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An overview of the puritanism in the novel the scarlet letter by nathaniel hawthorne

In an extended introduction, Hawthorne describes his employment in the Salem Custom House, and how he purportedly found an old document and a piece of cloth embroidered with the letter "A" in a pile of old papers. This fictitious document being the germ of the story that Hawthorne writes, as follows.

In June 1638, in Puritan Boston, Massachusetts, a crowd gathers to witness the punishment of Hester Prynne, a young woman who has given birth to a baby of unknown parentage. She is required to wear a scarlet "A" on her dress when she is in front of the townspeople to shame her. The letter "A" stands for adulteress, although this is never said explicitly in the novel. Her "punishment" because adultery was illegal at the time is to stand on the scaffold for three hours, exposed to public humiliation, and to wear the scarlet "A" for the rest of her life.

As Hester approaches the scaffoldmany of the women in the crowd are angered by her beauty and quiet dignity. When demanded and cajoled to name the father of her child, Hester refuses. As Hester looks out over the crowd, she notices a small, misshapen man and recognizes him as her long-lost husband, who has been presumed lost at sea.

When the husband sees Hester's shame, he asks a man in the crowd about her and is told the story of his wife's adultery. He angrily exclaims that the child's father, the partner in the adulterous act, should also be punished and vows to find the man. He chooses a new name, Roger Chillingworth, to aid him in his plan. The Reverend John Wilson and the minister of Hester's church, Arthur Dimmesdale, question the woman, but she refuses to name her lover.

After she returns to her prison cell, the jailer brings in Roger Chillingworth, a physician, to calm Hester and her child with his roots and herbs. He and Hester have an open conversation regarding their marriage and the fact that they were both in the wrong.

Her lover, however, is another matter and he demands to know who it is; Hester refuses to divulge such information. He accepts this, stating that he will find out anyway, and forces her to hide that he is her husband. If she ever reveals him, he warns her, he will destroy the child's father.

  • Man has no real decisions to make things which concern the world around him, for God-at His whim-will completely decide for him;
  • Though he watches and takes part in the public punishment of Hester, he is unable to take for himself the punishment that he deserves for his sin no matter how he may was to do it;
  • The outsiders miss the point completely, the allegory is lost, but we see a positive result in The Scarlet Letter;
  • His name contains the root word "dim" which evokes the feeling of faint, weak, and gloom.

Hester agrees to Chillingworth's terms although she suspects she will regret it. Following her release from prison, Hester settles in a cottage at the edge of town and earns a meager living with her needlework, which is of extraordinary quality.

She lives a quiet, somber life with her daughter, Pearl, and performs acts of charity for the poor. She is troubled by her daughter's unusual fascination with Hester's scarlet "A". The shunning of Hester also extends to Pearl, who has no playmates or friends except her mother. As she grows older, Pearl becomes capricious and unruly. Her conduct starts rumours, and, not surprisingly, the church members suggest Pearl be taken away from Hester.

Hester, hearing rumors that she may lose Pearl, goes to speak to Governor Bellingham. With him are ministers Wilson and Dimmesdale. Hester appeals to Dimmesdale in desperation, and the minister persuades the governor to let Pearl remain in Hester's care. Because Dimmesdale's health has begun to fail, the townspeople are happy to have Chillingworth, a newly arrived physician, take up lodgings with their beloved minister. Being in such close contact with Dimmesdale, Chillingworth begins to suspect that the minister's illness is the result of some unconfessed guilt.

He applies psychological pressure to the minister because he suspects Dimmesdale is Pearl's father. One evening, pulling the sleeping Dimmesdale's vestment aside, Chillingworth sees a symbol that represents his shame on the minister's pale chest.

Tormented by his guilty conscience, Dimmesdale goes to the square where Hester was punished years earlier. Climbing the scaffold, he admits his guilt but cannot find the courage to do so publicly. Hester, shocked by Dimmesdale's deterioration, decides to obtain a release from her vow of silence to her husband.

Several days later, Hester meets Dimmesdale in the forest and tells him of her husband and his desire for revenge. She convinces Dimmesdale to leave Boston in secret on a ship to Europe where they can start life anew.

The Scarlet Letter

Renewed by this plan, the minister seems to gain new energy. On Election Day, Dimmesdale gives what is called one of his most inspired sermons. But as the procession leaves the church, Dimmesdale climbs upon the scaffold and confesses his sin, dying in Hester's arms. Later, most witnesses swear that they saw a stigma in the form of a scarlet "A" upon his chest, although some deny this statement. Chillingworth, losing his will for revenge, dies shortly thereafter and leaves Pearl a substantial inheritance.

After several years, Hester returns to her cottage and resumes wearing the scarlet letter. When she dies, she is buried near the grave of Dimmesdale, and they share a simple slate tombstone engraved with an escutcheon described as: Major theme[ edit ] This section possibly contains original research. Please improve it by verifying the claims made and adding inline citations.

Statements consisting only of original research should be removed.

  • He tries to live a life as if nothing has changed, but his guilt weakens him and ends him in death;
  • He simply had these Puritan aversions that already caused the Puritans to split from the Anglican Church;
  • Chillingworth, losing his will for revenge, dies shortly thereafter and leaves Pearl a substantial inheritance;
  • The fate driven religious society in 17th century Boston would not accept sin of any kind so they branded Hester Prynne with the letter A for the rest of her life and made her stand in front of the whole community as an illustration for everyone that sin and corruption was not accepted in their Puritan society;
  • As Hester looks out over the crowd, she notices a small, misshapen man and recognizes him as her long-lost husband, who has been presumed lost at sea;
  • You can see how he disliked them by the way people act, talk, and live.

December 2017 Learn how and when to remove this template message The major theme of The Scarlet Letter is shaming and social stigmatizing, both Hester's public humiliation and Dimmesdale's private shame and fear of exposure. An overview of the puritanism in the novel the scarlet letter by nathaniel hawthorne, their liaison is never spoken of, so the circumstances that lead to Hester's pregnancy, and how their affair was kept secret never become part of the plot.

This combination of "dreaminess" and realism gave the author space to explore major themes. But it also results in knowledge — specifically, in knowledge of what it means to be immoral.

For Hester, the Scarlet Letter is a physical manifestation of her sin and reminder of her painful solitude. She contemplates casting it off to obtain her freedom from an oppressive society and a checkered past as well as the absence of God. Because the society excludes her, she considers the possibility that many of the traditions held up by the Puritan culture are untrue and are not designed to bring her happiness.

As for Dimmesdale, the "cheating minister", his sin gives him "sympathies so intimate with the sinful brotherhood of mankind, so that his chest vibrate[s] in unison with theirs. The subtlety is that the minister's belief is his own cheating, convincing himself at every stage of his spiritual pilgrimage that he is saved. Throughout the work, the nature images contrast with the stark darkness of the Puritans and their systems. The outward man reflects the condition of the heart; an observation thought inspired by the deterioration of Edgar Allan Poewhom Hawthorne "much admired".

Hester was rejected by the villagers even though she spent her life doing what she could to help the sick and the poor. Because of the social shunningshe spent her life mostly in solitude, and would not go to church.

As a result, she retreats into her own mind and her own thinking. Her thoughts begin to stretch and go beyond what would be considered by the Puritans as safe or even Christian. She still sees her sin, but begins to look on it differently than the villagers ever have.

She begins to believe that a person's earthly sins do not necessarily condemn them. She even goes so far as to tell Dimmesdale that their sin has been paid for by their daily penance and that their sin will not keep them from getting to heaven, however, the Puritans believed that such a sin surely condemns. When Dimmesdale dies, she knows she has to move on because she can no longer conform to the Puritans' strictness.

Her thinking is free from religious bounds and she has established her own different moral standards and beliefs. Fields persuaded Hawthorne to publish The Scarlet Letter alone along with the earlier-completed "Custom House" essay but he had nothing to do with the length of the story.

It was the last Salem home where the Hawthorne family lived. A 2,500-copy second edition included a preface by Hawthorne dated March 30, 1850, that stated he had decided to reprint his Introduction "without the change of a word.

The only remarkable features of the sketch are its frank and genuine good-humor.

Puritanism in The Scarlet Letter

As to enmity, or ill-feeling of any kind, personal or political, he utterly disclaims such motives". In the mid-nineteenth century, bookbinders of home-grown literature typically hand-made their books and sold them in small quantities. The first mechanized printing of The Scarlet Letter, 2,500 volumes, sold out within ten days, [11] and was widely read and discussed to an extent not much experienced in the young country up until that time. Critical response[ edit ] On its publication, critic Evert Augustus Duyckincka friend of Hawthorne's, said he preferred the author's Washington Irving -like tales.

Another friend, critic Edwin Percy Whippleobjected to the novel's "morbid intensity" with dense psychological details, writing that the book "is therefore apt to become, like Hawthorne, too painfully anatomical in his exhibition of them".

Lawrence said that there could not be a more perfect work of the American imagination than The Scarlet Letter. One can often return to it; it supports familiarity and has the inexhaustible charm and mystery of great works of art. In the 1630s she was excommunicated by the Puritans and exiled from Boston and moved to Rhode Island.

Martin Luther 1483—1545 was a leader of the Protestant Reformation in Germany. Increase Mather1639, 1723 a powerful leader of the early Massachusetts Bay Colony.

He was a Puritan minister involved with the government of the colony, and also the Salem Witch Trials. Sir Thomas Overbury and Dr. Forman were the subjects of an adultery scandal in 1615 in England. Forman was charged with trying to poison his adulterous wife and her lover.

Puritans and The Scarlet Letter - HAWTHORNE and THE SCARLET LETTER

Overbury was a friend of the lover and was perhaps poisoned. John Winthrop 1588—1649second governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. King's Chapel Burying Groundmentioned in the final paragraph, exists; the Elizabeth Pain gravestone is traditionally considered an inspiration for the protagonists' grave. The story of King David and Bathsheba is depicted in the tapestry in Mr.

Dimmesdale's room chapter 9. See II Samuel 11-12 for the Biblical story. Symbols[ edit ] The following are symbols that are embedded in The Scarlet Letter: The Scarlet Letter A: In the beginning of the novel Hester's letter A is a representation of her sin and adultery.

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However, as time progresses, the meaning of the letter changed. It now represented, to some, able. Such helpfulness was found in her—so much power to do, and power to sympathize—that many people refused to interpret the scarlet A by its original signification. The meteor shaped as an A serves as another symbol in the book.

To Reverend Dimmesdale the meteor is a sign from God who is revealing his sin to everyone and causes him to be ridden with guilt.