scarlet letter Essay

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Pages: 6

The Scarlet Letter
LIT 331

Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote a true American novel that dove into the complexities of Puritan and early American society; it was called The Scarlet Letter. In this novel it discussed the hard times of Hester Prynne, the main character as well as her secret lover Reverend Dimmesdale. The novel addresses their trials and tribulations of their love affair, their child Pearl and multiple symbols used to discuss identity of one’s self, along with the identity of the people. Through this story the reader can interpret the multiple symbols, such as individualism, conformity, the light and dark, which bind the story together. The running theme of identity versus society is developed for one to understand that individuality is more important than falling victim to the society’s ideals; this is shown through the interpretations of the multiple symbols such as Pearl who symbolized the light that brings the happiness to all the people involved, Chillingworth symbolized the dark that emphasized the light, Hester’s scarlet letter symbolizes individuality, and also Dimmesdale’s scarlet letter, that he wears on the interior, symbolizes conformity to the reader. The theme of identity versus society in The Scarlet Letter can be seen in Pearl because she is one of the major symbols that helps develop that theme. Pearl differs from the other characters in the novel because she is not faced with any type of hardship of her identity and how it clashes with the way society views her. Instead of finding it hard to deal with society she is the light that symbolized the illumination her mother’s and father’s identities. Pearl’s life started off in isolation from the rest of society, so she does not carry the biasness that society carries which means her interpretations are pure. So when Pearl mentions something about Dimmesdale clutching his heart in pain, one can assume that this is symbolic of his pains of conformity to his society’s ideals. Pearl states “A strange, sad man is he, with his hand always over his heart” (Hawthorne, 2005). Pearl also shown light on her mother, Hester, when she removes the scarlet letter, this seemed to Pearl as a grave event, because she saw her mother trying to escape from her identity, instead of accepting her identity. Roger Chillingworth is the dark that enhances the light of Pearl in The Scarlet Letter. His character is disliked by many but is needed for the novel, because all stories need a villain and a fair maiden. Chillingworth’s character adds to the theme identity versus society because his dark intentions help show the light and also enhance Hester’s individuality, along with breaking the bonds of conformity for Dimmesdale. Chillingworth was Hester’s husband, but when he entered the story it had been years since they had seen each other. Hester was the only one who knew who Chillingworth really was. He incorporated himself into society under a false identity, as the new doctor of the town. Even Chillingworth’s appearance enhances the dark villainy aspects of this character. As quoted from The Scarlet Letter “…Chillingworth was a striking evidence of a man’s faculty of transforming himself into a devil, if he will only, for a reasonable space of time, undertake a devil’s office” (Hawthorne, 2005). Throughout the novel the reader can see that Chillingworth is cold hearted and does not feel pity for anyone. He is out for revenge; Hawthorne uses this to symbolize the dark to enhance the light of Pearl in this novel. Chillingworth was hurt and distraught over the fact that his wife had moved on in her life without him, this turned him into a vengeful and cold hearted person. Even though Pearl was the child of his wife, Hester, and her new lover Dimmesdale, Chillingworth saw the light in Pearl and at the end of the novel left a great sum of money to Pearl. Another character that contributes to the theme would be Hester and her