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Sample essay topic, essay writing: The Scarlet Letter - 1534 words
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.. ffold scenes, not only as a unifying device, but as a means to keep the reader interested inthe novel by providing plenty of action. The main characters sharply contrast each other in the way they react to Hester and Dimmesdale'ssin. To begin, Hester becomes stronger, more enduring, and even more sympathetic. She becomes strongerbecause of all the weight she has to carry.
She is a single mother who suffers all of the burdens ofparenthood by herself. They live on the edge of town, and Pearl has no one to give her food, shelter andemotional support besides Hester. Pearl is especially difficult to raise because she is anything butnormal. Hawthorne gives a pretty accurate description of Pearl when he writes: The child could not be made amenable to rules. In giving her existence, a great law hadbeen broken; and the result was a being whose elements were perhaps beautiful and bril- liant, but all indisorder; or with an order peculiar to themselves, amidst which the point of variety and arrangement was difficult or impossible to be discovered (91)
Hester's endurance is proven when the people of the colony completely change their opinion of her. Whilea lesser person would run from the hostile colonists, Hester withstands their insolence and pursues anormal life. After years of proving her worth with her uncommon sewing skills and providing communityservice, the colonists come to think of the scarlet letter as 'the cross on a nun's bosom,' which is nosmall accomplishment (169). Hester also becomes more sensitive to the feelings and needs of otherpeople. She feels that her own sin gives her 'sympathetic knowledge of the hidden sin in other hearts'(87).
So even though the people she tried to help 'often reviled the hand that was stretched forth tosuccor them,' she continues her services because she actually cares (85). While Hester tries to make thebest out of her situation, Dimmesdale becomes weaker by letting guilt and grief eat away at hisconscience. Dimmesdale punishes himself by believing that he can neve!r be redeemed. He feels that he will never be seen the same in the eyes of God, and that no amount ofpenitence can ever return him to God's good graces. He is so touchy on this subject that when Hestersays his good deeds will count for something in God's view, he exclaims, 'There is no substance in it!It is cold and dead and can do nothing for me!' (202).
Dimmesdale also believes that his sin has takenthe meaning out of his life. His life's work has been dedicated to God, and now his sin has tainted it(202). He feels that he is a fraud and is not fit to lead the people of the town to salvation. Thefeeling is so oppressive that the chance of escaping his work and leaving with Hester and Pearl makes himemotionally (and probably mentally) unstable. He walks through the town with twice as much energy asnormal, and he barely stops himself from swearing to a fellow deacon (229).
When an old lady approacheshim he can not remember any scriptures whatsoever to tell he!r, and the urge to use his power of persuasion over a young maiden is so strong that he covers his face with his cloak and runs off (230). The largest cause ofDimmesdale's breakdown is the fact that he keeps his sin a secret. As God's servant, it is his nature totell the truth, so the years of pretending are especially hard on him. His secret guilt is such a burdenthat instead of going with Hester to England and perhaps having a chance to live longer, he chose tostand, confess and perish on the scaffold (268). Ultimately, Chillingworth responds to his wife'sbetrayal by sacrificing everything in order to seek revenge.
After he discovers that his wife boreanother man's child, Chillingworth gives up his independence. He used to be a scholar who dedicated hisbest years 'to feed the hungry dream of knowledge,' but his new allegiance becomes finding and slowlypunishing the man who seduced his wife (74). He soon becomes obsessed with his new mission in life, andwhen he targeted Reverend Dimmesdale as the possible parent, he dedic!ates all of his time to becoming his confidant in order to get his retribution (127). Vengeance was alsoone of the reasons that Chillingworth gives up his identity. The only way he can truly corruptDimmesdale is to live with him and be by his side all day, every day.
The only possible way to do thatis to give up his true identity as Roger Prynne, Hester's husband, and become Roger Chillingworth. Sincethe only person who knew his true identity is sworn to silence, he succeeds for a long time in trickingDimmesdale until Hester sees that he was going mad and finally revealed Chillingworth's true identity(204). His largest sacrifice is by far, his own life. After spending so much time dwelling on hisrevenge, Chillingworth forgets that he still has a chance to lead a life of his own. So accordingly,after Dimmesdale reveals his secret to the world, Chillingworth dies less than a year later because hehas nothing left to live for (272).
In conclusion, Hawthorne's use !of characterization gives the book a classic feeling by showing Hester, Dimmesdale, and Chillingworth's feelings indirectly through acts. The novel revolves around two major symbols: light and darkness and the scarlet letter. The bookis filled with light and darkness symbols because it represents the most common battle of all time, goodversus evil. When Hester and her daughter are walking in the forest, Pearl exclaims: Mother, the sunshine does not love you. It runs away and hides itself, because it is afraidof something on your bosom.
Now see! There it is, playing, a good way off. Stand you here, andlet me run and catch it. I am but a child. It will not flee from me, for I wear no- thing on my bosomyet (192)!Hester tries to stretch her hand into the circle of light, but the sunshine vanishes (192). She thensuggests that they go into the forest and rest (193).
This short scene actually represents Hester'sdaily struggle in life. The light represents what Hester wants to be, which is pure. The movement ofthe light represents Hester's constant denial of acceptance. Hester's lack of surprise and quicksuggestion to go into the forest, where it is dark, shows that she never expected to be admitted and isresigned to her station in life. Another way light and darkness is used in symbolism is by the wayHester and Dimmesdale's plan to escape is doomed. Hester and Dimmesdale meet in the shadows of theforest with a gloomy sky and a threatening storm overhead when they discuss their plans for the future(200). The gloomy weather and shadows exemplify the fact that they can't get away from the repressiveforce of their sins.
It is later proven when Dimmesdale dies on the scaffold!instead of leaving with Hester and going to England (269). A final example occurs by the way Hester andDimmesdale can not acknowledge their love in front of others. When they meet in the woods, they feelthat, 'No golden light had ever been so precious as the gloom of this dark forest (206). This emotionforetells that they will never last together openly because their sin has separated them too much fromnormal life. The scarlet letter also takes many different forms in the novel. The first and clearestform that the letter A takes is 'Adulteress.' It is apparent that Hester is guilty of cheating on herhusband when she surfaces from the prison with a three-month-old-child in her arms, and her husband hasbeen away for two years (53).
Hence, the people look at the letter elaborately embroidered with goldthread and see a 'hussy' who is proud of her sin (54). The second form that it takes is 'Angel.' WhenGovernor Winthrop passes away, a giant A appears in the sky. !People from the church feel that, 'For as our good Governor Winthrop was made an angel this past night, it was doubtless held fit that there should be some noticethereof!' (16). The final form that the scarlet letter take is 'Able.' Hester helped the people of thetown so unselfishly that Hawthorne wrote: Such helpfulness was found in her,--so much power to do, and power to sympathize,--thatmany people refused to interpret the scarlet A by it s original significance. They said that it meantAble; so strong was Hester Prynne, with a woman's strength (167).In closing, one of the most important reasons that The Scarlet Letter is so well known is the wayHawthorne leaves the novel open to be interpreted several different ways by his abundant use ofsymbolism.
This background, together with a believable plot, convincing characterization, and importantliterary devices enables Nathaniel Hawthorne in The Scarlet Letter to the develop the theme of the heartas a prison. Hawthorne describes the purpose of the novel when he says, 'Be true! Be true! Be true! Showfreely to the world, if not your worse, yet some trait whereby the worst may be inferred!' (272). Thetheme is beneficial because it can be put into terms in today's world. The Scarlet Letter is one of thefew books that will be timeless, because it deals with alienation, sin, punishment, and guilt, emotionsthat will continue to be felt by every generation to come.
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