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The Symbol Of Guilt In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter

1881 words - 8 pages

The scarlet letter is a symbol of guilt with the power to transform not only its wearer, but everyone involved in its inaugural scandal. Pearl and the letter share a certain relationship, and at times seem to mirror each other, as they exhibit similar tendencies. As children of indignity alike, they unconsciously serve as emotional grim reapers, and together, they unwillingly carry out the supernatural mandate of punishment rationed to them through sadistic and demoniac means. Because the two chosen are but unwilling situational puppets strewn by fate, it is impossible for self proclaimed vigilantes of the paranormal to come out unscathed. In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s thusly named romantic novel of 1850, the scarlet letter, its identity, and its emotionally stressing qualities are related through Pearl.
As the original sinners and the parents of scandal, Esther and Dimmesdale fall into step as the story’s Adam and Eve. Their wrongdoings affect the lives and highlight the personalities of everyone around them. From the beginning, the puritan community members are illuminated as foolish single-minded simpletons in search of divine purity, as shown in the second chapter during a townswoman gossip session outside of the jail prior to Hester’s release when one states, “…we talk of marks and brands [but]…this woman has brought shame upon us all, and ought to die. Truly there is [a law for it] both in Scripture and the statue-book. (Hawthorne 45).” This woman demonstrates the general lack of community empathy and the common need to relate everything to their God, in hopes of prospering and becoming better, more favored people. In such a cultic society which can never truly let go of its superstitions and forgive, as showcased in chapter five when no matter how often the townsfolk employ her needlework for their own vain purposes, it is never requested for weddings. “The exception indicated the ever relentless vigor with which society frowned upon her sin (70).” Surely, to such a fickle, and self righteous sect of faux wholesomeness the only earthen dwellers worth putting any trust in were ministers, and by chapter 23, no priest was held higher than Dimmesdale, who was “the very proudest eminence of superiority, to which the gifts of intellect, rich lore, prevailing eloquence, and a reputation of whitest sanctity, could exalt a clergyman in New England’s earliest days, when the professional character was of itself a lofty pedestal (204).” Bearing all this in mind, and knowing that he had then fulfilled the dreams of every parishioner in his New England town, and in all reality, he himself had become their God, how difficult it must have been to go through with his final decision.
As the main devotee to finding and punishing the male adulterer, Chillingworth displays the most violent initial change. By attempting to fulfill a diabolical task that he was not selected for, he stains his soul with the tea of malice. Because he is so intent on punishing...

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