Devoir de Philosophie

Nathaniel Hawthorne The Scarlet Letter Essay

Publié le 04/01/2015

Extrait du document

hawthorne
07/11/12 Essay Literature Nathaniel Hawthorne The Scarlet Letter The Scarlet Letter was written in 1850 by Nathaniel Hawthorne. The story takes place in the harsh Puritan society of the seventeenth-century Boston. The novel begins with an introductory chapter - The Custom House, in which Nathaniel Hawthorne actually worked in before getting discharged from his fonctions, and before writting The Scarlet Letter. In this Chapter he finds the manuscript of The Scarlet Letter and and a gold thread, he mingles fantasy and reality, thus introducing the tone of the novel, a romance novel, as he calls it. He is also one of the most prolific symbolists in American literature, the study of its symbols is essantial to understand his novels. But in this romance novel ; Hawthorne wanted to go beyond the shallow characters of his predecessors' books and create what he called a "psychological romance" - one that would contain all the conventional techniques of romance but add deep, probing portraits of human beings in conflict with themselves. The plot starts with Hester Prynne, holding her infant on the saffold of the market place, with an A, supposedly for « Adultery » sewed on her bosom, in front of the Purtitan crowd. Her punishment, has been given by the Purtian representatives, of the State - Governor Bellingham- and of the Church - Reverend John Wilson-. The unfolding of the plot is made by the three scaffold scenes, where the four main characters are reunited : Hester and Pearl, her infant who becomes a seven years old child, Minister Arthur Dimmesdale, the preacher of the colony, and Hester's love, and Roger Chillingworth an odd physician who is in reality Roger Prynne Hester's Husband. The relationships between the characters are complex, and in constant conflict with each other. The plot and themes of the novel are set in the Purtitan society at the confluence of these relationships. Their complexity and conflictual tone, are entrenched in the novel mostly by the intense feeling of deep affection, Love,between lovers, or love for a child and its parents? And law : the system of rules that a particular country or community recognizes as regulating the actions of its members and may enforce by the imposition of penalties, but this is the Boston of the Puritans: Bible-reading, rule making, judgment framing. In Puritan society when you desobey the law you also sin, because the two are a unity. Surrounding, the colony, is the forest of the Devil, dark, shadowy, momentarily filled with sunlight, but always the home of those who would break the rules and those who listen to their passions. The wilderness plays an important part in the novel, it is where the characters reveal their true faces : the settings are themselves reflecting the opposition between love and law, wilderness and Puritan Society, imaginary and reality. Nonetheless natural laws, laws of moral and of course, God's law are not to be forgotten. To what extent do the relationships created by Hawthorne, are a representation of a conflict between love and law in the Puritan society ? And is the conflict the only interpretation depicted by Hawthorne when love and law are to be juxtaposed ? First I will focus on the conflict between the head and the heart, that Hester and Dimmesdale have to face, each on their own, in their own way with the flaws and strenghts, that Hawthorne gave them. Then I will analyse Pearl as a symbol of adultery, as seen by Puritan laws, and of an act of passion, and love, and its ressemblance, and possible association with the scarlet letter also a symbol. Finally I will study, the role of God's law, in the matter, and how Hawthorne defines the unpardonable sin as the domination of intellect over emotion. Hester lives in a Puritan colony, and yet she is not a puritan she comes from England, and followed her husband to an american colony of Puritans, in Boston. She goes to Boston alone, and her husband is supposed to meet her there. She finds comfort in the person of Minister Arthur Dimmesdale, and let herself be tempted by an act of passion, and love that gave birth to a « sinful » child. Then Hester has to carry the burden of her shame embodied in the Scarlet Letter, and in Pearl. Hester follows what we can call natural laws : Roger Prynne (aka Chillingworth) is described as old, deformed, and a man of science confine in his books, whereas Hester is young and beautiful, in the world of natural laws this union is odd. But Dimmesdale and Hester are a perfect match. But in the Puritan society, t...
hawthorne

« and her husband is supposed to meet her there. She finds comfort in the person of Minister Arthur Dimmesdale, and let herself be tempted by an act of passion, and love that gave birth to a « sinful » child. Then Hester has to carry the burden of her shame embodied in the Scarlet Letter, and in Pearl. Hester follows what we can call natural laws : Roger Prynne (aka Chillingworth) is described as old, deformed, and a man of science confine in his books, whereas Hester is young and beautiful, in the world of natural laws this union is odd. But Dimmesdale and Hester are a perfect match. But in the Puritan society, that is far from being that simple, Hawthorne points out that punishment and providence dominate Puritan culture ; proximity and description of the cemetery and the prison in chapter 1, foreshadows the effect of the Puritan culture on Hester. She has to conform to the Puritan punishement, and thus Puritan laws in order to attain redemption. Hester is depicted as a victim of love, but guilty of her sin, and she seeks redemption, she conforms to the rigid Puritanism. She becomes a victim of Purtitan laws, and their harsh vision of life, her beauty and radiant self is hidden throughout the descriptions of her, but her love makes her hide her light, it is not taken away from her. In the first scaffold scene, chapter 2, the women in the crowd are angered by her beauty and quiet dignity, and her strenght and love that prevailed her from naiming her lover, and partner in sin. In chapter 13 « Another view of Hester » we see again that beauty that she had on the beginning of the novel, that was hidden by the Scarlet Letter and the cap : symbols of the Puritan society, but in the wilderness she is her true self. Hester finds her strength in love, she has an iron will that permits her to defy the law, she won’t reveal the name of her lover, even though the law, and the church, order her to. Hawthorne uses Hester’s sin to question the nature of law and punishment in Puritan society ; no doubt throughout the novel that Hester has paid her due, Hawthorne shows it, in Chillingworth’s , Dimmesdale’s opinions. From the chapter 13 the scarlet letter is no longer seen as a sign of shame but a sign of strength, and « Able ». But this has come with a price: no friends, no passion, no love or affection. Once again to conform to Puritan society made her lost hope to find love in all its forms. Hester is strong figure for the colony, as the plot unfolds, and mostly for Dimmesdale. Who has not confess his sin, and stays in the dark, with his guilt. He relies on Hester to redeem him, he thinks she can provide the mercy and forgivness he has not felt at the hands of God. In chapter 17, in which Hester and Dimmesdale meet in the forest, symbols of nature, natural laws, humanity are placed next to the more artificial laws of Puritan society as Hawthorne develops the conflict with Hester and Dimmesdale. In consequences they are reluctant to leave this place, here they find peace and harmony they cannot feel in Puritan community. Dimmesdale’s speech, in chapter 2, is the illustation of its tormented soul. On one level, he gives a public chastisement of Hester for not naming her lover; on another level, he makes a personal plea to her to name him as her lover and Pearl's father because he is too morally weak to do so himself. Ironically, what is initially intended to be a speech about Hester becomes more a commentary about his own sinful behavior.He wants her to deliver him from his guilt, without public repentance salavtion is not attainable. The dichotomy between Dimmesdale’s public speech, and personal meanings is most evident in the phrase « believe me ». As Hawthorne said « No man, for any considerable period, can wear one face to himself, and another to the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which may be true. » He warns us not to let our reputations become more important than our lives, and it poses an interesting question about the danger of valuing appearances. Dimmesdale is the only Puritan of the four main characters, he has much to lose if he reveals his sin, he has responsability towards the town’s people, sermons to do, and of course God’s protection. But as Hawthorne wrote only redemption, and truth is the way to get Pearl’s love and God’s trust. »

↓↓↓ APERÇU DU DOCUMENT ↓↓↓

Liens utiles