A review of the criticism in nathaniel hawthornes the scarlet letter
In " The Scarlet Letter " pp.
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The date is historically fixed at about the middle of the seventeenth century. A Thug, who should devoutly believe in the holiness of his mission, would fare better than an evangelist, who should lead a thousand souls to salvation, not for God's glory, but for his own. The material is so wrought as to become incidental to something loftier and greater, for which our previous analysis of the contents of the egg had not prepared us. Such restraint acts as a punishment, because the wicked impulse is thereby prevented from realizing itself; but it is intrinsically an act not of revenge, but of love, since the criminal is thereby preserved from increasing his sinful burden by accomplishing in fact what he had purposed in thought. This sequel is exhaustively analyzed in the romance, and hence the profound and permanent interest of the story. But it did not so appear to the author's mind. Pennell reveals an enduring relationship between Hester and Pearl. In her lecture "Work and Money in Hawthorne's Fiction," Claudia Johnson remarks on Hester's role as an artist and the guilt both she and Hawthorne feel from taking pleasure in their artistic creations. The revenge of society consists in publishing the sinner's ignominy. Evidently, likewise, it was a source of inspiration, suggesting new aspects and features of the truth, — a sort of witch-hazel to detect spiritual gold.
Hester is to stand as a warning to others tempted as she was: if she recovers her own salvation in the process, so much the better for her; but, for better or worse, society has ceased to have any concern with her. Indecency is a creation, not of God or of nature, but of the indecent.
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But between that and other kinds of robbery there is this difference, — that he who is robbed wishes not to recover what is lost, but to punish the robber. But what is to follow is not known; no newspapers publish it, no whisper of it passes from mouth to mouth, nor is it cried on the housetops. Hester decides to leave her husband behind to migrate to Boston. Hester basically holds herself in a dignified manner. The revenge of society consists in publishing the sinner's ignominy. A couple years later, Hester gives birth to a baby girl named Pearl in prison. At times, a fearful doubt strove to possess her soul, whether it were not better to send Pearl at once to Heaven, and go herself to such futurity as Eternal Justice might provide. Hester Prynne and Dimmesdale, however, are not so presented as to invite such misplaced tenderness on the reader's part; while Chillingworth, on the other hand, though certainly not a lovable, is very far from being an absurd or contemptible, figure. Not the less he shall be mine! Pearl, in the mysterious prenatal world, imbibes the poison of her parents' guilt.
This accomplice is unknown; that is, society has not found him out. A gross, sensual man would render the whole drama gross and obvious. By Hester having an affair and acting unladylike the community disapproved of her actions causing everyone to isolate her in her town.
Hester Prynne and Dimmesdale, however, are not so presented as to invite such misplaced tenderness on the reader's part; while Chillingworth, on the other hand, though certainly not a lovable, is very far from being an absurd or contemptible, figure.
In "Hawthorne and 'the sphere of ordinary womanhood,'" Ponder also looks at the experiences of Hawthorne's mother and how they influenced his shaping of Hester's character.
She was not born in guilt; but she was brought up to translate the symbolism amidst guilty associations, so that they had come to be the very breath of her life. It would be interesting parenthetically to draw a parallel between Pearl and Beatrice, in Rappaccini's Daughter. It is evident, of course, that the fact that a man has suffered injury has nothing to say, one way or the other, as to his personal character; and the only reason why a novelist should represent him as amiable rather than the reverse is in an instance like the present that the reader might otherwise, in disliking him, be led to regard too leniently the crime of which he is the victim. Unlike Pearl, the elders of the community see the letter as "red and devilish. It starts off with a woman named Hester Prynne. This contrast, or, perhaps it is more correct to say, mingling, of the opposite poles of being, sin and innocence, in Pearl's nature is an extraordinary achievement; enabling us, as it does, to recognize the intrinsic ugliness of sin. Henry Wood, have doubtless yawned over the revelation of Dimmesdale's soul, and grown heavy-eyed at the spectacle of Pearl's elfish waywardness. His attitude is not that of a sentimental advocate, but of an impartial investigator; he is studying the nature and effect of sinful passions, and is only incidentally concerned with the particular persons who are the exponents thereof. This appears a little strained.
So strongly is the scarlet letter rooted in every chapter and almost every sentence of the book that bears its name. In the wild, free air of that new world her spirits kindled, and many unsuspected tendencies of her impulsive and passionate nature were revealed to her.
Pearl, however, is the true creation of the book: every touch upon her portrait is a touch of genius, and her very conception is an inspiration. When Hester casts it away, she stamps and cries with passion and will not be pacified till it is replaced. She also tried to protect Dimmesdale away from Chillingworth, who was practically drawing out the life of Dimmesdale.
As Hawthorne states, Hester Prynne has helped the society a great deal. The method of society has been exemplified by the affixing of the scarlet letter on Hester's bosom.
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The force, reserve, and dignity of his demeanor win our respect at the outset, and the touches of quiet pathos in his first interview with Hester prepare us to feel a more cordial sentiment. The shorter pieces have a lyrical quality, but the longer romances express more than a mere combination of lyrics; they have a rich, multifarious life of their own. This article will focus on that novel in depth. But the majority of fiction-mongers are apt to impair rather than enhance the beauty of the abstract form of their conception, — if, indeed, it possess any to begin with. To acknowledge our sins before God, in the ordinary sense of the phrase, is a phrase, and no more, unproductive of absolution. Suppose, for example, that Hester and the minister had made good their escape from Boston, or that the latter's confession had been delayed until Pearl had passed the age of puberty. All four live as outcasts, and both children are "a source of pain and comfort" to their mothers. This is the most hideous episode in the story, and well represents the bottomless slough of iniquity which awaits the deliberate choice of evil. Subscribe to our Thank you for signing up! Such a person will contemplate with complacency the damnation of all the rest of mankind, so that his own hold upon the divine approbation be secure. In a word, society, as at present administered, presents the unhandsome spectacle of a majority of successful hypocrites, on one side, contending against a minority of discovered criminals, on the other; and we are reduced to this paradox, — that the salvation of humanity depends primarily on the victory of the criminals over the hypocrites.
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