Review of The Scarlet Letter

Review of The Scarlet Letter





Review of The Scarlet Letter

Theme Analysis

The Scarlet Letter is a narrative that exemplifies the complex pieces of the Puritan way of life. The narrative is initially centered on a sin that Hester Prynne and her clandestine lover commit before the narrative ever begins. The book illustrates the way people’s lives are affected by sin. In regard to Hester, the sin throws her into seclusion from society as well as from herself. The Scarlet Letter starts with a lengthy preamble concerning how the novel came into writing. The anonymous narrator worked in Salem as a surveyor of the custom house, whereby, in the attic of the customhouse, he discovered several documents. These included a document that was packed with a gold-embroidered, scarlet piece of cloth that had an “A” shape. The document, the work of a former surveyor, detailed occurrences that transpired two hundred years prior to the narrator’s era. The Scarlet Letter is the ultimate product of the anonymous narrator.


Knowledge and sin are associated with Judeo-Christian traditions, and the experience of Dimmesdale and Hester recalls the Adam and Eve story because, in the two cases, sin leads to expulsion as well as suffering. However, sin also leads to knowledge, expressly, in knowledge relating the meaning of being human. In the case of Hester, the scarlet letter is used as her permit into areas where women would not dare to venture into. This leads her to speculate concerning her society as well as herself more audaciously than everyone in New England. In the case of Dimmesdale, the yoke of his sin grants him intimate sympathies with the wicked brotherhood of humanity, to the point that his heart beats in harmony with theirs (Hawthorne 105).

Dimmesdale and Hester contemplate their individual sinfulness on an everyday basis, and endeavor to relate it with their life experiences. Puritan elders, in contrast, perceive worldly experience as simply an impediment on the passageway to heaven. Therefore, they perceive sin as a menace to the community that ought to be suppressed and punished. Their response to Hester’s sin is to banish her. However, Puritan society is moribund, while Dimmesdale and Hester’s experience demonstrate that a state of immorality can lead to individual growth, compassion, and appreciating others. Ironically, these qualities are depicted as incompatible with a state of righteousness (112).

The Character of Evil. The novel’s characters frequently discuss the personality of the Black Man, as the personification of evil. Throughout the narrative, the Black Man is connected with Mistress Hibbins, Chillingworth, as well as Dimmesdale, and Pearl is considered by some as a child of the Devil. Incomprehension over the causes, and nature of evil expose the trouble with the Puritan idea of sin. The novel argues that real evil originates from the close connection between love and hate. Evil is not established in Dimmesdale and Hester’s lovemaking, or in the vindictive lack of knowledge of the Puritan fathers. Wickedness, in its most venomous form, is established in the cautiously plotted and specifically aimed vengeance of Chillingworth, whose love is perverted. Conceivably Pearl is not completely wrong when she considers Dimmesdale as the Black Man, since her father, has also polluted his love. Dimmesdale, who ought to love Pearl, cannot publicly appreciate her. His vindictive rejection of love to his child might be seen as committing evil (278).

Society and Identity. Following Hester public compulsion to wear an insignia of humiliation, her reluctance to depart from the town may appear to be perplexing. Hester is not imprisoned physically, and exiting Massachusetts Bay Colony could permit her to do away with the scarlet letter and recommence a normal life. Unexpectedly, Hester responds with shock when Chillingworth notifies her that the town fathers are taking into consideration allowing her to remove the scarlet letter. Hester’s conduct is based on her desire to decide her own identity, instead of allowing others to decide it on her behalf. To Hester, absconding or removing the note would be recognition of society’s supremacy over her: she will be confessing that the letter is a sign of ignominy and something she desires to flee. In its place, Hester settles, refiguring the letter as a sign of her individual experiences as well as character. Her former sin is an element of her identity; to imagine that it never occurred would denote denying an element of her being. Hence, Hester determinedly assimilates her transgression into her being (282).

Dimmesdale is also faced with an identity that is socially determined, which he continues to struggle against. As the society’s minister, he is seen as more of an icon than a human being. Apart from for Chillingworth, those surrounding the minister deliberately disregard his obvious agony, misinterpreting it as piety. Regrettably, Dimmesdale never completely identifies the truth concerning what Hester has realized: that strength and individuality are acquired by silent self-assertion and through a reconfiguration, but not a denial, of one’s bestowed identity (290).


The bulk of Hawthorne’s books take America’s Puritan history as the subject, except that The Scarlet Letter employs the material to maximum effect. Puritans refers to a faction of religious reformers who in the 1630s, arrived in Massachusetts under the guidance of John Winthrop, whose demise is narrated in the book. This religious sect was famous for its bigotry in regard to dissenting lifestyles and ideas. In The Scarlet Letter, the author employs the authoritarian and repressive Puritan community as an analogue for humanity in general. This Puritan setting also facilitates Hawthorne to depict the human spirit under tremendous pressures. Chillingworth, Dimmesdale, and Hester while indisputably component of the Puritan society, in which they exist, also mirror widespread experiences. The author speaks explicitly to American concerns, but he avoids the thematic and aesthetic limitations that may go together with such a focus.

Works Cited

Hawthorne, N. The Scarlet Letter. Boston: Ticknor, Reed & Fields, 1850.N Print.