The Scarlet Letter Essay Research Paper Zapata — страница 2

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moral parable, which offers its readers a sweet and moral lesson. This lesson emerges from the faults made by the Puritans’ early experiment in society, which the narrator consistently uses irony to deflate (James 126) . He comments, for example, that whatever Utopia of human virtue and happiness the founding Pilgrims had envisioned, a cemetery and a prison both became necessary institutions. He aims his irony not at the fact that the need for a prison arose, but at the naive fantasy that it could have been otherwise (Ingham 111). As he does in The Blithedale Romance (1852), Hawthorne deflates the tradition of American dreams of Utopia and new social orders. In The Scarlet Letter, the fault shared by the Puritan settlers, the women outside the prison, and Arthur Dimmesdale most

of all, is pious hypocrisy: they naively imagine that sin, or human frailty and sorrow, can be avoided through denial and pretense (Symons 634). Chillingworth, using an assumed name and hiding his intent of revenge, becomes an increasingly diabolical villain by his own duplicity. At the other end of the spectrum, Hester Prynne, because she wears a sign of shame on the surface of her clothing, cannot pretend innocence; consequently she has a greater potential for salvation and peace (Tuckerman 205). For Hawthorne, his Puritan ancestors and the society they built seemed to forget the wisdom of the great Puritan poet John Milton, author of Paradise Lost (Abott 137). Hawthorne repeatedly invokes Paradise Lost in order to reassert its vision of mankind as fallen, and its “poetic

dramatization of Adam and Eve’s fall and expulsion from Eden” (139). Fallen, with the world all before them, they gain the potential for ultimate redemption. So Hester, let out of prison, with the world before her, seems to have a better chance of redemption than her hypocritical neighbors. Hawthorne’s allusions to Paradise Lost also provide him a way of introducing the Zapata 4 question of sexuality and woman as the site of temptation and sin. Hester Prynne repeatedly feels herself to be responsible for the sins of both Dimmesdale and Chillingworth. Dimmesdale and Chillingworth each reinforce this interpretation. The narrator dramatizes the self-serving structure of their accusations, and calls it into question. The irony of Dimmesdale’s initial visit to Hester

illustrates this: “Be not silent from any mistaken pity and tenderness for [thy fellow-sinner]; for, believe me, Hester, though he were to step down from a high place, and stand there beside thee, on thy pedestal of shame, yet better were it so, than to hide a guilty heart through life. What can thy silence do for him, except it tempt him yea, compel him, as it were to add hypocrisy to sin?” (Hawthorne 20). Dimmesdale, as he stands at a literally high place, transfers his own responsibility to acknowledge his part in the crime to Hester. Hester serves both Dimmesdale and Chillingworth, and indeed the whole community, as a scapegoat (James 88). “The rich, voluptuous, Oriental characteristic in her nature, which implies sexuality, is something that the community

simultaneously desires and disavows” (Corrigan 123). They ostracize her, but continue to consume her needlework, surreptitiously borrowing from the exotic principle she seems to symbolize. In this way, Hawthorne directs his irony at Puritan hypocrisy. However, he softens the didacticism of his tale with the other means he uses: imagery and symbolism (Chorley 323). As david Ingham states, “Again, the rosebush should symbolize some sweet moral blossom— the key word is symbolize” (346). The novel’s most important symbol, the name-giving scarlet letter A, takes on several different meanings. To the townspeople, the letter has the effect of a spell, taking Hester out of the ordinary relations with humanity, Zapata 5 and in closing her in a sphere by herself (Tuckerman 207).

The spell of this scarlet letter is akin to that of The Scarlet Letter, the book itself. Like the community of Boston, the reader is invited to enter a separate sphere, where both imagination and moral growth can occur. As Hawthorne describes it in “The Custom House”, modern life (of the 1840s) has a dulling effect on the mind and the spirit. In his fiction, he wants to create a richer and more challenging world. Just as the meaning of Hester’s A gradually expands for the townspeople, meaning not just Adultery but also Able, and perhaps Angel, The Scarlet Letter has an ambiguity that opens possibilities of meaning for its readers (Cassil 513). Readers continue to speculate on what the A additionally suggests: Arthur (Dimmesdale), Ambiguity, America, and so on. The ambiguity