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The People Without Sympathy Essay

Throughout history, people have assembled mixed attitudes towards the Puritan community. However, after analyzing a passage from Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, I have realized Hawthorne’s attitude towards the Puritans. The author cleverly portrayed his perspective through his syntax, diction, and imagery. Based on the authors writing style, I have concluded that Hawthorne finds the Puritans “severe”, “grim”, “rigid”, “awful”, and “cold”. Hawthorne suggests his attitude regarding the Puritans through his use of syntax and parallelism. When the writer described the possible people who might have committed a crime, he repeatedly used the phrase “It might be…” (line 16, 19,24). The author used parallelism to illustrate how the Puritans punished any crime with the same severity.

Whether the crime was a disobedient boy or murder, the same punishment was given to both; however, “a penalty, which, in our days, would infer a degree of mocking infamy and ridicule might then be invested with almost as stern a dignity as the punishment of death itself” (line 36). Because the Puritan people punish all crimes with the same cruelty, Hawthorne is implying that the Puritans were cruel, “cold”, and “severe”. Also, Nathaniel’s use of diction indicated how he really felt towards the cruel Puritan society. Throughout the passage, Hawthorne chose to use specific adjectives to express how he truly felt about these people; he chose to use the words “grim rigidity”, “awful”, “venerable”, and “cold”. Although in the passage, not all the adjectives are clearly describing the Puritans, Hawthorne decided to use those words to specifically convey his attitude towards the Puritans.

An author chooses his/her diction specifically for a reason, but it is up to people to figure out the reason why. Imagery is an important technique Hawthorne uses to further suggests his attitude towards the Puritans. The writer creates an image of the women being “not unsubstantial persons…. Morally, as well as materially, there was a coarser fibre in those wives and maidens of old English birth and breeding, than in their fair descendants…every successive mother has transmitted to her child a fainter bloom, a more delicate and briefer beauty, and a slighter physical frame, if not a character of less force and solidity, than her own” (line 49).

Hawthorne continues with “the man –like Elizabeth had been the not altogether unsuitable representative of the sex” (line 63). By using imagery, Nathaniel Hawthorne created a mental picture of the Puritan women; furthermore, he used imagery to illustrate the cruelty and harshness of the women within that society. Nathaniel Hawthorne used syntax, diction, and imagery to express his perspective regarding the Puritan society. After analyzing the passage and Hawthorne’s writing style, I concluded that he viewed the Puritans as “severe”, “grim”, “rigid”, “awful”, and “cold”. However, this is how I interpreted Hawthorne’s writing, for others might have a different opinion about the author’s attitude towards the Puritans.


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