Comparison Of The Scarlet Letter And The
Crucible Essay, Research Paper
The Scarlet Letter & The Crucible Comparison Essay
Through carefully analyzation of The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthrone and The Crucible by Arthur Miller; one will discover the related themes throughout the stories. These themes include sin, punishment of sin, Revered Dimmsdale and Hester Prynne, the devil, and love & lust. Through carefully analyzation and discussion one can see the evident relationship that exists between these two works.
The main evident theme from both works is sin. In The Scarlet Letter, the sin that has been committed is adultery and has produced an illegitimate child. Hester Prynne, and the outspoken and praised minister of the Puritan community Arthur Dimmsdale were the adulters who committed the sin and produced the child Pearl. Throughout the story Hester is dehumanized for her sin, while Dimmsdale is still thought to be the “almighty” minister. In similarity from The Crucible, sin is put on trial. The Crucible directly addresses the themes and ideas from Salem Witch Trials. The young girls and their “leader” Abigail are the core of sin and evil in the girls and the community. Throughout the story accusations are “thrown” at others from the community who are believed righteous. Ultimately in this story the sin is “coming” directly from the black-man or the devil. The girls are believed to have formed a pact with the devil and are now attempting to lure others to come with them. Overall, in both works sin is the major theme and how sin affects the lives of the people and their communities.
The scaffold in The Scarlet Letter is extremely important. The most pivotal scenes in the book take place on it. The scaffold is a place of public humiliation. The lawbreaker must stand in front of all his or her peers with them fully knowing of his or her crime. Standing on the scaffold as a guilty sinner would also mean that they will be shunned, as Hester was, for the rest of their lives. It seems a terrible punishment by today’s standards. But the scaffold was not merely a cruel device of humiliation and scorn. The prison was a blemish on the face of a society bent on self perfection. The scaffold was the society’s way of righting the wrong and preventing it from being repeated. The entire town was ashamed to see Hester, one of their own standing in front of them for a horrendous crime. It strengthened their resolve to continue to do what in their minds was righteous. The scaffold was not only a place of punishment. It was a place of atonement as well. It gave the guilty person relief knowing that they were acknowledged as a sinner and that they did not have to deal with the prison and the guilt of their minds anymore.
The difference between Hester’s emotional state and Dimmesdale’s state was enormous. Hester was an acknowledged lawbreaker, she felt that she had been punished and was continually punished by the “A.” Dimmesdale however never underwent punishment before his peers, so his guilt, his prison, festered inside him until he started to physically deteriorate. His lack of peace from hiding from the scaffold, from truth, was his undoing. As Dimmesdale found out at the very end of his life, the scaffold was every guilty Puritans only way of redemption. Chillingworth himself said, “Hast thou sought the whole earth over . . . there was no place so secret, no high place nor lowly place, where thou couldst have escaped me, save on this very scaffold!”
The forest outside of Salem was unknown country, liking that of hell or the world of the devil. It was where the dreaded “Black Man” was fabled to meet with witches and sinners. The forest was also away from Salem, its prying eyes and harsh judgements. Here events could be open and free. Here was the only place where Hester and Dimmesdale can meet and talk freely of the sin they shared seven years previously. In this respect the Puritans were accurate in their superstition of the Black Man living in the forest. There was indeed in the forest a place where free thinking could go unfettered by Puritan code. This “Black Man” was no more than the freedom to form ideas outside of the Puritan way of life. It was dangerous to Hester and Arthur as they conspired to flee the colony instead of facing their problem. Mistress Hibbins recognized the change in Dimmesdale and acknowledged that he has had un-Puritan ideas. So he had, in a sense, met with the Black Man. The forest at its most basic level was simply that place in the Puritan mind that thought other than Puritan thought can enter. The forest is not only an important location for meeting of “sinners” but also conjuring of spirts and greeting the devil. As seen in The Crucible the girls “met” with and conjured the spirits of the devil and the underworld. This was a meeting place of the mortal world and that of the dead. In both works the forest or other darkened place plays a setting of an evil realm that only few enter, and never return from.
Love versus lust is a characteristic that is expressed through the relationships between several leading characters in both works. From The Scarlet Letter, the illegitimate and inappropriate relationship between Hester and Dimmsdale was the most noticeable. Their love for each other extends far beyond a mere “crush” or aching to be with the person, for they have consummated a relationship together which ended with the birth of the daughter Pearl. Throughout the book Dimmsdale had outward expressions of love for his daughter Pearl and her mother Hester, “Pearl kissed his lips. A spell was broken. The great scene of grief, in which . . . ” (233) expresses the fondness of Dimmsdale for his daughter Pearl. Although in The Crucible, such types of relationships are not evident. The only relationship in the story occurred between John Proctor and Abigail. This “relationship” was more of a crush and lusting by Abigail than a true relationship of love as that of Hester and Dimmsdale. Proctor and Abigail have simply been in a “relationship” without the knowing of Goody Proctor, John’s wife, nor to the knowledge the other townspeople. Proctor becomes determined that his affair with Abigail will not continue, ” . . . I will no longer come for you.” (77) Relationships in both works were not the main focus of the stories, although they were evident, and both were not appropriate in the Puritan society of the time. Both were often punished for death or public humiliation such as that of Hester Prynne.
After a complete analysis of such themes of The Scarlet Letter and The Crucible, one would be able to better understand the viewpoints of both authors, Hawthorne and Miller. One can also see that such themes were prevalent throughout many works which have been written dealing with such eras in history. Sin, guilt, love, lust, and the devil have always existed in the minds and the lives of authors and readers, and always will; therefore, creating grasping works of literature to prize for years to come.