The Scarlet Letter
In this article the author discusses Nathaniel Hawthorne‘s The Scarlet Letter, one of the masterpieces of American literature. Analyzing the plot and the subject matter of the novel the author proves that The Scarlet Letter was one of the most important works in Hawthorne’s career; it brought him a world-wide recognition and proved his mastery as a writer.
A short Nathaniel Hawthorne’s biography, introduced at the beginning of the article, gives the reader an image of an ordinary, shy and, at the first glance, conventional man, who, in fact, turned out to have a rich inner world and a deep understanding of social and moral issues in human society. After the novel was published, critiques talked about the beginning of a new American literary tradition.
The Scarlet Letter is one of the most difficult literary works in terms of interpretation. Though the plotline of the novel is rather static, dynamics is achieved through emotional and psychological tension. The author points out the fact that Hawthorne focuses mostly on the psychological drama of the main character, Hester Prynne, who committed adultery with the minister Arthur Dimmesdale, and now has to wear a scarlet letter “A” on her chest. To intensify the concentration of feelings, the act of adultery itself is omitted and the novel starts with Hester Prynne standing on the scaffold with a new-born daughter and a scarlet letter “A” on her chest embroidered with gold thread with great artistry. The author draws attention to the symbolic meaning of the letter “A.” The possible interpretations may include adultery and individual sin, American national sin and its cost, symbolism of ambiguity, and the impossibility of one unique interpretation.
The author continues the article with the story of Hester’s further destiny. She happens to live in one colony with Arthur Dimmesdale and her “presumed-dead” husband Chillingworth. Being a physician, Chillingworth tries to heal Dimmesdale who has a large wound on his chest. Pastor’s health worsens and at the same time Chillingworth’s attitude towards him changes greatly. The reason for this is that Chillingworth has somehow realized that Dimmesdale is Pearl’s father. Feeling insulted, Hester’s husband decides to turn Dimmesdale’s life into hell. As if Hester has not suffered enough, she has to face another problem – to protect her pastor and herself from the rage of her former husband. The author wants to emphasize Hester’s noble character by showing how much she has already suffered in order to protect Dimmesdale’s sanity in front of the congregation. She has never mentioned the name of Pearl’s father and has borne all the responsibility for her sin without any complaint.
Further on the author presents the meeting between Arthur Dimmesdale and Hester where she tells the truth about Chillingworth’s identity and his rage towards Dimmesdale. He is furious, and Hester hardly grants forgiveness. She promises to leave the colony with Pearl immediately.
At the end, the article underlines that Dimmesdale’s final preach is, certainly, the most dramatic moment in the novel. The author describes how carefully and passionately he prepares his speech where he is going to confess to his sin. During the sermon, all the parishioners are shocked by the truth; and they cannot believe the words of their beloved pastor they have considered to be a saint person. Fortunately, Dimmesdale finds enough courage to tell the truth to his congregation and to his daughter Pearl, who has suffered so much without father.