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"Reading Journal: The Scarlet Letter" Analyze The Major Literary Aspects Of The Scarlet Letter.

2596 words - 10 pages

Author and Purpose:This novel was written by Nathaniel Hawthorne. While Hawthorne had some admiration for his Puritan ancestors, most of whom were motivated by their goal of purifying the Anglican Church, his perspective is balanced by his recognition of their hypocrisy. As John Winthrop described, the Puritan society was to be a “city upon a hill” — a place where the “eyes of all people are upon us”, but, as Hawthorne acknowledges with this novel, this ideology was overshadowed by their tendency to condemn the sinner, rather than forgive and uplift. Accordingly, Hawthorne wrote The Scarlet Letter in order to expose the hypocrisy of judgment in general. He uses the Puritan society to illustrate how people often judge others for their sins and use others as scapegoats to direct attention away from their own sins. The five gossips in chapter two exemplify this as they cry, “this woman has brought shame upon us all, and ought to die.” In reply a man exclaims, “Mercy on us, goodwife, is there no virtue in woman, save what springs from a wholesome fear of the gallows?”Setting:This story is set during the mid-1700s in Puritan settled Boston, Massachusetts. The story can transcend the setting absolutely, as the Puritan society is merely used to exemplify the judgmental nature seen in all mankind, a characteristic that exists in the very nature of man, rather than a particular setting.Plot Summary:A young woman, Hester Prynne, has been found guilty of adultery and must wear a scarlet “A”, which she sewn beautifully, on her dress as a sign of shame. She is led from the town prison to the scaffold, where she must stand for three hours, exposed to public humiliation. Many of the women in the crowd are enraged by the subtle dignity Hester carries, as well as the seeming lenience of her punishment. Gazing out into the crowd, she notices her small, misshapen, long-lost husband, who had gone missing for two years, supposedly lost at sea. The people in the crowd, the town fathers, and the minister of Hester’s church, Arthur Dimmesdale, interrogate her about lover's identity. She refuses to reveal it, thus she is punished for her transgression with the scarlet letter, along with her public humiliation upon the scaffold.Hester Prynne’s husband, who had sent Hester to Boston ahead of him, but never contacted her since, later approaches her and reveals his identity to her. He has her swear to secrecy, revealing his identity to no one but her. Chillingworth becomes intent upon finding Hester’s former lover and exacting revenge upon him.Following her release from prison, Hester settles in a cottage at the edge of town and supports herself and her daughter, Pearl, working in needlework. She lives a tranquil life with her daughter. Her daughter’s unusual behavior troubles Hester. From her infancy, on throughout her childhood, Pearl is enthralled by the scarlet “A”. As she grows, Pearl...

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