Nathaniel Hawthorne's Novel the Scarlet Letter Term Paper

Pages: 3 (976 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Literature

Nathaniel Hawthorne's novel the Scarlet Letter addresses the issue of sin, responsibility, and even salvation in the Puritan society of North America. Sentenced to wear her sin of adultery in the form of the letter 'A' on the outside of her dress, Hester Prynne is forced to live with the ignominy of having borne a child out of wedlock. Hawthorne initially uses the scarlet letter as a symbol of Hester's sin, but the meaning of the letter evolves throughout the novel as Hester is eventually empowered and her secret lover is enfeebled by the sin they had both committed. The evolution of the letter shows the power of accepting punishment and persevering over the enervating capacity of trying to hide and escape sin.Buy full Download Microsoft Word File paper
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The novel begins with the Puritanical musings of offended women from the village as they watch Hester Prynne emerge from prison with her infant daughter. The nature of her sin becomes clear immediately, and the importance of punishing offenders in the Puritan community is also underscored by the passionate gossip of the townswomen. The good wives of the village refer to Hester as "naughty baggage" and suggest that she "has brought shame upon us all, and ought to die" (53). Hester's emergence from the dark prison hushes them all as they behold a woman who does not bow her head in shame and who has taken an instrument of punishment and turned it into a beautiful icon. The scarlet letter she is condemned to wear pinned to her dress has enjoyed the talent of her own handiwork as it was displayed "in fine red cloth, surrounded with an elaborate embroidery and fantastic flourishes of gold thread" (54). The beauty and dignity of her appearance was matched by the letter "so fantastically embroidered and illuminated upon her bosom. It had the effect of a spell, taking her out of the ordinary relations with humanity, and inclosing her in a sphere by herself"(55). The effect of the appealing yet strangely forbidding letter matches the life that Hester Prynne will lead for a number of years. Hawthorne's use of the symbolic scarlet letter should be an instrument of punishment for Hester Prynne, but the author clearly intends for the letter to have the capacity to free Hester Prynne as well. Her shame is also her ticket to enjoying isolation from the Puritan community -- a side effect that comes with fringe benefits.

The dual nature of the symbol of sin can be seen in the child who resulted from the adulterous union of Hester Prynne and a then unknown man. Hester names the little girl Pearl as an allusion to her value and great price, but the author remarks that it is "strange, indeed! Man had marked this woman's sin by a scarlet letter, which had such potent and disastrous efficacy that no human sympathy could reach her, save it were sinful like herself. God, as a direct… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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Nathaniel Hawthorne's Novel the Scarlet Letter.  (2006, October 11).  Retrieved May 31, 2020, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/nathaniel-hawthorne-novel-scarlet-letter/276805

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"Nathaniel Hawthorne's Novel the Scarlet Letter."  11 October 2006.  Web.  31 May 2020. <https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/nathaniel-hawthorne-novel-scarlet-letter/276805>.

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"Nathaniel Hawthorne's Novel the Scarlet Letter."  Essaytown.com.  October 11, 2006.  Accessed May 31, 2020.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/nathaniel-hawthorne-novel-scarlet-letter/276805.