Scarlet Letter Critique Essay

1152 words - 5 pages

Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter is one of the most well remembered romantic novels in history. Although written in 1850, its influence and literary greatness still force themselves onto English teachers' syllabuses every year. A strong question brought forth by this action is: "How and why does this novel manage to survive the change in society and taste over the years?" The answer to this is quite simple. It is Hawthorne's ability to project his main themes throughout the story. The themes have been able to somehow fit into every different society, even up to our time. The major themes seem to be: first, a law vs. nature idea, one that poses the laws of society against the nature of human beings. The next major theme fits into the first. It is an individual vs. society idea; Hester and her lover, Dimmesdale, become fugitives of the law of Puritan society. The next is the effect of sin, whether good or bad, on the novel's major characters. The final major theme is the public vs. private self. It shows that people are much, much different in the public than they are privately. These themes, as the reader acknowledges, are apparent just as much in today's society as they were in the 17th-century society that Hawthorne writes of. This similarity between the societies of the last 300 years has kept The Scarlet Letter, and the love for the pure romance novel, alive. The first major theme, the law vs. nature theme, runs very deep throughout The Scarlet Letter. Although today's society is very tolerant to the wrongdoing of its citizens, Puritan society was very strict. Its laws covered every aspect of life. Human nature was constantly bubbling because of the stranglehold that Puritan law put on its liberties. Its is only obvious that the reader would be drawn to the idea of two people rebelling from these ideas, and looking not at the law for authority, but to their love and the freedom of their human nature. Hester and Dimmesdale are two such rebels, and their love asks the reader to weigh the justice of society's laws against the claims of human nature, the needs of every human being to love and companionship. The next theme is the individual vs. society theme. This, although strongly relating to the fist major theme, greatly draws the reader to the story. Many popular novels today are based on the same theme: two lovers, torn apart by society, trying to find a way to be together. This idea, although tacky at times, has found a way to stand the test of time, and keep readers drawn to romance novels from generation to generation. Hester and Dimmesdale are fugitives from society, and they have a leech, in the form of Chillingworth, constantly eyeing them, and trying to eliminate their ability to be with each other. The reader wants to know what happens next, what will become of the two lovers, and if they will succeed in their chance to be with each other. The next strong theme in The Scarlet Letter is sin, and its effects, whether...

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