The Scarlet Letter
Nathaniel Hawthorne
Contributed by Tereasa Jacob

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Overview
Author
Nathaniel Hawthorne
Year Published
1850
Type
Fiction
Genre
Romanticism
About the Title

Ever hear that someone has “Puritanical” standards of modesty or ideals when it comes to sexuality? Well, Hester Prynne, the protagonist of “The Scarlet Letter” lives in an actual Puritan community, forcing her to endure the humiliation of having literal labels (i.e. what the book is titled after), and to endure the ostracization from of her and her child by society. As one might imagine, this makes Hester’s attempts to take care of her child, Pearl, incredibly difficult. Adding to these problems, her estranged husband, Dr. Chillingworth, constantly seeks revenge against her Hester for her infidelity and goes so far as to torment Arthur Dimmesdale, a local minister whom Chillingworth believes to be Pearl’s biological further. Every character in “The Scarlet Letter” expresses an incredible number of inconsistencies with regards to what they want. Hester Prynne wants a better life for herself and her child, but presumably cheated on her husband while aware of the social consequences. Dr. Chillingworth can expose and ruin Dimmesdale’s reputation as soon as he becomes aware of the physical ties between Pearl and Dimmesdale, but he chooses more indirect methods and becomes too focused on revenge to the point that it consumes his identity. It’s difficult to understand Dimmesdale’s hypocritical motivations to continue preaching to others like he didn’t just sleep with a married woman, even if you bend them to be some sort of vain attempt to influence the community to treat Pearl more humanely. He should have never committed adultery if he was so dedicated to such humanitarian philosophies. Moreover, he’s a coward for choosing only to admit his role in Hester’s adultery in death, while Hester must endure it for the rest of her life. One can only hope that the European aristocrat that the adult Pearl married lives in a less prudish and judgmental society than that of the Puritans.

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