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Analysis Of Norman Bryson´S Hawthrone´S Illegible Letter

1218 words - 5 pages

Literary fiction’s success and popularity can be designated to its capacity to comfort generations of readers conditioned to believe that uncertainty is synonymous to weakness. Stories that offer a sense of order, a substantial plot with an ending that allows closure, are commonly enjoyed for their stability. However, we see that the books that withhold relevance and constant observation decades after their creation typically offer audiences an experience completely unique from this assumed standard of literature. While this should normally be enough to deem a piece of writing, “classic,” some argue that if a novel’s purpose can be argued against, then perhaps the distinguished title should be more gingerly used. Norman Bryson, author of, “Hawthorne’s Illegible Letter,” critiques Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter by attacking the ambiguity of the story and the destruction of meaning he believes the vagueness creates. Bryson’s title in itself shrewdly criticizes the veil over legitimacy in Hawthorne’s piece by altering part of the original name. For a man with such clever word play, is it possible that even he fears the unknown at times? Although he doesn’t quite portray apprehension in his writing, it does seem as though he found solace in counter-acting previous judgments with much disregard for the possibility that the constant changes in the novel allow the reader infinite leg room for interpretation were written for a positive reason reason. Bryson’s claim that the overwhelming uncertainty of the fictional tale cloaks the novel’s supposed purpose is invalid for the likelihood that Hawthorne wrote The Scarlet Letter to successfully portray his appreciation of the ambiguity that surrounded both the Puritan community and humanity as a whole.
What Bryson fails to touch upon in his essay is the fact that Hawthorne was writing during the Romantic Period. He did, however, mention that the book allows “for the reader the experience of being inside a meaning,” (83). This being said, Bryson gives the hypothetical experience a negative, destructive and painful connotation to be pinned on Hawthorne. The beauties of the novel can only be found after peeling away the layers of ambiguity that grows beneath the physical words on the page. As a Romantic author, Hawthorne probably aimed to retain this sense of active consciousness to surroundings in the reader via his unanswerable questions and constant rerouting of the “plot.” The irony here is that The Scarlet Letter consists of a meager plot, yet such abundant interpretation and hidden meaning can be found in nearly each page.
One of the Hawthorne’s greatest accomplishments in his writing is the complexity of the relationship between the characters. Bryson perhaps incorrectly understands the balance, seen, for example, when accusing Hawthorne of a forceful characterization where “What Dimmesdale is depends on what Hester and Chillingworth are; and if they are broken, fragmented, torn, then so...

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