The Scarlet LetterTHE BOOK LOG ON:
The Scarlet Letter
Period 4 Adv. English 11
November 2, 1999
The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorn begins by dealing with Hester Prynne’s crime and sentence. She shows herself to be a proud woman in how she embroiders her bright red ?A? with golden thread to be displayed to her community. She is a skilled seamstress and she doesn’t seem, despite her disgrace, to be afraid to show that about herself. When she walked down the street from the prison to the scaffold, the narrator talks about her realization of how foolish and cowardly she would be if she were to try to hide her mark with the product of her sin, her baby girl. She carries off her initial sentence of being showcased on the scaffold with as much dignity as possible for anyone in such a situation. The reactions of the people were interesting to me; their strong feelings against Hester being permitted to live startled me. I realized what a sort of culture and religion ruled in those times. Also, I couldn’t quite imagine being in Hester’s position with the kind of disgrace she was faced with. The narrator describes Hester as totally losing her womanly appeal and beauty over the seven years of condemnation.
Roger Chillingworth confused me greatly until near the conclusion of the book. When he visited Hester I was surprised that he wanted to treat her instead of trying to harm her, but then later realized his motives. He wanted no one in the community to learn that there was any relationship between Hester and himself at all; harming her would have raised suspicions. This was vital to his plan of revenge on Mr. Dimmesdale. At first I thought that Chillingworth might have tried to seek revenge against Hester, but then came to the conclusion that he viewed her public disgrace as more punishment than he could ever have managed. Chillingworth’s revenge was very clever. Everyone in the town knew and respected him and this helped him gain ?friendship? with Dimmesdale. Although I didn’t understand at first that Chillingworth was actually poisoning Dimmesdale while he was supposed to be treating him, this aspect of his revenge made more sense, as I got further into the book. The cruelty of it was terrible, but it accomplished his goal of torturing him while he should have taken his rightful punishment for the crime he committed from the beginning.
My opinion of Arthur Dimmesdale changed quite a bit from when I was first introduced to him until the end of the book. At first I thought that he was a cold heartless, cowardly man for not taking his part of the blame in the two-sided crime of adultery. His actions forced Hester to take all of the disgrace on herself. I believe that her disgrace was increased because there was no second person to take some of it. The townspeople looked at her as though she had committed the crime all by herself. The amount of guilt that Dimmesdale carried with him for not confessing right away was phenomenal. The longer he waited, the harder it became for him to confess, the more his guilt built up, and the easier it was for Chillingworth to torture him. The fact that he became physically sick with guilt amazed me, especially since I didn’t realize that part of his sickness was credited to Chillingworth until later. His vigil and meeting with Hester and Pearl in the wee hours of the morning on the scaffold was the turning point of my impression of him.
Pearl’s role in the story, I felt, was the scarlet letter come to life. This is shown in several ways. She is a product of what Hester’s red ?A? represents and is usually dressed in shades of scarlet. She is described as having elfish qualities about her. Elves are most commonly thought to be mischievous and evil, which are both characteristics of the adultery the scarlet letter represents. In my opinion, the most interesting aspect of Pearl’s character is her reaction to seeing her mother without her brand and cap when she meets with Mr. Dimmesdale in the forest. She acted almost as if she didn’t consider Hester her mother without the scarlet ?A? on her dress, like she loved the ?A? more than Hester.
The conclusion of the story began with Hester’s decision to reveal Roger Chillingworth’s identity to Mr. Dimmesdale. This decision is arrived at after Hester tries to convince Chillingworth to end his revenge on Dimmesdale. His refusal to do so convinces Hester of what she needs to do. She plans to meet Dimmesdale in the forest after he returns from a visit with the Apostle Eliot. When he arrives, she sends Pearl to go play and sits down to a conversation with him. The removal of her letter and cap are symbols of comfort and love felt by her while she is with him alone. Their discussion between the two of Dimmesdale confessing to his crime on the Election Day and running away together was unexpected. I didn’t pick up on their feelings toward each other earlier in my reading. Pearl’s obvious contempt for Dimmesdale is also shocking because in their previous meetings, she had not been so hostile. Mr. Dimmesdale’s confession was bittersweet with his relief and happiness at the knowledge that he didn’t have to carry his guilt to his grave, and his almost immediate death afterwards. The ending to The Scarlet Letter sends a message of how great the power of confession and unburdening the soul is.
Through reading this book I gained insight into the world of condemned people living in the Puritan world of early America. I had not realized how seriously those people took the Ten Commandments. I learned how effectively revenge can be taken against a vulnerable person and what sort of effect that revenge can have on a person. Most of all I learned was sort of destruction a person who is a social out cast is succumbed to. Like the disgrace she encountered whenever someone saw her for the first time, how she lost her lovely appearance, and her utter patience with her punishment.
The Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorn