Scarlet Letter Analysis Essay

Submitted By baail
Words: 1326
Pages: 6

Nathaniel Hawthorne was born in Salem, Massachusetts in 1804. After the death of his father due to the Yellow Fever epidemic, he was raised with his two sisters by a single mother. As a writer, Hawthorne produced many pieces including House of Seven Gables. However, The Scarlet Letter, written near the end of his career, is thought to be his Magnum Opus. In relation to the novel, Hawthorne not only lived in the same general area as his characters, but also under many of the same circumstances. His upbringing by a single mother gave him a deeper respect for women and greatly influenced his writing. This is made apparent as the protagonist in the novel is revealed as a heroine. Additionally, his focus on the different levels of middle class New Englanders was written from his experience of being a member of this class. A specific incident occurring in Hawthorne’s later life was the true inspiration behind the story. After the death of his mother in 1849, he found a scarlet “A” made of worn cloth in his mother’s attic. Omitted in his introduction, “The Custom House,” the discovery of the letter gave him a deep emotional incentive to veer away from his planned romance novel and toward a more personal and scandalous story. Hawthorne was part of the American Transcendentalists. His beliefs are demonstrated throughout the novel as the institution of Puritan extremism corrupts several individuals by causing them to believe that they are immoral people. He broadens his philosophies through the character of Chillingworth, insinuating that any type obsession is unhealthy and will ultimately destroy the obsessed. The Scarlet Letter embodied Hawthorne’s beliefs and incorporated several aspects of his personal life into a period almost two hundred years before his time. His Puritan heritage and an upbringing by a single parent are a few of the prominent aspects of both his life and his novel.

Cultural Analysis
The Scarlet Letter is set in Boston, Massachusetts in the mid to late 1640s. The four main characters are part of the middle class. However, Hester and Pearl are at the lower end of the spectrum while Dimmesdale and Chillingworth are considered to be in higher positions of influence due to their occupations. The town is inhabited by family-oriented puritan immigrants with strict religious ideals. These social and economic circumstances stimulated the actions of the characters as well as the course of the novel. The colony of Massachusetts was known for its strict religious policies and extreme intolerance in the mid-1600s. As a result of the Puritan Migration from 1620 to 1640, New England colonies were full of puritans and separatists with radical religious morals. Crimes such as abandonment and adultery were rare and punishable offenses due to the close-knit family ideals of New Englanders. Adulterers were not only forced to wear the capital letter “A” sewed on their external apparel, but many were whipped in public for the sinful crime. In reality, Dimmesdale and Chillingworth both could have been severely punished for their acts of abandonment toward Hester. The detail about Mistress Hibbins later being tried and hanged as a witch also has a strong relation to the time period since the late 1600s was the period of witch hunts in New England. Religious extremism during this time contributes to all aspects of this story. Ministers were held in such high regard that, even after “confessing” to a terrible crime, Dimmesdale is still revered by his fellow townsmen. Chillingworth, although suspected, was also never recognized as a villain by the public due to his social standing as a semi-wealthy physician. While this novel contains many convincing details that pertain to its setting, it is not historically accurate because of the later time period in which it was written. Almost all aspects of Massachusetts life would have changed in the two hundred years between the setting and the