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The Scarlet Letter Essay Topics & Paper Examples

Ignominy in the Puritan Community

The title of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter refers to the literal symbol of ignominy that Hester Prynne’s community forces her to wear as a reminder of her sin. Though the word “ignominy” is used in sympathetic passages that describe Hester Prynne’s disgrace as an adulteress and out-of-wedlock mother, its use at the same time reveals an extremely critical description of Hester’s community; Hawthorne finds that what is truly disgraceful is the way the community relishes and exploits the opportunity to punish one of its members. Through powerful diction and imagery describing Hester’s sin and through saintly representations of Hester’s beauty and wholeness, Hawthorne reveals his sympathy toward Hester. The narrator commiserates with Hester when the reader first encounters her…

Scarlet Letter Role of Occult

The Black man’s role and effect on the scarlet letters characters The Scarlet Letter deals with many themes but a prominent theme of the entire book is the theme of the occult and the Black man, and also known as Satan. Throughout the book Hester thinks that the black man is working his thoughts and actions into her life. The black man also is in the lives of others around her such as Dimmesdale, Mistress Hibbons, and especially her daughter the symbol of her sin, Pearl. The sin that the black man tempted her with shapes the morals of her daughter Pearl and the way she views the world Pearl is the symbol of Hester’s sin a sin that was…

The Scarlet Letter Study Guide Questions

Chapter 1 “The Prison Door” 1. What colony is the setting for the novel? Boston Massachusetts 2. Where in the colony does the opening chapter take place? In the jail 3. For what 2 “practical necessities” did the new colony set aside land? A cemetery and a prison. 4. Who is Anne Hutchinson? How does Hawthorne feel about her? Anne Hutchinson was a religious but freewheeling woman who disagreed with Puritanical teachings, and as a result she was imprisoned in Boston and then banished. She eventually was a founder of Rhode Island. Hawthorne claims that it is possible that the beautiful rosebush growing directly at the prison door sprang from her footsteps. This implies that Puritanical authoritarianism may be so…

Mysterious Death of Dimmesdale

One could say that Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale is poisoned, or that he merely died of guilty conscience. In the Scarlet Letter, by Nathaniel Hawthorne, Reverend Dimmesdale commits adultery with Hester Prynne, and so she bears a child. Dimmesdale does not admit his sin to the people in the community. Keeping the sin a secret for as long as he does creates guilt and suffering which manifests in him until his death. Chillingworth is Hester’s husband who is symbolic of a leech because he lives off of Dimmesdale for a “host” making Dimmesdale’s life miserable in order to retaliate. Dr. Kahn suggests that Chillingworth poisoned Dimmesdale over a long period of time; there were references to Deadly Nightshade, and shows symptoms…

Words and names for the Scarlet Letter

1. “‘But she—the naughty baggage—little will she care what they put upon the bodice of her gown!’” (49) CM: Like many Puritan women in Boston, this woman illustrates the hate they all have for Hester Prynne, by declaring that Hester is unmoved by her sin. 2. “‘Ah, but,” interposed, more softly, a young wife, holding a child by the hand, “let her cover the mark as she will, the pang of it will be always in her heart.’” (49) CM: This woman, who is holding a child, does not speak of Hester harshly, but by bringing her child, she portrays that she wants her child to envision Hester as second class, too. 3. “‘What do we talk of marks and…

The Scarlet Letter Theme: Revenge

Revenge is the defining theme in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. It is the driving force behind the actions of the main antagonist Roger Chillingworth. In the novel his obsession for revenge is seen as an uncontrollable desire that consumes the character. Chillingworth told his wife, Hester Prynne, that he would find the adulterer and have him punished. He wanted Hester’s partner to suffer the same humiliation she had to endure. Chillingworth wanted him to stand on the scaffold for three hours, wearing a letter “A” and become an outcast of the community. He witnessed the suffering of his wife and wanted the same for the man. He also made it clear to his wife that he will not take…

Scarlet Letter Character Analysis

1. “God, as a direct consequence of the sin which man thus punished, had given her a lovely child, whose place was on that same dishonored bosom, to connect her parent for ever with the race and descent of mortals, and to be finally a blessed soul in heaven!” Page 92 2. “If the children gathered about her, as they sometimes did, Pearl would grow positively terrible in her puny wrath, snatching up stones to fling at them, with shrill, incoherent exclamations that made her mother tremble, because they had so much the sound of a witch’s anathemas in some unknown tongue.” Page 97 3. “Years had come and gone. Pearl was now seven years old.” Page 166 4. “But in…

The Scarlet Letter Sin Debate

In Nathanial Hawthorne’s famous standard of American literature, The Scarlett Letter, Hawthorne examines individual cases of sin occurring within society known for its intolerance of sin and strict religious principles, the Puritans. In The Scarlet Letter , each of the main characters, whether protagonist or antagonist, are guilty of a sin or form of “evil”. However, one character stands out from the rest. This character is guilty of the worst form of malice and evil in the entire book. His name is Roger Chillingworth. By reviewing his sinful actions, motivations and personality, as well as the different symbols Hawthorne creates to represent him, the true extent of Chillingworth’s evil becomes apparent. Even though all four characters are considered to be…

The Scarlet Letter and The Great Gatsby

Although set in vastly different cultures at different eras within American history, a common theme can be established when comparing The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald with The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Both novels, for example, examine the dichotomy between reality and appearance as well as the conflict between individual and social values. In The Scarlet Letter, Hester Prynne and Arthur Dimmesdale love each other. This love holds great personal value for them. However, because their relationship is adulterous, it cannot be tolerated by the Puritan society within which they live. Individual values and desires are submerged by the force of the collective, where no concession is made for individual circumstances or the depth of feeling. This creates…

On the Symbolism of The Scarlet Letter

Introduction: Nathaniel Hawthorne is a great romantic novelist in America in the 19th century. His novel, The Scarlet Letter, is considered as the first American psychological novel written by Nathaniel Hawthorne. It reveals the psychological insight with which Hawthorne proved guilt and anxiety in the human soul. The Scarlet Letter is deeply concerned with ethical problems of sin, punishment, and atonement. The background of the story is set in Salem, Massachusetts, a strictly controlled Puritan town with harsh laws and fierce prejudices. Hester Prynne, a young wife whose husband is presumed dead, is being publicly humiliated for the sin of adultery. The proof of her sin is her baby girl Pearl. She conceals the identity of Pearl’s father to protect…

Romanticism in “The Scarlet Letter”

Never forget that only dead fish swim with the stream. -Malcolm Muggeridge. This famous quote justifies that to be an individual, one must break from society and think for himself, and only when he has done this, is he truly alive. Nathaniel Hawthornes novel The Scarlet Letter is about a courageous woman, Hester Prynne, and her struggle to split from society in order to live the loving life she has always wanted. By the use of symbolism, Hawthorne is effectively able to portray the forest, which promotes individuality, and the town, which rewards conformity. The clothes portrayed by the Puritans, the town, are dull and plain whereas those expressed by the Romantics, the forest, are vivid and eccentric. Also, the…

Mirror Imagery in The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

According to research in the field of psychology, guilt manifests itself in many ways. Often those who feel guilty see assurances for their feeling in the action of others—even when the public has no interest in his or her private life. In a conservative society, however, rules are imposed upon him or her, barring the person from moving ahead with their life, no matter how insignificant the crime. Michael L. Lasser takes a similar approach, arguing that Pearl is a mirror image of Hesters guilt—a constant reminder of her mistake. Lassers argument has merit because Hawthorne not only uses mirror imagery in relation to Hesters guilt, but also in regards the emotions of all characters. In Mirror Imagery in The…