The Nature Of Morality In The Scarlet Letter, By Nathaniel Hawthorne

1880 Words 8 Pages
Defined by its exploration of the darker themes within humanity, Nathaniel Hawthorne paints The Scarlet Letter as a tragic romance embodied by the immoral lovers Hester Prynne and Arthur Dimmesdale, in the aftermath of their sin. Set in the middle of the seventeenth century during a time of religious fervor, Hawthorne’s novel unfolds in the colony of Massachusetts, characterized by its strict, traditional Puritan community at the time. In consequence for their actions, Hester and Dimmesdale struggle to face the vindictive Puritan community during their endeavor for self liberation from their brand as sinners. With this central conflict driving the novel, Hawthorne is able to analyze humanity’s darker morals, expressed throughout his text. Through …show more content…
As Hester is at first presented as an ordinary human, even she is susceptible to her societal identity as a sinner wearing away at her humanity, and as Hawthorne depicts her years later, “all the light and graceful foliage of her character had been withered up by this red-hot brand, and had long ago fallen away, leaving a bare and harsh outline which might’ve been repulsed, had she possessed friends or companions to be repelled by it” (Hawthorne 157-158). As Hester shows in her character development, the Puritan community continues to act as an antagonist to Hester even years after her crime, opposing her ability to break free from her confining social image as an adulterer. Through his writing, Hawthorne portrays Hester in a sympathetic light in parts of his novel, but ultimately, Hester’s role is to demonstrate the idea that a character seen in a compassionate light may also in fact deserve criticism for their actions (Abel). This perception binds Hester to her actions and yet ultimately allows the audience to see the growth of Hester as she moves past her criticism and evolves in identity by the end of the novel. As a matter of fact, Hester’s strength and trust in her own morality allow her to “achieve spiritual greatness in spite of her own human weakness, in …show more content…
As Dimmesdale is first introduced, he is noted for his skills as a minister yet is described as an individual, “who felt himself quite astray, and at a loss in the pathway of human existence, and could only be at ease in some seclusion of his own” (Hawthorne 72). Dimmesdale’s first introduction reveals an unusualness that foreshadows his true character, hidden by his social guise of a highly respected and pious minister. In fact, Dimmesdale’s characterization revolves around his religious hypocrisy in the sense that “it is the truth of sin that he keeps hidden which makes him the very pillar of moral purity in the community” (Telgen 313). With this in mind, Hawthorne creates Dimmesdale as a character driven by his sin to a state of psychological ruin, contrasting with Hester’s ability to use her sin as a way to evolve both in strength and morality. In The Scarlet Letter, Dimmesdale develops from his sin in a negative way, in which “he is not changed, but his relationship to the world is; he has lived in fear of discovery, but now he has a sense of his own power to control and manipulate people, rather than merely to maintain a facade” (Pimple). It stands, that Hawthorne is eventually able to use his character Dimmesdale as a way

Related Documents