Scarlet Letter Essay Research Paper The achievement

Scarlet Letter Essay, Research Paper

The achievement of simplicity in life never occurs because things are not

simple, but manifold, being viewed differently, and speaking more than one

purpose. Nathaniel Hawthorne journeys to seventeenth century Boston and

introduces Hester Prynne as he makes his awareness of this idea evident. Through

The Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne presents the complexity of life?s components

whether they appear as simple as an embroidered letter or as intricate as a life

changing circumstance. The focus on sin and the consequences and atonement that

follow exemplify Hawthorne?s tragic moral vision. A moral vision dealing

directly with human nature through Hawthorne’s own creation of Hester Prynne

provokes this idea, this problematic truth. A woman publicly acknowledged for

what her society held as a grave sin stands before them. She begins her journey,

a journey that will forever change the views of not only her fellow characters,

but also those to whom Hawthorne tries to reach through his writing. In this

journey, meet a woman who?s weakness became her strength, who was looked upon

in ways as changing as the seasons. Hester Prynne and the scarlet letter,

standing not only as character and prop, but also as universal defendants of the

idea of multiple views, are tools for the exploration of this truth. Through

just three different perspectives, Hester and her scarlet letter can sustain the

ideology presented by Hawthorne and contribute to its acceptance. They do so as

regarded by the townspeople, Hawthorne, and Hester herself. The citizens of

Boston deem two manifest opinions of Hester and the letter: that notion from the

opening scene, which differs greatly that by mid-novel. As Hester walks out into

the marketplace for the satisfaction of the townspeople, they immediately evince

their cold and unsparing attitude toward this woman. The letter A was to be worn

as a punishment, to be worn in shame, to be worn as ?adulteress.? The

Puritan community was a dark, strict society, feeling indifferent to the

humanness of the woman standing before them on the scaffold, with her infant

daughter against her chest. The beautifully sewn letter does not glow in the

eyes of the people. The letter shapes the way they look at Hester and the way

they treat her. They isolate Hester socially and geographically, which

ultimately causes her own emotional isolation. However, that attitude does

change. The very townspeople who once condemned her now believed her scarlet A

to stand for her ability to create her beautiful needlework and for her

unselfish assistance to the poor and sick. They now saw it as a ?symbol of her

calling. Such helpfulness was found in her- so much power to do and power to

sympathize-that many people refused to interpret the scarlet A by its original

signification,? (Hawthorne 156) and now believed it to represent the concept

of ?able.? At this point, many the townspeople realized what a high quality

character Hester possessed. They would call to each other, ?Do you see that

woman with the embroidered badge? It is our Hester-the town?s Hester??

(157). The changing attitudes in her society did eventually see the brave,

strong woman Hester always had been. However, they never would know what it was

like to be the person who bore that scarlet letter. Hester knew the A?s

significance in her own life to be much different from what was viewed by

others. Only Hester herself felt the letter on her chest. Only Hester felt the

change that came over her in those seven years. Walking out to the scaffold that

first day, Hester behaved as the brave, integrity-filled woman that she knew she

was all along. She did not attempt to conceal the symbol that she wore, for she

knew there was nothing to hide. Although Hester is clearly not a Puritan, she

does show respect for the Puritan code. She fully acknowledges her sin and she

boldly displays it to the world. This face of the A is a model of

?acceptance,? a symbol of Hester?s respect for herself, and for her life.

Hester did not plan to commit the sin of adultery, because it was not a sin of

lust in her eyes; it was an act of love. Her salvation lies in the truth, the

truth of love and passion. Hester?s pride sustains her from the opening scene

until she dies, still bearing the scarlet A. Hester?s acceptance transformed

the scarlet letter to being much more than a symbol, it was a guide, ??her

passport into regions where other women dared not tread. Shame, Despair,

Solitude! These had been her teachers-stern and wild ones-they had made her

strong?? (183). In addition to the convictions of his characters, Hawthorne

also expresses his own opinions in regards to his central character, and one

might refer to it as a biased opinion. Hawthorne does not condone Hester?s

adultery, but he does find it less serious a sin than the sins of Dimmesdale and

Chillingworth. Clearly, Hawthorne sees Hester as a victim, emphasizing that she

is a victim of her society and her passion, which ultimately stands as her

biggest downfall as well as her largest asset. When referring to Hester in the

opening scaffold scene, Hawthorne remarks that ?never had Hester Prynne

appeared more lady-like, in the antique interpretation of the term, than as he

issued from the prison? (50). The way Hawthorne chose to illustrate his

character enables the reader to acquire the author?s attitude toward his

subject. To Hawthorne, the A is a symbol used to develop his character. He never

takes a firm stance in the ever-changing meanings of the scarlet letter, yet

merely casts it to his moral vision with the idea of ?atonement.? Hester and

her scarlet letter never achieved simplicity. Perhaps because austerity is not

obtainable through the human character. When dealing with human nature, the

intricacy of life is accented and the variety of interpretation is strengthened.

Beautifully illustrating that statement, Hawthorne challenges his readers to

gain this truth through his work and development of Hester and the intricacy of

the A. Hawthorne does not see things as black and white, yet encourages all to

live in the gray area. He realizes that everyone is vulnerable, and everyone

wears his or her own scarlet letter. Each person?s letter is unique, different

from all others; different because of what their own letter has originated from,

and different because of the way it is viewed by various subjects. Hester and

her scarlet letter are a perfect example; a result of passion looked upon from

three perspectives. Hawthorne?s tragic moral vision is illuminated in his

beloved character and the letter she bore. The universal idea that there is more

than one way to view things is not only a truth, but also a complexity in


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