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A Search For Morality In The Scarlet

Letter Essay, Research Paper

A wonderful story, enriched by the epic paradox of good vs. evil, The Scarlet Letter, emphatically and realistically emphasizes the daily struggle with right, which is incessant in everyday life. Hawthorne masterfully worked morality into the fabric of what many consider to be his greatest novel. As vents for his elaborate undertone, he used his settings, characters, and plot. He manipulated them as if they were marionettes to serve as catalysts for the story as well as demonstrate the incongruity in the motivation and result of conflicts.Hawthorne coupled much of his story with issues of morality, and was careful to insure that it was always clear to the reader. For example, he makes use of some inanimate and rudimentary objects such as a rosebush thriving just outside the prison exit. (56) This was meant to illustrate the daunting discontinuity in a clear yet laconic way. In addition, it helps to give a personality to the work by giving it a humaneness readers can associate with. Another example is Hawthorne’s portrayal of Pearl as happiness while her parents are the personification of sin. (176) This helps to more clearly define the array of emotions elicited from both characters. Moreover, it contributes to the core problem in the novel while constantly reminding the reader of the ramifications of unscrupulousness. Through his delegating of positive and negative attributes to major symbols, Hawthorne was able to concisely implant a small but important lesson in morality.In the case of Hester, Hawthorne forged a figure with a balance of virtue and sin, but one always seemed to be dominant. She could control her emotions publicly extremely well, but seemed to be susceptible to speculation. (62) This shows just how strong her determination and motivation were, but also enlightens the reader when it comes to her social interaction shortcomings. This also shows how her sphere of sin forced her to fortify herself against verbal attacks, as well as cause her social repertoire to atrophy. As Hester’s outward determination grew, she gradually hardened on the inside. (163) Without interaction, her punishment seems to impose a life of solitude, but rather than dwell upon her sin, she let the outside punish her while her innermost feelings remained relatively untouched. As Hester struggled through life, she gradually learned to cope with her ignominy by focusing on raising Pearl since there was nothing else she could latch onto. By withholding the secret accomplice, Hester brought unneeded punishment upon herself, but it resulted in her intensifying as a person and her return to the ranks of deference.

The Reverend Dimmesdale, in contrast with Hester, was unable to deal with the severity of his self-inflicted torture in both his public and private lives. To Dimmesdale, the burden of secrecy was an impossible weight upon his shoulders. (119) Although he was able to conceal his emotions, the toll such an undertaking took on his body was immense. His hunched over gait and constantly covered heart acted as beacons for queries to be made about his health which was ever deteriorating further. In addition, Dimmesdale’s private life was his torture chamber in which he gave himself strict and stiff retribution in the hope of absolving himself. (185) His late night vigils, constant fasts, and ever-present guilt wrought his body, and, with equal force, wracked his mind. His conscience pulled so heavily on his thoughts that nearly all of his vitality and vigor ceased to exist. As a revered member of the church, Dimmesdale’s pressures inevitably brought him to his death, but his sanctity had finally won out in his inner turmoil that had seared within him for seven long years.The two sinners, tied by an intangible bond, were unable to cope with the self-imposed burden of isolation. In the end, they both traversed back over to the side of good and purity. Hawthorne’s criticism of Puritan control ends with a seemingly optimistic tone, but still holds up as a formidable example of the suffering and torment induced by the everlasting

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