Book Review of “The Scarlet Letter” by Nathaniel Hawthorne

The fiction story “The Scarlet Letter” is about a Puritan society written by Nathaniel Hawthorne during the 19th century. The setting at the Puritan society assists in creating the themes of the book; hypocrisy, sin, and identity. In the play, Nathaniel brings light to these themes throughout the book, and all of them are connected. Because of the sin of adultery committed by Hester and Dimmesdale, judgment is revealed (Nathaniel 3). Hester remains loyal to her identity even if it meant society would punish her, but Dimmesdale chooses a path of a lie for years and suffers the guilt. In this play, Hester draws on the inner strength to emerge as the first heroine of American fiction, while Dimmesdale is trapped in guilt.

The interesting aspect of the book is the portrayal of religious groups treats a sinner. Nathaniel introduces the sin of adultery committed by Hester and Dimmesdale. However, the two sinners who committed adultery responds differently. Hester accepts sin and punishment; she becomes separate but accepted by the people she lives with (Nathaniel 4). That said, it is worth noting that the way Nathaniel portrayed the various ways of living with guilt that can influence the health of an individual. Nathaniel shows how Dimmesdale lives with the guilt of hypocrisy for failing to admit and accept the punishment. After a long-suffering, Dimmesdale finally confesses.

How the play “The Scarlet Letter” portrays women

Strong and defiant

Nathaniel displays women as strong and defiant. In the story, the Puritans expect women to be pure, perfect, and close to saintly. However, this is no longer the case after Hester commits adultery with Dimmesdale and conceives a child. During her punishment by wearing a Scarlet “A,” many people expected Hester to feel bad and discouraged but she looked even stronger. Hester changed the “A” embroidered in her clothing as an able symbol rather than an adulterous symbol. Many people can see the confidence radiating from Hester, “On the breast of her gown in fine red cloth, surrounded with elaborate embroidery and fantastic flourishes of gold thread, appeared the letter A” (Nathaniel 57). Representing the women, Hester does not allow the degrading gestures to stop her focus.

Culturally inferior

In the play, women are disadvantaged because of their position. The Puritans, Just like any other society, believed that women are culturally inferior to men. As a result of gender inequality, Hester’s actions of adultery is seen as a woman’s weakness and lack of control. In this case, Hester is seen as one who should have prevented the incident. Although it takes two people to commit a sin such as adultery, in the eyes of Puritan religion, it does not matter (Nathaniel 4). The Puritans believe that women should be able to stand up against any aspect of sin to remain pure and clean as a saint. “Women derive a pleasure, incomprehensible to the other sex, from the delicate toil of the needle.” (Chapter 5) Thus, they are usually disadvantaged and judged because of their position as women.

Women in strangle

Women are portrayed as struggling. In this, Nathaniel majors on a series of events that unfolds in the life of the protagonists, Hester. The author addresses the struggles that women are facing during the 17th century and speaks on immoral actions. In the play, Hester takes the cross of the sin, which they committed with Dimmesdale. She takes the full blame and shame through the punishment. In addition, Hester struggles to raise her daughter Pearl alone through her art. “Why dost thou smile so at me?” inquired Hester, troubled at the expression of his eyes” (Nathaniel 4). In this part, Nathaniel displayed women as struggling beings. Many women are experiencing different challenges represented through caring for the family alone, and societal judgment, among others.

Importance of Hester Prynne in the narrative

Hester is the protagonist of the story. He is married to Roger Chillingworth and has an affair with Dimmesdale. Hester plays an important role in the narrative “The Scarlet Letter” as an abandoned lover, devoted mother to Pearle, estranged wife, feminist, and outcast. In the narrative, Hester’s important role is that of a destructor to represent one who opposes the established programs in society or any setting. Hester is not just a rebel but also a glorified one, and Nathaniel uses her to refute the Puritan’s strict regulations. Puritan’s religion has set rules and punishment for people who break them (Nathaniel 3). Hester helps Nathaniel to achieve his intention of criticizing the Puritan’s way of punishing wrongdoers.

In addition, another important role of Hester in the play is that of a strong, independent, and devoted mother. Hester is portrayed as a woman who can stand on her own despite public rejection and ridicule. In the story, Hester refuses to mention the father of the child who played a role in adultery. She takes the blame and accepts the punishment. Hester turns the punishment to a positive experience driving out the agony and pain. Besides, she is not disturbed with the public shame and moves on to raise her daughter Pearl by herself (Nathaniel 4). In regard to this, Nathaniel used Hester to display the strength of women. Nathaniel shows that women can withstand societal pressure and focus on major tasks such as raising a family.

Hester is also used as an object of cruelty. In the play, Hester becomes a victim of Puritan’s cruel punishment for people who go against the set rules. Puritan’s religion is strongly against sin, such as adultery. Because of the sin of adultery, she committed when the husband was perceived lost at Sea; the Puritans authorities branded her with a bright red “A” title. Some people in the crowd demanded a cruel punishment other than public disgrace (Nathaniel 4). In this situation, Nathaniel used Hester to display the cruelty of society through biased laws believed to be. Hester was used to show how some women might be victims of cruelty in society because of their position.

A surprising aspect of the narrative

The characters of the book surprised me. The author presents Dimmesdale as Hester’s estranged partner in adultery. It is surprising to note that the same priest who talks against adultery understands and believes he is a victim. In addition, it is surprising that Hester decided to take full responsibility for the blame and shame despite having full knowledge of a partner in the sin. I do not understand how this played about in the narrative.  Dimmesdale focuses more on his social reputation than anything else. Surprisingly, a priest who should be a role model by taking care of the people considers his social reputation.

Summary of the narrative “The Scarlet Letter.”

The story “The Scarlet Letter” by Nathaniel is set in a village in Puritan. The main protagonists in the narrative are Hester Prynne. Hester believes that the husband, “Rogers Chillingworth,” is dead in the Sea. Due to this, she starts an affair with a priest, “Dimmesdale,” and ends up conceiving a daughter Pearle. Hester is then subjected to punishment because of committing adultery as well as refusing to name the partner. Hester’s husband’s returns and conceals his identity in New England. Chillingworth watched her wife being forced to wear the scarlet letter “A” on her dress as a punishment for the sin of adultery. Hester goes through the punishment and comes out even stronger to raise the child alone with no support from the father.

In the play, Chillingworth refuses to name the child and major in finding the identity. Chillingworth is driven by the desire to know the father of the child. When Chillingworth learns that Dimmesdale is the father of the child, he gets the drive to torment him. Because of guilt, Dimmesdale becomes sick and confesses. On the other hand, Hester is displayed as an independent heroine who is no longer disturbed for committing adultery with a priest. Hester feels that the deep love for one another contributed to the action. Although Hester was punished ad criticized by many people, her compassion and dignity silenced the critics over time. Nathaniel used the sin of adultery to drive various themes like sin, hypocrisy, and identity.

Work cited

Nathaniel, Hawthorne. “The Scarlet Letter.” (2014).

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