts to torture himself in multiple different ways. He holds long fasts (not eating for a long period of time). Also, he looks at himself in the mirror as a way to think about the sin. He sits long hours in the night to also think about his actions. The only reason he does not tell the community is because he is afraid they may come to hate him. As the novel approaches an end, he tells everyone that he has committed adultery and shows everone the Scarlet Letter embedded on his chest, and shortly after dies.

If, The Scarlet Letter, written by Nathaniel Hawthorne in 1850 can be considered a great American novel, then perhaps the historical accuracy, the author's own life, as well as the plot and major characters help readers understand the novels major themes. Dimmsdale, one of the main characters is the father of Pearl, but is not willing to tell the town of his sin, afraid that he might lose his job and the town may come to hate him. Next, Hester, the mother of Pearl, is approached in a rather different way. She is a brave person to stay in the city even after her sin of adultery. The plot revolves around the three scaffold scenes. The first of which is in Chapter 2, Hester is punished for adultery, and she must stand on the scaffold for three hours. The next which involves Dimmmsdale, since he is overcome which guilt, he goes to the scaffold in the middle of the night as a vigil. The last which is towards the end of the story when the family stands on the scaffold together and the minister reveals to the town that he has committed adultery with Hester and soon dies. Nathaniel Hawthorne was born July 4, 1804 Salem, MA and died May 19, 1864 Plymouth, New Hampshire. The Scarlet Letter itself is an allegory with Puritan lifestyle. It shows how Puritans beliefs were strict and offered no forgiveness from God. As you can see, a brief understanding of the historical accuracy, author's own life, as well as main characters of The Scarlet Letter, helps readers understand the novel's major themes.

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