THE SCARLET LETTER -Nathaniel Hawthorne

Nathaniel Hawthorne:
A Biographical Sketch
Nathaniel Hawthorne was born on July 4, l8O4, at Salem, Massachusetts His earliest ancestor, William Hathornc’ had gone from England to Massachusetts Bay colony with John Winthrop in 1630. Later, as a magistrate in Sahm, he ordered the public whipping of a Qer woman. John, his eldest son, wa one of the three judges in t1i Salem witch trials in 1692. His legcy was the blood curse that oaF of the witches was said to have pronnpced on Judge Hathorne and his prQgeny. Nathaniel was sensitively aware of the actions of these seventeenthcentury ancestors, and wondered i the decline of his family’s fortunes was a punishment of thcr crimes In The Custom House’ Nathaniel thus refers to his two ancestors William Hathorne and John Hathorne; ‘He (William) was a soldier, legislator, judge; he was a ruler in the church; be had ill the Puritanic traits, both good and evil. He was likewise a bitter persecutor, as witness the Quakers, who have remembered him in their histories, and relate an incident of his hard severity towards a woman of their sect, which will last longer, it is to be feared, than any record of his better deeds ; although these were many. His son, (John), too, inherited the persecuting spirit, and made himself so ccmspicuous in the martyrdom of the witches, that their blood may fairly be said to have left a stain upon him I know notwhether these ancest :s of mine bethought themselves to repent, and ask pardon of Heaven for their cruelties; or whether they are rtowgroaning under the heavy consequences of them, in another stat9’ of being. At ull events, I, the preaent writer, as their rcpresentati’e, hereby take shame upon myself for their sakes, and pray that /any curse incurred by them may he now and henceforth removed.”/ Nathaniel’s father was a sea-captain who died of yellow fever abodrd ship, leaving his son and two daghters with no support exept that which his widow’s fan’iiiy could provide.
In 4uiet Salem, Nathaniel passed the greater part of his boy. hood. ñ 1818, when Nathaniel was fourteen years old, he was taken by his mother to live in the house of an uncle, her brother, who l,ived in the town of Raymond, near Lake Sebago in the State of Maine. Later in life, Hawthorne spoke of this place as the ne vhere he first got his “cursed habits of solitude.” ‘Here he also cnjoyed several outdoor sports. “I lived in Maine like a bird of the air, so perfect was the freedom I enjoyed.” During he ing
1. ThE “w” was added by Nathaniel hinself when lie was at coe.

 

 

‘,? liii S(ARtrr l.TreR

HAWTHORNE A 8IOORAPI1JCAL ‘tZItiH

  • ‘I’in, i il* lie rodiried, gun in hand, through the great woods, ei.l II( lie iiiroiilight Flights of winter, he would skate until
    111011 bc h ozen Sebago Lake.
    lii IHI’I, hr was sent back to Salem to school, and in the yrag lie wrote to his mother, who had remained at
    I! .atlIlor,d “I have left school and have begun to fit for college. ‘Iluill you want mc to be a Minister, Doctor, or Lawyer ? A Mtiii,ter I will riot be.” In 1821, in his seventeenth year. he entered ‘1’liii College, at Brunswick, Maine. It was a homely, simple. l’iip,nl “Country college,” of the old.fashioned American stamp. ‘eiinog I lawihorne’s fellow students was Henry Wadsworth Long. Icilow, whr; became, like Hawthorne, one of the most distinguished American men of letters. Two other feflow.co}Tegians became his ‘dC long friends. One of these was Franklin Pierce, who was Clc(tr(l President of the United States in 1852. The other was lirnaijo Bridge; who afterwards served with distinction in the Navy, iui(l to whom the charming prefatory letter of the collection of tales aIled the Snow Image is addressed. Horatio Bridge was afterwards suhsidis the publication of Hawthorne’s Twice.Told Tales. l”ranklin Pierce, as President of the United States, gave him the Consulship at Liverpool, England, which enb1cd him to spend the years from 1853. 1860 abroad. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow ilonsored the critical reception of his early books.
    The most noteworthy feature f his four years at college was hi deI,ion to become n author. Tn a light vein he wrote to his niotber, “I do not want to be a doctor and live by men’s diseases, nor a minister to live by their sins nor a lawyer and live by their quarrels. S,, I don’t see that there is anything left for inc hut to lie iii author.
    I lawihorne was a fair scholar, but not a brilliant one. At g’ .iultu,t ion he ranked eighteenth in a class of thirty..eigh-t. While at I14 I4v4I(,i hawthorne had already begun his writing, but the first wIulrilrC came in 1828, after his return to Salem. with the anons’. fli4’Il plilIlIrt()fl, at his own expense, of his novel Fartshawe.
    [lie 12.ycar period of relative withdrawal from society, when he lived ui Salem, after his iraduation from 8owdoin, was a period rig preparation for his art. He read soluminously and w,,,ir the experimental Seven Tales of My Native Land, all of which hr IiIeulIuia!)ly dcstroyed. His first published tale, Fanshawe (1?t’1il), Illiglit well have heen destroyed also, except for its partial rlI J”FIiiiI F)! bC scholarrecluse grappling with the problem of living )ii irwit tile and at the same time adjusting to society. In luupiliawq the worlds of thought and of reality were separate and lrre(nhlihI,d,Ir they were so for Hawthorne also, then and always. His pr1snusl story is one of a constant effort to adjust to living while horse, vnn los own spiritual integrity his tales are various trealmeii,s nil thins rndj()r theme. Like Poe, he made his best adjuistnicrit by lie cleat ion of art rather than like Thoreau, I y the arbitrary shiai lug ol ui inide’cndent course of life. Success,camc

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when he learned how to get petepective on his problem by loIehitIlM it back into his racial and national past. Living in the tow.1 Whiri. the witch trials had taken place, and involved in them titrouiKhl lit. direct ancestor, Judge William Hawthorne, he found it easy to become completely immersed in Salem history and in the live. ol the Puritan colonists. Their problem was his problem, his l)roI)lr,n theirs. The fact that with them sin was an awful reality while with him it was a psychological obsession only made them the per !ei instruments to receive his sceptical speculations. His introspec, ion could be exhibited in a fictional frame. He turned naturally to the extreme ftrm of symbolism, the moral allegory, as the most nearly perfect medium available to his desperate needs for confession arid for secrecy. Here he could say what he wanted to say and yet hide behind his symbols.
After the publication of Fanhawe, he happily hit upon the short tale for the exercise of his creative abilities. His tales were’ published first in various periodicals, and later collected in book form. His first collection called Twice-Told Tales appeared in 1837. A second, enlarged edition appeared in 1842. The pattern of his fiction was established in these early tales. Their vitality comes not from plot but from psychological interplay, iq,which chra(’. ters, or groups of characters are not made real in and by themselves, but by their psychological relations tO other persons and things. These publications made Hawthorue known, but brought meagre financial returns. In order to make a living, thtrefore, he took up a job in 1839.40 in the Boston Custom House, and in 1841 he joined the Brook Farm CiOmtnunity, a Utopian experiment in Communal living, where he hoped to find a more congenial life. During this period he wrote a series of books for children, and the only subst antial reward of his life here was material for his later novel, The Biithedale Romance.
Meanwhile, he had met, in 1839, and fallen in love with, Sophia Peabody, one of the three famous Peabody sisters. He was marred in July, 1842. and went, with his wife, to the ancient village of Concord, near Boston, where he occupied the so-called “Manse”. His married life during the three aid ahaif yéañ as the
toki Manse is recorded in his American Note-Books; and his essay ¶tThe Old Manse” celebrates his conjugal life there., In Concord, .Hawthorne saw a good deal of his neighbours, Emerson and Thoreau. He welcomed their companiousbip btjt rejected their francendentaljsm, At the Old Manse, too; he returned to the wrirhg of tales. Mouesfro,,i an Old Manse, a new COIICCtIOrI, appear(d in 1846. This publication was, again, a monetary failure. In fact, Hawthornc’ married happiness now began to be thrcatei,e.i by financial difficulties and the small retw”ns from ,his writing. Faced with debts and an increasing:famfly, he once gair1 thnrnighii of the security of a gover post He had always been a Ii y.l member’ of the Democratic P’ty. Now, after some.politir’ah whir pulling, he was able to obtain, in 1846, the poet of Surveyor at the Salem: Custom House. Hit :çffi,oia1 duties again interfered wIlls lit. writing, but for about thee ye&r$ he was able to enjoy a

 

 

A IIO(ItAPlICAI 5kI’ii

1HP SCARI MT LFTrJ!R
onifi,ri In 1849, he was dismissed from this post when the Vhig Piity came into power. The dismissal greatly embittered him, but it aho became the occasion for his turning once again to authorship because, during the three years of his Surveyorship, his creative powers had remained suspended. He thus records the fact of the decline of his literary capacities during the period that he worked as a Sirveyor “I had ceased to be a writer of tolerably Poor tales arid essays, and had become a tolerably good Surveyor of the Customs. That was all. But, nevertheless, it is anything but agreeable to be haunted by a suspicion that one’s intellect is dwindling away I began to grow melancholy and restless continually prying into my mind, to discover which of its poor properties were gone, and what degree of detriment had already actrued to the remainder I endeavoured to calculate how much longer I could stay in the Custom House, ad yet go forth a man. To confess the truth, it was my greatest apprehension that I was likely to grow grey and decrepit in the Surveyorship. (“The Custom House”).
His dismissal from Surveyorship made Hawthorne very angry. He appealed to influential friends to have him reinstated, on the ground that literary men were traditionally entitled to sinecures from government. But his efforts came to nothing. He later saw his. dismissal as a great blessing. rThank God for my enemies”, he said. He now began to try his hand at longer stories, like Ethan Brand (1850), the account of a limeburner whose stone heart is a symbol of the unpardonable sin of pride, and The (ireat Stone Face (1850) in which man’s rectitude proves himself to be his own sought. for hero. In 1850, appeared also The Scarlet Letter which made him. famous and which was afterwards recognised as one of the greatest American novels.
The iarcasti. -.and- critical references to government officials in the introductory essay, “The Custom House” to The Scarlet Letter created a lot, of excitement in the official circles of Salem. Referring tq ‘1is racn Hawthrtsas’ In Ins preface to the second
‘‘ edhion of The S&zskC’Letter It could hardly have been more violent, indeed, .had he (the author) burned down the Custom Houe, and quenched its last smoking amber in the blood of a certain venerable personage, against whom he is supposed to cherish ,t’ iculiar malevolence The author begs leave to say that he has (arcfu)ly read over the introductory pages, with a purpose to alter or expunge whalever might be found atiiss. But it appears to him, that the only remarkaje features of the sketch are its frank and gentlilo- goodjhumour, an.d the general accuracy with which he has conveyed hi sincere impressions f the characters therein described i’l,c author is constrained, thereore,tn re-publish his introduct ory sketch without the change of wosyds.”
hawthorne then moved to Lenox and settled there with his family, “in the Ittlc. red house.” There he wrote The House of the ,STven Gtzbk,, .sornhre study in heredity which appeared in 1851. And there be cnjo)e(l the stimulat ing friendship of Herman Melville,.

who lived in nearby Pits%Ield. ‘Uhis frieiiddiip WdI one of the ‘float fortunate in American literature, since each encouraged 4lI(l stimulated the other. Melvilic wrote an enthusiastic essay in jraiar of Hawthorne, and was undoubtedly influenced by Hawthorne’, work at many points. Melville published his Moby Dick in 11151, with a dedication to Hawthorne. Hawthorne’s admiration for Melville and his work was also very . great. These two writers strengthened each othçr in the opinion that the romantic nineteenth century took too rose.coloured a view of the human condition.
Late in the autumn of 1851, Hawthorne, with his wife, son and daughters, shifted to the little town of West Newton, near Boston. There Hawthorne wrote The Blitheckle Romance, a study of a socialistic community based upon his residence at Brook Farm. Tn the spring of 1852, the family went back to live in Concord, where Hawthorne bought a small house in which, apparently, he expected to spend a large portion of his future. This was in fact the house in which he spent that part of the remainder of his days that he passed in his own country. He established himself there before going to Europe in 1853; and he returned to it on coming back to the United States seven years later. He gave to this house the name “The Waysides’ and though he actually occupied it for not a very long time, it was more his own home than any of his numerous provisional dwellings.
On the 4th of March, 1853, Hawthorne’s old’ college-mate and intimate friend, Franklin Pierce, was installed as President of the United States. Pierce had been the candidate of the Democratic Party, and all good Democrats accordingly, expected all kinds of favours and patronage from hint When he was put forward as a carxidate by the Democrats, Hawthorne wrote a small book about him. This L4fe of Franklin Pierce belongs to that class of literatrc which is known as the “Campaign Biography” and the object of which is to dealise the hero. The least that Pierce could do in exc hange was to offer Hawthorne one of the numerous official positions in his gift. Hawthorne had a great desire to go abroad and see something of. the world. Pierce offered him the lucrative post of Consul at Liverpool. In the mid.summer of 1853, Hawthorne was established in England.
The Hawthornes lived in England from 1853 to 1857, when Hawthorne resigned his post at the end of Pierce’s term as President of the U.S.A. He had performed his Consular duties faithfully and efficiently, and at the same time found leisure for much travel and sight.seeing. The rich record of these travels is found in hia Engli.el., Note-Books. Nearly two years, 185€.1859, were spent iii Italy, and a record of his experiences during this period is COflIs in ed in his Italian Note-Books. All the five substantial volumes .,I these N0t4.Books were published after Hawthorne’s death. I lawt horne’s fifty years of life, before he went to Europe, had her,i awiil in small American towns—Salem, Boston, Concord, l,rn* Wr.i Newton—and he had led exclusively what one mig!st cull vIlla life. In other words, he had been consistently provin iii. A rinil
• ingly, the Note-Books are provincial too in their outlook.

 

P1W SCARLEr LETrBR

In the autumn of 1859, the Hawthorneg returned to Eng1nd, where at Rrdcar and later at Leamington, Hawthorne wrote The Vga’blr Fau,’ his last completed novel ,and his most earnst study of the problem of good and evil. The book appeared early in ‘I 860, bring published simultaneously ii London and ‘in Bostdn..” In I ondon it vas given the title, Teams! ormatw,i Under either name the book was’ a gçeac, success, and it probably became most popular of Hawthorne’s four novels (pr romancer as hecalledthem). Hawthorne hadobtairied his material for this work in Italy during his two years’ stay. there. The book is “part of the inteLectua1 equipment of the Ang1o.Saxon visitor to’ Rome, and is read by cvery English-speaking traveller who arrives there, who has been there, or expects to go.”
In June, 1860, the Hawthornes returned to America, and took up their abode in the house, “The Wayside”, which the family had bought at Concord before going to Europe. The residence abroad had been rewarding. Hawthorne had seen the places he had always wanted to see, and he had stored .qp impressions. But the future did ‘not seem to be bright. In the first place, the eldest child iii the family, Una, had nearly died of fever in Rome, and though inlprov.
rd, did not completely recover ‘Cven after her return to America. Secondly Hawthorne found himself once more faced with old struggle to make a decent living. Thirdly, Hawthorne had h1. self contracted some deep.seated Roman infection as a result ol which his health began to decline. Hawthorne’s attempts at Irnginativc literature at tIis persoa ot Ins ftfc am ‘io pioie wci successful. He filled hundreds of man script ages with drafts of Stories, but the old skill seemed to have desettd him. iS’eptimius Felton and Dr. . Orimshawe’e Secret, published osthumously, were fragmentary and inferior to his ‘best work. The Civil War that. had brokçn out iii the spring of 1861 had perhaps something to do with th’sapping of his creatjvenc, In 1862, he visited Washington and the battlefields of Virginia, and wrote for the Atlantic an artIcle entitled, “Chiefly AboutWar Matters,” which is remarkable for its conte.wpora1y portrait of Lincoln. The dedication of Qur Old !1ome, in 1863, to Pierce, whose sympathies in the Civil War were with the Southern side, caused much excitement and protest around Boston. But Hawthorne, while loyal to the North, in. sletCO that inc dedication was a flctirig aad deseived ompllthcnt to hia friend. “If Pierce is. so. exceedingly unPopu1ar,’ he said, “thrre is so much the more need that an old friend should stand by ‘him.’’
The year 1864 brought for Hawthorne a sense of weakness and depressjng from which he had little relief during the four or five month, that were left to him of, life,, His health had greatly deterioratci aiid in April he was “riserably iil.’ His feebleness was complete he appeared to be suffering from no definite malady, hum hr was failing. Pierce proposed t9 him that they should, make a little tour together among the mountains, and IIawthwne agreed. n the hope of benefitting from change of air However, he did not go far He only reached a llttte place called

HAWTHORNE A BIOGRAPHICAL SKIIICII

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Plymouth, one of the stations of approach to the beautiful IiiIiIitaiii scenery of New Hampshire, when, on the 18th of May, tilbi, dreli overtook him. His companion, Pierce Franklin, goiiig ntc, hi. room in the early morning, found that he had breathe4 he. au during the night—has passed away, tranquilly,. comfortably, with. out a sign or a sound, in his sleep % He ‘w’ai buried at Concord, and many of the most distinguislied met)’ in the country wrir present at the funeral. Longfellow’s poem, .lla,’ihorne, written soon after the funeral, spoke of his friend’s “wand of Inagic power”. ‘‘ ‘.
Henry James has paid the following tribute, to Hawchorxic
“He was a beautiful, original genius, and his Life hd been singu. larly. exempt from wordly I,reoccupations and , vulgar efforts. It had been as pure, as simle, as unsohjs,ticated, as h’s work. lie had lived primarily in his domestic affeciions, which were of the tenderest kind and then —without e,aget ness, without ‘pretension, but with a great deal of quiet devotion—in his chartning” art. Flu work will remain it is too original and exquisite to pass away among the men of imagination he will always have his niche. No one has had just that vision of life, acid ‘ no one has had’’a literary form that’ more successfully expressed his vision. He, was not a moralist, and he was not sim 1v a ,oet. The moralists. are weigh. nec denser richer in a sense the noets are more ourely 4nconclu sive and irresponsible. He combined in a singular ‘degree the
spontaneity of the imagination with a hauning care.for rqoral prob. lems. Man’s conscience was his theme, but he saw it in the light of a creative fancy.”
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HAWTHORNE’S PRiNCIPAL FICTIONAL WORKS

‘Ihe Principal Fictional Works
of Nathaniel Hawthorne
It was as an author of short tales that Hawthorne first bec ame known to the world. For several years Hawthorne had been publishing stories and articles in magazines, hut in most cases anonymously or under a pseudonym. In 1837, he published Twjce.Told Tales, a collection of eighteen stories, under his own name. Twice Told Tales, cus4 S’eries, appeared in I 842, followed by Mosses From An Old JJfafle in i84, and The iS’nw Image in 1851.
Hawthorne’s Tales
Three distinct types of short fictions were employed by Ifaw. thorne : (a) the historical tale : (h) the moral or symbolic tale, and (c) the pictorial sketch.
(a) Historical Tales
In the
historical tale, Hawthrone treats with the freedom of the myth-maker some crisis in colonial history. Endicott and the Redcro.cs contains the very spirit of the Puritans’ daring resistance to the Stuart kings. The Maypole of Merry Moun.t relates how the gay colonisrs of Thomas Morton were conquered by the Puritans. The Gray Champion embodies the legend that, at times of great danger to the people, some ancient Purtan re-appears to champion his folk against the oppressor. In The Gentle Boy, Hawthorne asks what would have been the effect if, in he course of the religious per. secutions in New England, a winsome Quaker child had been left helpless among the Puritans.
(b) Moral or Symbolic Stories
The strongest stories in this class are The Ambitiou8 Out, The IIoUow of the Three hills, Young Goodman Brown, Rappacc mi’s Daughter, and The Birth Marl:. In Rappaeoin’i’s Daughter, the underlying idea is the over-development of the intellect at the expense of the moral personality. An Italian physician has reared his daughter n seclusion, among poisonous herbs so that, while her soul remains pure, her body becomes a thing of deadly poison. In The Birth hark, the core idea is the struggle between man’s ceaseless aspirations towards perfection, and the inherent, cureless imperfect ions of his nature. The desire for perfection is embodied in the
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  1. iiit Aylmer ; incurable flaws of humanity, in the slight birth on his wife’s check, to remove which he expends in vain all the
    nrccs of his science. ‘‘
    The situations employed by Hawthorne are far ‘temoved
    • -‘ii actuality. Some of the details move in an ‘atmosphere of ‘e ricaturalism as mysterious as that of The Ancient Mariner. But every case, Hawthorne has employed his symbolic method
    • portray some enduring, proftund genuine trait’ itt’; human
    rictorial Sketches
    The pictorial skcn It is a literary form which no othr’wiiter l’nglish has employed so successfully as Hawthorne. Of these i celacs, .s’ightAfiom a -tecJ)lC is one of the most skilfully executed, ii one of those in which the New England flavour is most authenW akefield has attracted a lot of attention because bf Its novel —the character of a Londoner who deserts’ his wife and lives .rniy years, unrecognised, in the next block.
    Hawthorne’s material was the ethical view of life of his Calvi“ eic New England ancestors, and hi tales are almost always,. alle‘ a rs with morals attached, but the author’s own attitude towa,rd sa. eaaateriàl is usually that of the artist detached, critical,, sceptical. hr central theme of most of his stories is not sinasa theological ê°’1’j’fl but rather the psychological effect of the conviction of sin ‘‘a die lives of the early colonists.
    Poe was one of the first critics to greet Hawthorne, his 1-ival the prose tale, as an artist rather than as a moralist. Poe’s réviev
    .1 the Twice-Told Tales in 1842, when the second series appeared,’
    •oetltlus perhaps the best early definition of the short-sfømy form ,,a.l ranks Hawthorne as the best practitioner of the art. The prose ttr in contrast to poetry, he points out, seeks tñith rather than beauty as its end, but it must have a unit of effect based on unie .,rii style or tone and limited duration. To these.req1iremeflt’i Ilaiwehorne conforms, and his tales “belong to the highest’ region f.
    –ad art subservient to genius of very lofty order” ‘His unified I,.,ir is one of repose, he consistently seeks truth, he observes a neces ey brevity, and above all he has “invention, creation, imagination,’ a. eginality, a trait which, in the literature of fiction, is possibly worth-”
    411 the rest.” ‘. ‘‘,
    ‘[‘here was only one more colIctiofl of short tales, , The ‘iou’ Image and Other Twice-Told Tales (1852). The range 0’
    II ewthorne s art in this genre
    is not great, and he tends to repeat
    Iat% cicaracterS his themes his scenes The nutty that Poe de
    ,,IAII(Ird H4wthorne achieved in a dozen or more tales but variety is
    Ic kerag
    “Poe, with a sure critical sense, compared.’ these tales to the rIaieys of Lamb and Ising. They have a ‘familiar essaV’.touch’of a writer who is absorbed by his own ‘speculations and is willing to.

HAWtHORNE’S PRINCIPAL FICTIONAL WORKS ‘ II

THE SCARLET LETTER
,l, di as they take him. In Sight8 From a 2te.’pi.’, he speaks ol liavirling clinbed high but having got only a small reward. ThE earth is at a dizzy depth below, but heaven is tar beyond still, iven so, he would prefer the “multitude of chimneys”, with their .crets of humanity spoken in smoky whispers to the loneliness of clouds. At this remove, he cap observe both a thunder-storm gather. ing on the horizon and a funetal taking pi see in the street beneath him. Neither a part of human destiny nor completely removed from it, he draws his lesson of life ‘‘1an must not disclaim his brotherhood even with the guiltiest.” –
There is both an aesthetic and moral significance in this neutral position which Hawthorne took, neither in nor outside human life. As artist it gave him the perspective necessary for treating reality with the freedom of fiction, and as moralist it pro. jded him with its message the bnd of sin—committed or thought
—binds man to earth and so to a common fate with his fellows. The true Calvinist seeks conviction of sirs as a preparation for a promised salvation Hawthorne, the humanitarian heretic, sees it as an admission to the brotherhood of man and cares little for what may happen in an after-life. His essays are speculations On this problem. His tales are the projection of thee speculations into the observed lives of men and women-—familiar people rerncwed h the imagination of the colonial past Young Goodman Brown whn meets his lover-wife at a midnight rendezvous of evil spirits in the depths of the woods ; the minister who, by wearing a lack veil hides his supposed sin but reveals his siiri1ikness and. therefore, his common humanity Ethan Brand who has committed the sin of sins and whose heart is finally discovered to be of marble the scjCntisl who provides an antidote for the poison which turns out to have been the very life of his beloved.
“In these tales, man (or woman) is Hawthorne’s hero, endowed with the hope of perfection seen dimly through his Christian faith, but for evei- thrown back on himself to discover a dark salvation in the mystery of sin. Behind all Christian tragedy is the theme of the Fall, whether of man or of the angels, and the consequent struggle br salvation. Hawthorne shares this tradition with the Hebrew prophets, with Milton, and with Melville”.
The House of the’ Seven Gables
In
this book. “Hawthorne studied the errors of inherited 5n, in terms of a greed and a pride so devouring in their descent through generatiors that the Pyncheon family in the end begins to devour own members,” The tbcrne of the story “the curse which cars-ic, d-.wn through the generations.” The wrong that Colonel Pyncheon of the first g-.’.er’a. nt to the revengeful Matthew Maule is visited upon the mneteenrhc entur Judge Pyncheon and his pathetic cousins Hepzihah and Clifford. Only v. the infiltration of new blood from a plebeian member of the family, iis Dhnt.. rafl life begin to stir again. In leaving the house, .Holgrave, the dCscCfldai of ?tauJe, finally

absolves the new crumbling mansion ‘of’ its curse, but. hs life. is past. Hawthorne himself declares that ‘the inbral puse of this story is to convey “the truth, namely, that the wrdhg,doing of one generation lives into the . successive öns, ‘ah’d divesting itself of every temporary advantage, ‘becomes ‘ pu&id’i’t’ncont rollable mischief.” Hawthorne also, wishes tb’poin’ üt’ thtough this story (which he calls a “Romance” as diWtingijshed “from a Novel”) the folly of tumbling down an aväIanch of ill gotten gold, or real estate, on the heads’ of” an ‘ünfOrtunté, pôterity, theseby to maim and crush them until the aseumulated mass shall be scattered abroad in its original atoms’ Through this dark and sombre story, the truth really ‘shines out that an dsession with wealth and property has disastrous consequences, ‘this obsession may become a hereditary trait, and that there ‘i often no limit to human acquisitiveness True happiness rCsults oñl”f-om sizpplicity of life and contentment, as in the case of Phoebe. ‘I’FU” Wioral of the story is not, however, obtrusively thrust upon Ihe reader ; it is naturally brought out and it is accentuated by bing illustrated, from the actions not of one Pyncheon but of several of them—Colohel Pyncheon, Jaifrey Pyncheon and Judge P,yncheon. The nature of the sin of all these three is almost the same, and they all ie a similar ghastly death.
Hawthorne shows hithself in’ this book as a powerful storyt eller, a great delineator of character, a master of the art of cleating an atmosphere, and a moralist He ‘also exhibits a capacity fos perceiving and depicting the funny side’ of’peradns and things. He reveals here those qualities, too, which Edgar Allan Poe found in Hawthorne’s short stories—”inventjors, creation, imagination, origina. lity.” The plot of The House of the 8ssven Gablss is ingenious, sensational and, at places, breath-taking. Its characters include persons who are greedy and brutal, those who are weak and persecuted, and those who are simple and kind Its atmosphere is Sometimes that of a nightrnate, at other times that of a ‘mad-house, and, here and there, that of flowers and sunshine and youth.’ Taken all in all, this is an unusual novel of absorbing interest.
This is what Henry James has to say about the characters in The Hou.se of the Seven Gables : “A grotesque old spinster, simple, childish, penniless, very humble at heart, but rigidly consciniss of her pedigree ; an amiable , bachelor of. an “ epicurean temperament and enfeebled intellect, who has passed twenty years of his life in penal confinement for a crime of which he was unjustly pronounced guilty a sweet—natured and bright-faced young girl from the Country, a poor relation of these two ancient decrpitudes, with whose moral mmtjness her modern freshness and soundness are contrasted ; a young man still . more modern, ‘holding the latest opinions, who has sought his fortune up and down the world, and, though he has not found it, takes a genial and enthusiastic view of the future these, with two or three remarkable accessory figures, are the persons concerned in the little drama.;.,..Miss Hepzibah Pyncheon, dragging out a disappointed life in her. paternil dwelling, finds herself obliged in her old age to ppen a little shop for the sale

 

 

INE SCARLET iETtEI

of penny-toys and ginger bread. This is the central incident of the most impressive magnitude and most touching interest. . Her dishonoured. and vague-minded brother is released from the prison at the same moment, and returns to the ancestral roof to deepen her perplexities. But, on the other hand, o alleviate them, and to introduce a breath of the air of the outer world into this long unventilated interior, the little country cousin also arrives, and proves the good angel of the feebly distracted house-hold. All this episode is exquisite3 admirably conceived and executed. with a kind of humorous, tenderness, and equal sense of everything in it that is picturesque, touching; ridiculous, worthy of the highest praise Hepzibah Pyncheon is a masterly picture. Clifford Pyncheon is a still more remarkable conception, though he is perhaps not so vividly depicted. Nothing can be more charming than the manner in which the soft, bright, active presence of Phoebe Pyncheon is indicated.”
In conception, The House of the Seven Gables is no less great than The Scarlet Letter, but in execution Hawthorne falls short of his earlier achievement.” I’he concentrated power of The $carlet Letter is lacking here. A few scenes—notably that in the death- chamber of Jaifrey—Pyncheon are, too tenuous and fanciful. And the plot hinges too often on the crude machinery of Gothic melodrama —an ancestral curse, hypnotism, a lost land title, and a conveiitiuiially melodramatic villain. Nevertheless, The House of the &.t. (‘abies is in no sense an inferior romatice,
The Blithedale Romance (1852)
‘fbis.work is a
clsaracter.study of Iiollingswortl, a fanatically devoted philanthropist.’ and social reformer who is nevertheless blind to’ the value and dignity of the individual. The scene orthe story is set. at Blithedale Farm, a Utopian community based upon the author’s residence at Brook Farm. The story is told in the ‘first person by Miles Coverdale, a fictionalised seif.por:rait of Hawthorne. Zenobia, a wealthy and intelligent woman, probably modelled after Margaret Fuller,’ and .Priscilla, a delicate, weak-willed girl, fall in love with Hollingsworth. He courts Zenobia for the money she could bring to his philanthropic ventures, but he eventually marries Priscilla. Zenobia commits suicide forcing Hollingsworth to see the gulf between his ideals and his actions.
This work, as Henry James points out, would not have been written if Hawthorne had,,not spent a year at Brook Farm. Even though the denouement-itragfcal, the effect of the novel on the whole is to make one think more agreeably of life. Henry James thinks it “the lightest, the brightest and liveliest” of Hawthorne’s novels.
Jienry James adds the following comment on this book “Coverdale is a picture of the contemplative, observant, analytical nature nursing its fancies ; having little at stake in life, at any given
1. Msrgnret I,iI’’r a hri4liant intellectual lady and a prominent figure,
who was pers unally known to Hawthorne.

HAWTHORNE’S PRINCIPAL FICTIONAL WORKS

I,’

moment, and yet indulging, in imagination, in a good many adventures ; a portrait of a man, in a word,. whose passions arc slender, whose imagination is active, and whose happiness lies, not in doing but in perceiving—half a poet, half a critic, and all spectator, He is contrasted, excellently, with the figure of Holli’nsw orth, the heavily treading reformer, who has no patience with has friend’s indjfferences and neutralities. Coverdale is a gentle skeptic, a mild cynic; he would agree that life is a little worth living or worth living a little, but would remark that, unfortunately, to live little enough we have to live a great deal. He confesses to a want of earn estness, but in reality he is evidently an excellent fellow, to whom one might look, not for any personal performance on a great scale, but, for a good deal of generosity of detail The finet thing n The Blithdale Romance is the character of Zenobia, which, as I have said else. where, strikes me as the nearest approach that Hawthorne has made to the complete creation of a person. She is more concrete than Flester, or Miriam, or Hilda, or Phocl)e she is a more definite image, produced by a greater multiplicity of tOuches. It is idle to inquire too closely whether Hawthorne had Margaret ‘Fuller in his mind in constructing the figure of this brilliant specimen of the strongminded class and endowing her with. the genius of coriversat ion, or, on the assumption that such was the case to compare the image at all strictly with the model There is no strictness in the representation by novelists of persons who have struck them in life, and there can in’the nature of things be none. The beautiful and sumptuous Zenobja, with her rich and picturesque temperament and physical aspects, is a woman in all the force of the term, and there is something very vivid and powerful in her large expression of womanly gifts and weaknesses FIollingsworth is,. I think, less successful, though there is mOch reality in the concept ion of the type to which he belongs- -the strong.willed, narrow- hearted apostle .of a special form of redemption or society. The most touching element in tbe novel is the history of the grap that this barbarous fanatic has laid upon the fastidious and high tempered Zci-aobia who, disliking him and shri’nkin from him at a hundred points, . ‘iS drawn into the gulf of his Omnivorous egotism. The portion of the stort that strikes me as least felicitous is that which deals ‘with Priscilla and her mysterious relation to Zenobia—with her mesmeric gifts, her clairvoyance her identity. with the Veiled Lady, her divided subjection to Hollingsworth and Westervelt, and. hei’ numerous other graceful but fantastic properties—her Sibylline. attributes as the author calls them. But when all is said ahout a certain want of substance and cohesion in the latter portion of Th Blithedaje Romance, the bOok is, still a delightful and beamiful one. Zenobia and Hollingsworth live in the memory
even Priscilla and Coverdale, who linger there less importli. nateiy, have a great deal that touches, us and that we believe in,”
The Blithe,dale Romance has certain elements which link ii wiili The Scarlet Letter and The House of the Seven Gables, Hollingiwortli is one of the most ‘firmly drawn of Hawthorne’s men of ldc*. I’hfi dark, sensual Zenobia and the lights ethereal Priscilla, Ir)iir.ø,ia

 

 

14
THE SCARLET LETTER

tWn rrri,rrent types of women, in his fiction. The devilish figure d W rvelt resembles the champions of evil throughout Haw. Iluruc’s tales and romances. But The Blühecj,4,e Romance differs (ior l-Iawthorne’s other romances in one significant way : only here does Hawthorne use a first-person narrator to. tell his story.
Hawthorne’s object in lhe Bligheda1 Romance was to display a full, blooded, passionate woman who, because of the very opulence of her nature, bestows her IOVC unworthily, and whose life ends in a tragedy because she cannot endure defeat ; to portray a reformer who, obsessed with a single aim, is ready to sacrifice the love of three people on the altar of his soda) purpose, and who awakens to realities only in time to embrace a lasting remorse. But great as are the tragic possibjiltes of this theme, they are on!y partially realised The story moves awkwardly, with much clanking of machinery and with confusing shifts of scene. Coverdaje’s character, moreover is flavourless and some of his insipidity is ‘imparted to even the most passionate incidents.
The Marble Fauji [Or Transformationj (1860)
scene of this story is laid in Rome The main characters arc Kenyon, a young American sculptor ; Hilda (also an American) a painter Miriam Schaefer, also a painter, with a hidden past Donatello, Count of Monte l3enj, a young Italian who resembles the marble statue of the Faun by Praxiteles Like the Faun, Donatello is gay and charming, and lacks moral responsibility. Donatello is deeply in love with Miriam who ii haunted by a snys. terious man whose power over her implies some dark secret in her past. Furious at seeing her thus tormented, Donatello one night flings her tormentor from a rock and kills him. Hilda, a charce Witness of this scene, leaves Miriam in revulsion, but she cannot bring herself to tell what she has seen. Finally, she, though a Protestant, unburdens herself by making a confession ‘at St. Peter’s Church. A mutual sense of guilt, for she had consented to his act, brings Miriam and Donatello together in a union which proves unhappy. The deepest effect, however, is seen upon Donatello in whom the sense of guilt in having committed a murder awakens for the first time. Kenyon ultimately marries Hilda, while the fate of the other two is left vague.
This is the least satisfying of Hawthorne’s novels Too much in it Ic Unexpjjned while the narrative is impeded by too many details horrowd L Hawthorne from his European Note-Books. The story, however, raises a rohlem which . is thus stated by Kenyon “Sin has educated Donatello and elevated him. Is sin, then, like sorrow, merely an element in human education, through which we siruggle to a higher and purer state than we could haveS otherwise utlaitied 7” Hilda rejects this idea with horror. The attitude of llawhorne himself in this matter remains ambiguous.
Some of the comments made by Henry James on this 1)00k are reproduced below

HAWTHOR NE’S PRINC1PA t FJCTtONAL WORKS

15

“Is has a great deal of beauty, of interest and grace, out it has to my sense a slighter value than its companions ‘and I am far from regarding it as the masterpiece of the author. The subject is admirable, and so are many of the details; but the whole thing is less simple and complete than any of the three tales2 of American life, and Hawthorne forfeited a precious ‘advan. (age in ceasing to treat his native soil.
“It is noticeable that in spite of the considerable length of the. story, there are no accessory figures Donatello and Miriam, Kenyon and ililda, exclusively occupy the scene. This is the more notic’ea ble as the scene is very lrgc, and- the great Roman hackgrouttdI S Constantly prestnted to us. The relations of these four people are full of that mh.ia1 picturesqueness which Hawthorne was always looking for he found it in perfection in the history of Dona,teflo. As I have said, the novel is the most popular of his works, and everyone will remember the figure of the simple, joyous, sensuous young Italian, who is riot so much a man as a child, and not so much a child as a charming, 1nnoe animal, and how he is brought to self knowledge and to a miserable eonsciou, manho b’ the conimjs. sion ola come. Donatello is rather vague and impalpabje course, to make the interest complete, there is a woman in the affair and Hawthorne has done few things more beautiful than the picture of the unequal complicity of guilt between his immature and dim1y puzzled hero, with his r.linging, unquestioning unexacting devotion, and the dark, powerful, more Widely.seing feminine nature of Miriam. Deeply ouch ing is the representation of the manner In which these Iwo essentially difhrent persons…the Woman tritriligeni, passionate acquained with lifc, and with a tragic eJrrriii, in her own Career the youth ignorant, gentle, unworldly, brightly arid harm. lessly natural re equalised and bound together by their (:r)Inmori secret, which insulates them, morally. from the rest of mankind. The character of Hilda has always struck me as an admiralile invention., one of those things that mark the man of genius. Thts pure and somewhat right New England girl following time vocation of a copyist of pictures in Rome, unacquainted with evil and tin touched by rmpurity, has been accidentally the witness, uiikniowti and unsuspected, of the dark deed by which her friends, Miriam and Donateflo are knit together. This is her revelation of evil, her loss of perfect innocence. She has done no wrong and yei wrong. doing has become a part of her experience, and she carries the weight of’her detested knowledge upon her heart. She carries ita long dine, saddened and oppressed by it, tjlr at last she can bear it no longer. If I have called the whole idea of the presence and effect of Hilda in the story a trait of genius, (lie purest touch of inspiration is tile episode in which the poor girl deposits her burden. She has passed the whole lonely summer in Rome, and one day, at the end of it. finding herself in St. Peter’s she enters a confessional and pours her dark knowledge into the boz,om of the church, thtn
1 Its companions namely, the other “romances” by Hawthorne
2. The Sca/et Letter, Th [louse of the Sen’n Gables and The Blithedale Romance.

 

 

THE SCARLET LETTER
comes away with her conscience lightened. If the book contained nothing else noteworthy but this admirable scene, and the pages describing the murder committed by Donatello under Miriam’s eyes, and the ecstaic wandering afterwards of the guilty couple, it would still deserve to rank high. among the imaginative product ions of our day The fault of Trvi,sformatio (or, Tlee Marble Faun) is that the element of the unreal js pushed too far, and that the book is neither positively of one category nor of another. His ‘moonshiny romance’, lie calls it in a letter and, in truth the lunar element is a little too pervasive. The action wavers between the streets of Rome, whose literal features the author perpetually sketches, and a vaiue realm of fancy. This is the trotible with Donatello himself. His companions are intended to h; real : whereas he is intended to he real or not, as you pleate I may go on to say that the art of narration, in ‘I’i’an.sform’ition, seems ‘o me more at fault than in the author’s other novels, The story straggles and wanders, i4 dropped ‘and taken n again, and towards the close lapses into an almost fatal vaguene.”
The iJarUe .Faun, fascinating as is its theme, and great ait is in individual passages, suffers, like the too preceding roma-ices, in execution. The plot is tenuous and awkwardly complicated, and the story staggers forward under too heavy a weight of description, To write at the same dine a romance aid a sort of guide-book to Italian sCfles, imperilled the skill even of Hawthorne.

 

 

19
THE SCARLET LETTER

ASP&TS or HAWTHORNE’S GREATNE3

Pride is the great besetting sin in the novels of Hawthornr In the case of Artiur Dimmesdale, pride takes the form of a selfIi concern for his reputation and makes him play the hypocrite in his Puritan parish for SCVCn years. Hawthorne looks upon man a a fallible, imperfect being, isolated from his fellows by his endlr self.involvement Man, according to Hawthorne can “save” himsell only through humility only through the surrender of the prou(l stubborn individual wiH to the divine will.
Thirdly, Hawthorne is a master of allegory and syrnboljsni Twentieth century have recognised the merit of his allegoric. method. Symbols enlarge and deepen a writer’s meaning.
Hawthorne’s principal device for developing meaning is tli’ symbol. He records an idea for a story in his note book, and ht adds, significantly. “It might be made emblematical of something” Because Hollingsworthl has wounded Zenobia’s spirit, he mIi%I wound her body literally, when he takes it out of the river. In The Marble Faum, Miriam and Donatello find symbols of then guilt in nature, wherever they turn. Hawthorne even saw his Owli life in tertus of Symbolism
Hawthorne’s symbolism is especially effective in The iScar!rI Letter. Places, characters and incidents acquire larger meanings iii this book. “The scaffold stands for punishment at the beginniii and for expiation at the end. The forest is a place where one gori morally astlay. The Scarlet Letter itself stands for adultery, bi, more than that, for any sin ; and, still further, for all faults ajid limitations which prevent the happy working of human society, The fall of man in Hawthorne is the ‘fortunate Iàll.’ Through sin and suffering, man achieves a depth and wisdom not otherwisr attainable.”
Hawthorne is greatly tem7eed by the supernatural But h is finely restrained in his treatment of it, and a little equivocal, befits his skeptical temperament (despite all his idealism) and rue spirit of the age. Young Goodman Brown2 thought he saw his fellow. townsmen and his wife at the Devil’s Sabbath in the forest, and th, sight destroyed him, but the reader must use his own judgmriii about whether they were really there or not. And this is but on example among many. “I should not be willing to sleep in that gaira” says Hawthorne of a haunted house, “though I d tnt believe a Woflt f the story”.
To the demand for tb’ .otimentaJiEy, Hawthorne never yield. ed as complçtely as did Poe; in pla ol’ zeurotic sensibility, lit offered his readers a restrained and moving parlos. But to tit contemporary interest of Gothic fiction, he surrendered more cornpir tely. All the commor,laces of the tale of terror…pseudosCjtIfI( mysteries
1. Holiingsworth and Zenobja are characters in Hawthorne’s The BThh,
dale Romance.
2. A charactcr in Fhwthomne’5 story of the same name. This Is a ot the moral or ymboIic cIss

19
plague, mania and mysterious deaths—recur in Hawthorne’s pages. With Hawthorne, however, the thrill of terror is seldom the principal object. Fused into the Gothic tale, some moral symbolism appears, or some revelation, uncanny in its insight, of latent traits in human nature. A study of the soul of man, not the enjoyment of the thrill of terror, is Hawthorne’s primary aim. l-luman nature, and especial. ly the interplay of moral forces, he probed with tireless curiosity. Man’s suspected weakness, his unlooked. for strength of soul in crucial moments, Hawthorne studied with the grave earnestness, the sympathy, the sincerity, and the repose of a scientist of the human soul. The development from moral causes- to results, whether directly or symbolically treated, was with him a favourite theme.
His imagination was romantic in the: deeper sense that it dealt With human nature under conditions highly selective and tdelised. In the presentation of the human soul under idealised conditions, tinged with strangeness, lies the essence of Hawthorne’s romanticism.
For romance of this kind, the style of Hawthorne is admniraily fitted. Like Ruskin and De Quincey, he was a poet who preferred to express himself in prose. His diction has the suggestions àf sound, colour and perfume ; all the sensuug burthn, in short, of the dic. lion of poetry. Rich and scrnbre and beautiful his pages are, with the beauty 01’ pale sunlight glowing through a dark, stained window. Rhythm, too, is hawthorne’s gift, a rhythm that, without becnriing metrical, yet conveys, like poetry, an indefinable sense of musical harmony. Since the seventeenth Century, there has never been written an English cadenc.e at once simpler and statelier than.ths
“Thou art crushed under this seven year’s weight of ruliery” replied Hester, fervently resolved to buoy him u’ with her own energy “But thou shalt leave it all behind thee. It shall not en. cumber thy steps, as thou treadest along the forest path ; neither shalt thou freight the ship with it, if thou prefer to cross the sea.”

 

 

HAWTHORNE’S VLEW OF StN AND EVIL 21

Full àf doibt I stand

Whether I should repent. me now of sin
By me.done atid occasioned, or rejoice,
Much more that much more good thereof shall
To God more glory, more good-will to men
From God—md over wrath grace shall abouzd.

widerness in which she hd wandered, taught much amiss by ‘ Ihame, Despair, and Solitu e. the sin of passion sets the mind
astaid adrift whereas the sin of’ pride drzs u the well of
hawthorne’s View of Sin and Evil brotherhood vii the ci’ s a qustt
• : . What is the purpose ofdc • aii and with pecial .e hich Hawthorne asks over an tion ‘Is sin then like sorrow?
I phasis in his last complete Farm an clement of human educa awthorne was unquestionably a Puritan, or a kind of Pun. kenyon asks in 1!he le to a i,igher.and purer. statejhan tan He Inherited his Puritanism from his ancestorsfrom William Lion, through which we strU Dd Adam fall that we
Hathornet who’ ordered the whipping q1 a Quaker woman, and we could otherwise have far loftier paradise thr hi It from John Hathorne who ordered the hanging of some supposed fght ultimately rise to a last book of Farad i.se Ioç, whcre witches in 1692, Although Iawthorn was very critical of the bigo. j Milton’s concern in tuC
iry, intolerance, and cruelty of the old Puritans, yet his stories Adam says : – usuIy seem to take the Puritan side. Yor instance, the adulterous
lovers in The Scarlet Letter were not allowed to escape some other land
and were thus not-permitted to attain any kind of happiness.
Hawthorne again and again asks the question : “What is the spring. purpose of evil in the world ? Is sin an element of human education
through which we struggle to a higher state than we could have
other,jse attained 1” The doctrine of the felix culpa, (the happy
fault, ‘Or Eke frtunate fall) regards the fall of man as fortunate be “Shall me conti-nue Ifl cause if be hacI not fallen he would never have known the great St Paul had raised tire same question n wered “God forbid
benefi’s of redemption. In Hawthorne, we do see an elaboration -. ma” abound ?“ And he ,a a S ‘ d c”-ace did
ntnat grac . “ here sin auuun
of this doctrine. if rhere is a spirttuI growth, however Painfully But be had fréviously saiu tua W viewis the doctrine ofthe
achieved, the fall can be said to have, been –fortunate. Such. is sure- uch more abound.” Allied to , ma as fortuiat bçcause
ly the case in The Scarlet Letter, There is in this Story a tension nate fall” which regards tI iaii 01 h knuwn the great
or conflict betwe0 the Puritan and the romantic tendenci Haw had not fallen he wou ci never finds illustration in The
thorne is certainly responsive to the romantic temper, according to efits of redemption (This octri
which the individual has the right to be happy even if the mdiv, p Letter)
dual in th pursuit of happiness, violates the Conventional moral &et t of li a oralist and the stáry of The &artet code; yet Uawhorne leans heavily in the Puritan direction. Herr r Hawthorne as ,rs human morality. Brit héis a good-ueai Hester is the spDkesrnan for the romantic view, and her argument – ‘ j.e,uer is an exploration t He i also a student of htiman pSuuOc arries weight with mast readers. But surely Hawthorne does not more than simply a mora k d a skepiic and a determinLSt to scjme fully approve of this vrew because it carries individualism a bit too ‘ logy, a romantic of sone in a retnaricable blend of these various far and it seeks to make the individual a law unto himself Thus Cxtent The Scarlet ,e er I
is The Scar1eg Letter a criticism of romanticism as well as of I interests and out1oo. :.‘ – ‘
Puraianism Hawthorne was deeply read in theworjso :: Bible
Austin Warren says that Hawthorne was a Puritan that he E land dines, as also The P:lgiwi to be a reality that
be1iyd in sin and pre.destjnation and, like a true puritan, did i ‘er the influence of lus reading, ii ieit Cdi too mphasis.
not find these concepts incnmpatihre Sin, he writes, may be ici not be explained away. His family ira, ‘his reading,
forgiven by God ; softened by penitence; still its stains persist the moral aspect of life. Thus niS terip tales having strongly
and its permanent effect is not educative but warping. Haw. family tradition were all responsible or IS 1850 the one over horne, he say3, rejects Hester’s romantic assertion that “what — I al themes. In all his tales written be,e It but natural
we did had a consecration of its own” ng consideration iSd lewt 0ifla moral theme in The
I. This was the spelling which the author’s ariestors used for their family that Hawthorne shoul d in 1850. The book is first of all
name. 5car Letter which app:are Havtliorne is iiot so concern-
20 ‘subjective.

 

 

22 THE SCARLET LurTsk
A man feels a, sense of gtiJt only when he feds that he has’ sinned against God, natural law, the moral code of society, ‘or one’s own moral standards. The sense of guilt is bound to bring with ‘it a sense of isolation from what ‘one has sinned against. Thus Dimmes. dale isolated from God because he believes that he. has sinned against God. But Hester ‘does not have any feeling of isolation from God beàause she does not believe that her adulterous act. was a sin against God. Furthermore, the effects of sin, according to Hawt horne, may not always be disastrous. Sin ma,r produce a feeling of isolation, but itmay also produce understanding. ft may cause suflring, but it may also give rise to compassion. It separates people, but it may also bind them together. Hester’s sin makes her a far more useful person in the community than she would ever have been if she had not committed adultery.
The consequences of guilt in The Scarlet Letter are mainly psychological in nature. A. sense of guilt gives rise’ to a feeling of loneliness, and Hawthorne shows how painful and , bitter Hester’s loneliness is. This loneliness also leads in Hester’s case to defiance and rebellion. Hawthorne shows further that hidden sin is far more destructive for the individual than the sin which is openly acknowl edged. Dimmesdale’s suffering is far greater than Hester’s. Dimm esdale refuses not only to admit his adulterous act before the public, but also to admit to himself that his sin was dug to has own lust rather than to the working of Satan.
Ne* Englander that he was, ‘the Puritan past weighed heavily upon Hawthorne. Few menknew better than the. pages of Puritan history ; none ‘knew so well that sombre thing of iron, the Puritan character. Within Salem, his own home lingered the grimmest of Puritan memories. earby, at Boston, was the seal of the Puritan’s dogged struggle against royal authority All about was a country side where for generations men had built meeting. houses, listened to sermons, made holy war on the savages, founded’ sober househ olds, and searched their consciences that they might root out the half.concealed evil. Puritan waifare, the Puritan’ home, and the Puritan conscience—these were both warp and “woof in the cultural pattern . which Hawthorne inherited; and out of these sombre materials his delicate art was, compelled to Lake
“‘ form. ,, “

  • 5:

    The Scarlet Letter: Introduction
    (The &arlet Letter is a masçjece of American fiction. The Ito based on an entiin Wawthorne’s note-book : “The life ‘of a woman, w o, y an o co ony aw, was’ condemned to wear the letter “A” sewed on her
    4i iFtery. ,j rt is based too on an aspiration expressed in The Old
    — .-_‘—_-————-‘——T.’–——;..’.-’-— –
    anse –“In the hu5Thijerrjoved at least to achiF”aiTr bstance enoj&stan a one
    aglan o L64_. , is a6urWester rynné ,áñJ’ii&i’1iétte äüghter, P ,höiratlief ‘liA ui’
    ñd about Ro er illiriu HeeserderTy áidië1sh bus. bind To ng anô has comei1àToihfa dtor to Iorture Di sdal’lriTcj’ the thaziiingconfessio’ñof his
    – fatherhood. Only by publió acknowledñiEiii arid conresion’’ llmesdale find the peace that his silence denies, and itis not until the end, when he speaks the truth in the same market-place where Hester’s punishment began, that he has such a possibility. Hester herself, never privately admitting that her act was a sin, can find no such peace; yet for her, as in some degree fOr Dimmes. dale, their sin brings a sombre maturing of their souls, and they find a modern equivalent of the more god.like future, foretold by the Archangle Michael in Milton’s Paradise Lost, for man after the fall.
    Published in 1850, The Scarlet Letter was received well and ( became very popu! ‘fhe first edition of 2,500 copies was sold ‘‘ out within three days and was followed by the second and a third edition during the following six months. Sinoe then “the ‘book has” never been out of the print. It has always been a’ favourite ‘bOth -‘‘j with readers and critics. Henry James gave high .‘ praise’ to it. s’ Many of the early readers and óridcs found the book tOo g1oopy,and” sombre, but they were pleased that “her nally was by_aji crian , awhor that could stand with ,,he best, thing produced in, England.”
    Various approaches have been made to the study of The, Scarlet Letter The book has been found usçful i’i’i study ‘5T time romantic movement and, more especially, of the Gothic, the histor ical, and the sentimental novel. The neatness of its organisatiomi and structure has attracted the attention of a large number of

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HE SCARLET UTT8R

rca(Iers and critics. Students gL.Freudian psychology find it to ;e a fascnaIIng study of repression. The use of ymJism ‘in the stoy, has formed the subject of many commentarie. T.sggtsof Amencan history the life of theyenfentb enLury New England, as depicted in the ,,nov.eLh been a source of much interest. Moralists have felt interested in Hawthorne’s treatment of sin. In short, The carleg LeJ,ger remaiu .a_ work of inexhaustible intejcg. ;-—-;-‘

The Scurlet. Letter:
General Considerations
Story ja Outline
Hester Prynne is a” yoting, handsome woman, of voluptuous beauty. A few years belore the story begins, she had been prevailc &upon to marry an older man, Rogei’ Chillingworth, a medical doctor and a cold, intellectual scientist, who proved to be an utterly unsatisfactory husband She felt no love for him when he married her, nor did she feign any. ifl..,Bston eibe went, to be followed
er by her husband, she fell in love. with the brilliant, popu’lar ggpjnister of the church, Arthur Dimmesdale. The ofFspring of this love.affair was ‘a girl-baby whom ‘ her mother named Pearl. The intolerant and cold-hearted Puritan community condemned Hester to wear on the bosom oCher dress at all limes the red letter A”standing for “adulterous.”. CbillingwQr arrived in Boston a cou le of months after the birth of the child. He was astonished to see ester Stan ing on the scaffold for a public exposure of her shame. Having learnt what had happened, Chillizigworth decided to find out the man with. whom Hester had committed adultery, and.to avenge himself on Hcster’s fellow-sinner. Hester refused to revçaT the identity of the partner of her crime both to the community at large and to her husband, and resolved to bear her punishment alone. ,. As the years rolled by, she became a Sister of Mer cy and, eventually, a respected figure, in’ the .bigoted town. Arthur Dimm esdale, the sensitiver conscience.striken minister was, in. tbç meanwhile, paying a high prièe for his secret. Not having ,t courage to confess hs guilr,.he endured indcscrib5lc mental tortjr ‘ hot to speak of the flagellation and scourgzn which he adminhered to himself in private as pnance f9r s sin hllingwrth,’ wjlose identity as TesteaT husband was nol ‘to Dines4 dale for a long time, worked up9n the minister’s mind and soul and’ added to his torment in süble and sinister ways. çhillingworth had
jinctivesuspicior that the minister was the man who had coxn,
mitted adultery with Hester, a spicio that .changed. . ino. a
certainty when, one night, he saw the minister standing on ‘the same
scaffold, with Hester and Pearl by his side. •, .
Then, after seven long years, Hester and Dimmesdale met in the forest, which was probably the place where the act of adulieri’

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TH SCARLET LETTEIt

THE SCARLET ATrEk (3E9RA1. CONSIDERATIONS 27

h,.d hrrii committed. Hester told Dimmesdale who Chiliingworth was, and begged his forgiveness for not having told him the secret at the very beginning. (She had promised Chillingworth that she would not disclose his identity to anybody). Dimmesdale forgave her ; indeed, she made it impossible for him to refuse to do so, by throwing her arms around his neck and by pressing his head to her bosom. And then she urged the minister to quit Boston and go to some other lai where l. cpuld begii a new, life and be happy. ‘l’be weak-minded mnister said that he could not go forth into the world alone, to which Hester replied that she did not propose his going alone. Caught up in the old passion, the minister agreed to flee with her to Europe by a ship that happened to be lying at that ii me in Boston harbour.
The plan to escape from Boston and to find happiness in some European country did not, however, rnateria!ise. Chiliingworth, who. bad constantly been spying on the movements of Hester and Diminesdale, Caine to know of the plan and booked a passage for himself on the same ship But the complication, which this arrange. ment would have led to, did not materialise either, because the minister had in the meantime arrived at a different decision. To tç_sjrpçsç of everybody, the minister, afler preaching the Election $erznon mounted the scaffold and coäfessed lus sin of adulterys to the breathless, half-comprehending crowd of. people. .Tbcn,,Avith the praise ofGpd on his lips, he collapsed and died in 1iest,4’s arms.
S’ and its Consequences
A man and a woman, who are still essentially the old Adam nd Eve, deceive themselves into thinking that they can escape the conseqticnces of their sin of adultery. The woman serves .a prison term and has to wear on the bosom of her dress the letter “A” which is the sign of her shame. The man, who was the occasion of that shame, lives a life full of torture because of his inability to confess his guilt and because of the remorse which gnaws upon his cons cience; Meeting in the fOrest, they plot an escape from the world of law and religion. For a moment, the hope of liberation seems to transfigure not only them but the dark forest where they have met When Hester flings aside the scarlet letter and loosens her hair, the forest glows to life because of Nature’s sympathy with the lovers and its approval of their bliss. Yet Hawthorne cannot permit these lovers the happiness that they seek. He is not as harsh as his Puritan ancestors, but he condemns Hester’s plan escape. For all his disagreement with Puritanism and its persecuting zeal, he does notswCrve completely to the side of romanticism which means unlimited freedom for the individual. The sinful, priest puçifies himself by public confessiOn and becomes worthy of the only way that remains for him to salvation, namely death. Even Hester must finally accept loneliness arid self-restraint instead of the love and. freedom she had dreamed. “Passion has opened up for her no new possibilities, only closed off older ones. Thus 9.n. The &arkt Letter, passion justifies nothing, while j.t denial,.red cern,
all.” –

Diinmesdale achieves the highest moral triumph that man is capable of, although h’e ideal so:stion rests in Heste, who ‘retorns finally to the colony and reminds people of the omnipresence of. sin The noblest qualities of heart and mind rue and profound insight into the problem of human existence are attained only through sin. In an evil world, it is, only in the Hester Prynne’s’ that gradual and perhaps continuing moral progress for man can be hoped for or sought. Hawthorne intended to show that man must fall if he is to rise to heights above the normal level of man. .
The.,.G6nfiicts
The Scarlet Letter turns upon two deep-seated, fundamental struggles-—that between natural impulse and conscience, and that between’the individual, and the restraints o society. In the iron cage of Puritanism, when the natural man was regarded as inurably corrupt, and when infractions of’the social code were avenged by barbarous punishments, four people,. all tragically great of soul; find themselves entangled in the mazes of broken law. Merely to tcl a story of guilty love and pa:ssiorl ;S; not Hawthorne’s aim. His aim is to follow the history of four human souls as their lives bring forth the slow-maturing, but inevitable, fi-uits.of son.
The position of Hester’Prynne,.H.awthorne feels, is of all four the least censurable. Publicly humiliated though she is, her sin is open and confessed ; she has no rankling secrets to hide. Her place in. Puritan society is clearly defined and, in the estimation of her kind it is just. Slowly, therefore, by meeks submission and unselfish kindness, she wins back the respect of even the most iron-clad Puritans, But her submission is only outward. Left much alone, she develops an independence of mind, which the magistracy would have thought a sin more deadly then adultery. Strong passionate, and richly pagan, Hester submits, but sever repents, preferring the sanctity of her sin to the desecration of her’ loveless marriage.
Hester’s punishment illustrates the law’s brutality. It is man’s social way of dealing with sin, and fails because it makes no connection with the shut ; the victim rises above it, is emancipated from its ideas, transforms the symbol. of disgrace into a message •f mercy to all who suffer, and annuls the gross sentence by her own higher soul-power.
‘As the tale progresses, Hester triumphs, regains her position in the community plans to fly unrebuked by the author. moralist. And the unforgivable sin becomes not the lovers mometit ary surrender to passion, but the minister’s prolonged and cowardly violation of his own integrity. .
Dimmesdale, constrained to hide his sin yet reminded of it at every turn ; brooding oyet the past, despising himself for his bypo— crisy ; yet too weak to confer; continually sacrificing honestyto .respectability—Dimmesdate is gradually broken down and brought to the verge of insanity: .

TH SCARUT LETFER GENERALL CONSIDERATIONS 2

THE SCARLEt LEtTER
ChilIingworth flCC a just and huma scholar, degenerates into a moflo.moniac who lives only to satisfy revenge.
Over i-Iawth0rfl’ itnatceo1sin arid expiation broods an air of ulLimate, tragic 1nevitability which is comparable only to .the chiselled severity of MHton’s &msora Acionistes. So closely woven is the web causation that scene after scene unfolds with the unhurried, measured tramp of doOfll.
The conflict this novel is central because, it is total, because Hawthorne makes US respect each element an it. Hawthorne felt that the stuff 0f narrative (in so far as it was drawn from local experience) consisted in the imaginable brushes between the de. racinated and solitary individual and the 5ocjetY or world awaiting him. In T 3cailet Lettet not onlY do the individual and the world, the conduct and the lnitjtUtIOflS, measure each other : the measumet and its 0nsCqUCflCeS are precisely and centrally what the novel is about. Hester Prynne has been wounded by an unfrieY world ; but the society facing her is invested by Haw borne with assurance and authority, its opposition is defensible and revcn valid. Hester’s misdc appears as a. disturb ance of the moral Structure of the universe ; and the society continues SiS in its joyless way that certain acts deserve the honour of Isbmt. But if Hester has sinned, she has done so as an affirmation 0f life, and her i the source of life ; she in carnates those rights of personality that society js inclined to trample upon. The action of the novel springs from the enormous but improvable. suggesLtOl’ thst the society’s estimate of the moral struct ure/i the universe ay be tested and found inaccurate.
Jpes of Sin
In P/ic Srjrlct Letter,, Hawthorne made a study .oLh ypes of
sin, the revealed sin, 1$*!’I tl. concealed sin f Thmmesdale,
the unpaa donable Slfl of Chillingworth But be also dealt with “
ourth type—the’ ‘jited sin f ParT,2
As a Study of 10ation”
The Scariet Letk’•j8 not only a studY of sin, but also of the
isolation which folLO sin The isolatiofl which a sinner experi ences, causes him g’.eat mental suffering. The sinner may feel isol ated from his immediate environment,, or from his own self, or from his God. The 51fferiflg. that this isolatiofl entails, compels the individual to strive towards a re-uniora with the force from which he has been’ isolated. Ir TlkS Scarlet LeUer. Hawthorne shows three different individuals personifying three dWe.Ie faculties, namely, the heart, the mind, and the soul. IICStCC is a woman in whom the heart predominates. chillingworth is a man in whom the mind predominates. Dinmesdak is a mara 1 wh•om,the soul, or spirit, predominates. Each commits an act which is_in violation of her or his own nature, and . therefore, a sin, what is a sir in the case of one individual may not be so n the case cwf aO0t’. indivadual whose nature is different. But sin does produce a feeling of isolation from whatever valuablC in the eyes of th sia1’’ The sinner is cut off

from “the electric chain of human sympathy,’ and consequently loses strength. Thus Hes!er’ feels isolated from society; Chiliingwortll feels isolated front his oWn self while Dimmesdale feels isolated fron God. Chillingworth does not undergo much mental suffering after beèomiflg a sittner, because his very naturebecOmes distorted and perverted by the sin of vengeance which he undertakes and which he cOfltiflUCS to pifrsue. But the other two iindergo’a lot of suffering and peaance and are ultimately redeemed, each in a different way.
As a Study in “Thwarted Purposes’
The Scarlet Letter way be looked as” a study, in thwarted pur. poses.” All the three principal characters .(.Hester, Dimmesdale, and Chilling worth) estrange themselves from gtbeir proper positionS in society. Chillingworth is never able to nake a satisfactory rea djustment. Ditninesdale creates a harmony between himself and the public only in the last moments of his life. Hester is able, after years of suffering and contemplation, to adjust her life to the require. rnents of society. –
ChiliingWouth is a sinner because he is possessed by a passion for revenge. This passion perverts the talents and the gifts with which Nature had blessed him. He subjects Dimmesdale to a ,subtle kind of persecution, and as a result of his diabolical activity :his own hysica! appearance is gradiilly transformed into somet hing fiercc and ugly And yet Chithngwocth is unsuccessful because
‘Dimmesdale slips from his hands. He acknowledges his failure when he finds Pimmesdale. mounting the scaffold to make a public confession of his sin. His fate is extreme fru.tratiofl followed .by death.
Hester has violated. in the extreme the distinctiVc feminine virtues iflStlflCtlVC purity and passionate devotion as a wife az a mother. ‘After she receives, her. sentence, sho remains physilly submissive but becomes mentally defiant. Accordingly, she wan4crs further and further from a woman’s natural sphere. Her life turnS, in a great mCastie, from passion and feeling, to. thought. She ,Aoes not acknowledge adultery to be a sin, but she .doçs ,ackowlCdge tt to be a ‘violatioO ofa social system.. She realises”that in. bringing Pearl into extitence a great law has been broken but she persists in refusing to submit to that law.. She is still t odds. with soçety when she suggests flight with Dimmesdale Even a .. the time of the minister’s public confession., she hopes that she ani. Dimmes4a)e. will be uhited in the next world. After the death , of.. pimmesUl(’, ‘she has to start a new life. But she must recognise the tnspiuutn ess of her past thinking atid make inner expiation.’ Aftcr yr.irl abroad, she resolves her conflicts and returnS to. Boston to accept her true relationship with society. In her humble cottage she takes ihe proper placc of a woman, with a natural compassion and love lr those who need her. Hester emerges from trial ma better C(,iI(hItI(tIi than Dimmesdale and Chillingworth.

 

 

THR SCARLET LETTER

31

The Tragedy of Segregation
A
chief theme of The Scarlet Letter is the tragedy of segrega( ion. The superiority of Hester’s penance over Dimmesdale’s does not consist in its intensity—indeed the priest is plainly the greater sufferer of the two and perhaps most aware of the theological significance of their sin. But Hester’s public shame, her very ostracism, establishes for her a sounder COnnection with the social whole than does Djmmcsdale’s secret self-chastisement The tragedy of their crime is that it is like the character of Pearl which, in Hawthorne’s own words, “lacked reference and adaptation to the world into which she was born.” Hawthorne’s criticism of the introspective or seculsive nature in Dirnmesdale (and in several other characters in his novels) is not unconnected with his suspicion of the intellectual who sets himself to lonely self-contemplation, becoming fatally aloof from humanity (unless love seals the rift, as it does for Hepzibah in The House of the Seven (iable8).
The Role of the Forest
While Hawthorne was responsive to the attractions of the open air and to the appeal of the forest, he also understood the grounds for the Puritan distrust of the forest. He retained that distrust as a part of the symbol, In the forest, possibility was unbounded; but just because of that, evil inclination was unchecked, and witches could flourish there.
For Hawthorne, the forest was neither the proper home of the admirable Adam, as with Cooper’, nor ‘was it the hide-out of the malevolent adversary, as with Bird.2 It was the ambiguous setting of moral choice, the scene of reversal and discovery in his charact eristic tragic drama. The forest was the pivot in Hawthorne’s grand recurring pattern of escape and return.
A version of this pattern reveals itself in The Scarlet Letter in the forest scene in the meeting between Rester and Dimmesdale, their first private meeting in seven years. During those seven years, Hester has been living on the outskirts of the town, attempting to ding to the community by performing small services for it, though there had been nothing “in all her intercourse society that made her feel as if she belonged to it’ And the priest has been contemp lating the death of his innocence ia a house fronting the village graveyard. The two meet now to join in an exertion of the will and the passion for freedom. They very nearly persuade them. selves that they can escape along the forest track which, though. in one direction it goes “backward:to the settlement”, in another goes onWard.: “deeper it goes, and deeper into the wilderness, until the yellow leaves will show no vestiges of the white man’s tread”. But the energy aroused by their encounter drives them back instead, at the end, to the heart of the society, tO the penitential platform (that is, the scaffold or the pillory) which is also the heart of the structure of this novel.
1. James I’cnimore Cooper, American novelist (1789-1851).
2. Robert Montgomery Bird, American novelist (1806-54).

THE SCARLET LETrER; GENERAL CONSIDERATIONS
Robert Spiller on “The Scarlet Letter”
“The theme is the now familiar one of a sin committed beft the story opens and of the unlolding of the consequences Of that act in the lives of a group of people Here the in is adultery btt Iawthorne does not shai e the absolute morality of the Purftan corn 1un1ty which demands perpetual penance in the wearing of the scarlet letter’ A On the level of the higher and almoSt agar amorality which lie seems inttnctively to favour Hestez by her public and constant confession gains a kind of purity arid strength which is not otherwise found in. this God fearing people Dimmes dale on the other hand in keeping his part in the ‘in secret while he appears to the world as a spiritual leader suffers .i moral dege neration that teads to his hie’ikdown and death Strangely enough the third member of the triangle, the wronged lnisband,Rogcr Chillingworth, is made the real villain of the piec in tltut he commits Hawthorne’s sin of sins, the violation of the human heart, by exerting his almost hypnotic control over the young minister and deliberatel) cauirig his ruin The codified moral ty of the Puritan community becomes in this strange tale the scial complex against which the natural morality of earthly love. revol’s. •The tragedy lies in the failure of that protest, even though the principals. the two who have:oorrtrnittcd the social crime, are ennobled by their ordeal. As hrisiian tragedy. the pattern of the action is set by the theme of the FLI but salvation comes through an acknowledgem ent olSitan railier than of God. Hester is, of course, condca’nncd to eternal tdrmen by this dispensation ; but the tale is also a Greek tragedy because, she is the woman of earth who has dced man-made law and has risen to heoiç stature through the tragic flaw that rnus at last destroy as well as ennoble hr. Hawthorne wrote better than he knew, and better than he i?uld write again.
The ambiguity of his own position was completely revdaled in this short and perfect work of art. He had fuly acceptedthe terms of his material and had allowed his characters to state their own cases, exercising only an aesthetic control overtheir actions. His moral disinterestedness was much more nearly pfect thaw he iMagined In spite of himself he had become in ethics the total sceptic who could view calmly the paradox of the hurrI’ñ will?worki ng its own destru’ction. He had jined society and his in,berited faith in condemning Hester at the same time4has;herestealCd why not only he hut all men must love her, Never again was he so detache4 from the life of one he wrote about, and never was he masteyof so concentrated an artistry.”
Co/clusion
\/ Moreover, Hawthorne has also managed here his utmost approach to the inseparability of elements that Henry James insisted on when he said that ‘character in any sense in which we can get at it, is action, and action is p’ot.’ Of his four’ romances, this one —
1. The Sca;’let Letter The House of the Sgren Gables The Blithedale Romance ; and The Marble Fasn,

 

 

32 TH SCARLET LETTER
(The &arlet Letter) grows most organically out of the interactions between the characiers, depends least on the backdrops of scenery that so ofien impede the action in The Marble Faun. Furthermore, his integrity of effect is due in part to the incisive contrasts among the human types he is presenting. The sin of Hester and the clergymen, a sin of passion not of principle, is not the worst in the world, as they are aware, even in the depths of their misery. She feels that what they did ‘had a consecration, of its own’ ; he knows that at least they hate never violated in cold blood the sanctity of a human heart.’ They arc distinguished from the wronged husband in accordance with the theological doctrine the excessive love for things which should take only a secondary place in the affections, though leading to the sin of lust, is less grave than love distorted, love turned from Good and from his creatures, into self consuming envy and vengeful pride. The courses that those three run are also in natural accord with their characters as.worked upon by circums tance. The physician’s native power in reading the human soul, when supported by moral sympathies lea’.es him opeti to degradatitni step by step from a man into a fierfd Dimmesdale in his indecisive waverings,. filledãs he is with pëiiarice but no penitence, remains in touch with reality only in proportion to his anguish. Tue slower, richer movement of Hester is harder to characterize in one sentence. Even Chillingworth who had married her as a young girl in the knowledge that she responded with no love for his old and slightly deformed frame, even he, afler all that has happened, can still aimot pity her ‘for the good that has been wasted, in her nature. Her purgatorial course through the novel is from desperate recklessn ess to a strong, placed acceptance of her suffering and retrib ution.
The Scarlet Letter dispenses with subtlety as only very powerf ul books can dare to do it. Its exposition, though dramatic, has a classical obviousness; there is notraceofobscurity in any of the characters or relationshiips. The ‘operatic’ character of the book has been remarked by many critics: it develops itself through a
– series of tableaux. Certainly it is not an historical novel if placed beside ti i’&7I, laborious reconstructjons of Flauhert or Charles Reade; neither is Hester real in the sen:$e in which, say, Madam Bovary is read. To find her parallel one must turn, rather, to oYdr, more imaginative literattire.’

 

 

A ItOMANCE, NOT A NOVEL ‘19

The Scarlet Letter:
A Romance, not a Novel

8

Hawthorne called The Scarlet Letter a romance, not a novel. The distinction made by him between a romance and a novel is important. In “The Custon House” he suggests that life seen in the sunlight is the stuff of the novel, while the familiar seen in the moonlight and warmed slightly by the light of the coal-fire is the stuff of the romance In the Preface to The House of the Seven Gables, he says the same thing more plainly. The writing of a romance allows an author, he says, a certain amount of freedom both as to the content and the form, which he cannot claim if he is to write a novel. A novel is expected “to aim at a very minute fidelity, not merely to the pnsib)e’ but to the probable and ordinary course of man’s experience” A romance while it must not deviate from the truth of the human heart, has a right to present that truth under circumstances which, to a great extent, are of the writer’s own choosing and creait,ti. The element of the “marvellous” or “imaginary” may legitimately enter a romance, but not a novel though even in a romance the element of the marvellous should be a slight, delicate and fleeting flavour rather than a substantial portion of the work. In other words, while a novel is a realistic representjon of human nature, human life and human character, a rbua may present these under circumstances which seem improbable, extraordinary or fanciful, or shrouded in an atmosp here o mystery. A romance, lk a novel, must not stray from the truths of the human heart and, as regards its structure, must subject itself to artistic laws. With these observations of the author before us, we have reason to expect that The Scarlet Letter will be based on actual life, that its representation of life will be coloured somew hat by the element of the marvellous, that the story will neverthel ess reveal inner or psychological truth, and that the narrative will give artistic form to the confusion of actual experience. The Scarlet Letter certainly fulfils all these conditions.
In the writing of this story, Hawthorne depended to a very large extent upon actual persons, places, and events pertaining to seventecnthccntury Boston. Yet the book is not a historical romance in the usual sense, because there ate many suggestions of the “marvellous” or the “imaginary” The scarlet letter “A” seen by Dimrnesdale in die sky whet-, he stands on the scaffold during his
311

vigil in the night is a supernatural touch. A token of the guilty secret, seen by Chillirigworth on the breast of the sleeping minister, is also a supernatural episode. The revelation of:- the letter “A” imprinted in Dimmesdale’s flesh and witnessed by a number of people in the multitude belongs to the same category of marvellous incidents. Another such incident is the fact, pointed out by Pearl. in the forest, that the sunlight runs away from Hester. Says Pearl to Hester, “Mother, the sunshine does not love you. It runs away and hides itself, because it is afraid of something on your bosom.. Now see there it is, playing, a good – way off. Stand you here,- – and let me run and catch it. I am but a child. It will not flee – from me, for I wear nothing on my bosom yet.” Then there is the final descent of Chillingworth into the regions of hell, described thus by the author “Nothing was more remarkable than the change which took place, aLmost immediatcy after Mr. Dimmesdale-’s death, in the appearance and demeanour of the old man known as Roger Chillingworth When, in short, there was no more devil’s work on earth for him to do, it only remained for the unhumanised mortal to betake himself whither his Master’ would find him tasks enough, and pay him his wages duly.”
Then there are certain suggestions borrowed from the Gothic, novel which add weirdness and even horror to the story. The prison, for example, has a gum appearance “The wooden jail was already marked with weather.stains and other indications of age, wich gave a darker aspect to its heetle.browed and gloomy front. The rust on the ponderous iron work of its oaken door looked more antque than anything else in the New World”. This description gives the prison an almost medieval atmosphere. Governor Bellingharn’s house is decorated with “strange and seemingly cabalistic figures and diagrams”. Mistress Hibbins is depicted almost as a witch, possessing an occult insight. She is constantly talking about the Black Man (that is, the Devil) who haunts the forest and with whom she has frequent meetings. Perhaps it is by some kind of magic that she has come to know of Hester’s visit to the foret and her meeting with the minister there. Even Pearl seeMs to have some witchcraft in her. She is not a normal child. Hem furies and frenzies signify a diabolical touch to her nature. According to Mistress Hibbins, Pearl is the daughter of the Prince of the Air.” According to Mr. Wilson, Pearl has witchcraft in -her. Roger Chillingworth calls her a strange child. Many people believe her to be a “demon offspring”. Hester herself is often driven desperate -by Pearl’s erratic behaviour and asks herself what kind of a child she has brought forth into the world. Then there is a deformity of Chilling- worth’s physical frame. There are portraits on the walls of Govern or Bellingham’s house, “looking more like ghosts than the pictures of departed worthies There is a strong suggestion of intrigue and murder. This suggestion comes from the introduction into the story of an aged handicraftsman who had been a Citizen
I. The idea is th’t Roger Cliillingworth would. after his death, join th Devil, who oontrolled his actions during his earthly ncistence, and would- tbns b. for over damned.

 

 

THE SCARLET LETFER

4’

I l.uoduia at the period of Sir Thomas Overbury’s murder. (Chapter
IX).
However, the realistic elements in The Scarlet Letter far out‘ inniher and outweigh the marvellous elements. The book contains (ouvnicing characters and convincing situations. For instance, the lunishment awarded: to Hester Prynne for her sin of adultery is thoroughly true to facts of history. The middle of the seventeenth century was the time when Puritanical ideas were in the ascendant in New England. The comments of, the spectators to Hester’s shame, especially the female spectators, are what we would expect from persons belonging to that period. AU the characters are vividly portrayed. Hester herself is made to live before us. Her haughtin eSs in the face of her public humiliation, her stoical endurance of the punishment that is imposed upon her, her intense maternal anxiety to keep Pearl in her own custody, her turning into a Sister of Mercy under the stress of misfortune, the bliss that she experiences with Pearl by her side and the torments that she suffers on account of Pearl’s persistent questiOnings, her suggestion to the minister that they should flee to some other land, are all depicted in a manner that carries convictiop. Hester is certainly an unusual woman, like every heroine in fIction, but there can be no doubt about the reality of her existence. Hawthorne’s analysis of Hester’s states of mmd on various occasjrjns and in different circumstances is also accurate. Here isa .strong.minded, strong.willed woman who refuses to consid er her adulterous action sinful even though the community has branded her with the stigma of sin’. As soon as an opportunity.. presents 1tse1f she gets ready to fling defiance in the face of the community and run away with her lover. Her life is tragic, but she rises above her tragedy.
Roger Chillingworth is another realistic portrait. Like Hester and Dimmesdale, Chillingworth is also an unusual type of mdlvi.. dual but, like the other IWO, he too produces an. impression of reality. Having vowed revenge, he becomes a mono-maniac in the pursuit of it. The wickedness of his revenge turns into ‘a kind of fiend. The analysis of his mind, too, shows Hawthorne’s psychoa nalytical skill.
The truth of humsa nature is preserved in the portrayal of Arthur Dimmesdale also Constituted as he is, this priest is unable to confess his sin, with the result that he suffers an inward torture, day in and day out, for a period of seven long years. There is absolutely nothing improbable about the timidity of this priest who shrinks from public disgrace and who continues to wear a mask of piety and thus to throw dust in the eyes of the people. His coward ice and his hypocrisy damage. him in our estimation more than his sin of adultery. Hawthorne has shown a great psychological insight by revealing the hidden thoughts and feelings of the minister over a period of seven years. His succumbing to temptation in the forest scene and his ultimately making a public confession are aho thoroughly convincing episodes.
Hawthorne gives us an excellent blending of the natural and supernatural when he deals with the phenomenon of the letter “4”

A kOIANC, NOT A NOVEL
having been seen on Dimmesdale’s breast (in Chapter XXIII). Several explanations are offered by Hawthorne in this connection. Some people, we are told, expressed the view that Dimmesdale had begun a course of self.mortificatiofl on the very day on which Hester had first been compelled io wear the badge of her infamy and had thus inflicted this hideous igii on his breast. Others held that Chillingworth “being a potent necromancer, had caused it to appear, through the agency of magic and poisonous drugs.” Still others whispered that “the awful symbol was the effect of the ever-active tooth of remorse, gnawing from his inmost heart outward. Now Hawthorne leaves us to choose among these theories. He does not literally accept his own allegory, and yet he finds it symbolically valid because of its psychological exactitude. His most effective stroke, however, cothes when he adds that certain spectatos of. the whole scene denied that there was any mark whatever on Dirnmes. dale’s breast. These witnesses were among the most respectable in the community, including his fellow-clergymen. The testimony of this last category of persons seems to be intended to bring us back to the realities of life from the realm of the marvellous to which we had been carried by the theories advanced above.
Thus has Hawthorne preserved in his sory the truth of life and the truth of human nature. No violence has been done ft either. There is nothing improbable about the fate which each of these characters meets at the end. Arthur Dirnmesdalt, after years of mental and spiritual torture, die., immediately afler making his public confession. There could have been no oilier cud fnr him. Hester, not finding peace in the aristocratic and luxmiriuus lile elEcte d to her by Pearl, returns to New England to resmirne the scarlet letter and her activities as a helpful matron and finds deep salisfac. tion in relieving the distress of others. As for Chillingwo h, Oflce the victim of his. vengeance is gone, he is left with nothing to live for. And so he withers and shrivels and dies within a year of the minister’s death.
Not only are the principal characters true to life, and not only are the major events arid situations probable and convincing, bum the author has also added several minor touches to heighten the realistic effect. The descriptions of the town, the forest, the marketp lace, and the Puritan community belong to this category. The minor characters and minor episodes are also realistic. Governor Belliogham and the Reverend Mr. John Wilson are vividly drawn. The author gives us only brief sketches of these two men but he makes them live before us, The portrayal of the “crowd” is also a triumph of realistic characterization.

 

 

NTERPREtATTONS OP “THE SCARLET LPTTPR” 4’l

Interpretations of
“The ScarletLetter”
Or
Hawthorne’s Treatment of the Theme
of Sin in “The Scarlet Letter”
The Scarlet Letter is capable of being mterpreted in various ways. The book i a masterpiece which yields a surprising variety of int1retations.
• (i) First of all, there is the Puritan interpretation of the book, according to which its central motive is the idea that sin perman ently perverts the human personality. Everything that Hester and Dimmesdale do after they have committed the act of adultery will be infected by a sense of sin. The souls of these two individuals having been corrupted by their sin, they will not reach a clear understanding of man’s pJace in relation to God and Revelation. According to the Puritan belief, ths understanding can be achieved by sinless spirits through faith, but never through mere rational intelligence. The sin which I-lester and Dimmesdale have commit. ted would release evils in their natures which can never entirely be eradicated or forgiven. (The sin-that a human being commits gives rise to further evil in his nature). According to this interpretation, The Scarlet Letter is a tt’agedy almost in Greek manner because sin is universal aid the reader cannot look upon the, down. fall of other ‘Sinners with’ any feeling of complacent self righteous. ness.
(ii) Another interpretation of this novel originates from the concept of the “Fortunate Fall,” accorflng to which sin is the source of wisdom and spirittal enlightenment. Hester and Dimmes.. dale not only pay for their sin but through it achieve wisdom, self. knowledge, and spiritual greatness, which compensate them for their suffering. The concept of the Fortunate Fall finds man in an evil world in which he can win greatness only through suffering. According to this concept man is placed in a tragic plight in his relation to the univcrsé The story of sin in The Scarlet Letter may
thus be read in terms of redemption or purgation.
1. 1’he doot riri ofJr lix rul1,u.

(iii) The romantic approach to The carkt LeUr is based on the assumption that society is wrong in punisbing persons who
9r eapond to a natural urge. I-lester and Dimmesdále, ‘in comniittirig adultery, have responded to a natural urge and are, iherefore not guilty in any absolute sense. It is society who by punishing them, has “sinned” against nature. Man is inherently good; but social conventions and attitudes, whi.h thwart the promptings of nature are bad.) The natural good in Hester and Dimmesdale deteriorates because of the sense of sin which society forces upon them, How-. ever, sense of sin is very mild. She lives a life of a heroic th’tough tragic defiance of society’s code, and she is eventually defeated not because of any inner failure but because of Chillingworth’s disc overy of her plan of escape or because of the minister’s finding himself unable to endure his torment any longer and, therefore1 unable to act for his own good.
(iv) There can be still another interpretation of The Scarlet Letter. The interpretation may be called transcendental. Accord., ing to the transcendental reading of the story, the sin of Hester and Arthur is of no importance in itself. What matters is the coieq uences of their sin or their concealmut of their sin, which is tantamount to .tlç failure of self-reliance in the lovers’ not being. true to themselves.’ What is regarded as their sin of passion is thus unimportant. The transcendental reading scorns the idea of a sin of passion and rejects the conventional code of society. It holds the lovers to be guilty of the sin of not being true to themselves.
(v) Lastly, it can be said that The Scarlet Letter émphasises the psychological implications of the sense of guilt. According t.o this view, sin is something which disturbs the individual’s psycholog ical balance. The sense of sin adversely affects the human personality. There is no absolute moral law to decide what is sinf ul and what is not. It all depends upon what a character thinks is sinful.
The differences among these interpretations of the novel are due to two principal causes. One is Hawthorne’s symbolism. He uses symbols to convey meanings different from those conveyed by his statements. Nature, for example, represents the “wilderness of error” through which Hester is said to wander. Nature asserts itself in Pearl whose wildness represents th- “freedom of a broken law.” Nature originally supplied the impulse of Hester’s and Arthur’s sin of liassion. In these and several other statements made by Hawthorne, Nature appears to act as a force contrary to the moral law. But Nature through other symbols seems to approve of Hester and her sin. In chapter 1, we are told that close to the prison (which is described as the black flower of society) grows the rose of love and beauty. Pearl, i3 a rose too ; and at Governor Bellingham’s residence she gives point to this symbolism by insist ently demanding a red rose. Pearl, the rose, insists again and again that Dimmcsdalc should come out into the open to bold her hand and Hester’s, and should clear the mystery of why he keeps his hand over his heart. The sun agious object of nature,

42

 

 

THE SCARLET LETTER

shines agprovingly upon Hester when, in the forest, she removes her cap and shows the rich beauty of her hair. Here Hester not confessing her sin. On the contrary, she is again declaring her passion for Dimmesdale, her defiance of the Puritan code, aid hcr eagerness to flee with her lover to another land where they cab live happily together. Hester’s actions here are cleatly sinful, as Hawthorne himself says. But the force of the .Naturesymbolscom pels the reader’s sympathy and makes him feel that the author too sympathises with Hester’s feelings..
A second reason for the variet’v of interprctatiorrs of the book is that, in spite of his ingrained ritritanism, – Hawthorne betrays a certain sympathy for his guilty hero and heroine,. This leads to what is called ambiguity or ambivalence in the story. Hatsfthorne defin itely considers Hester and Diinmesdale to be sinful. Hester is adulterous, andalso proud. There is not a touch of repentance in her general attitude to her situation. After seven years of social degradation she is yet read, to flee with Dimmesdale if only he would gjee. Dimmesdale is, besides being adulterous, hypocritial and cowardly. He has not only• coininitted adultery, but he continues 10 throw dust into the eyes of his parishioners. What is more, he succumbs ‘again to temptation in hi& . forest.iterview withHester, Hawthorne naturally disapproves of the, conduct of both, these persons. And yet his sympathy for both of them is unmistakable. He admires Hester for her strength and endurance,. and for the manner in which she elevates herself to the position of, a higher being by performing numerous acts of ‘service to the community. And he admires Dimmesdale for the deep ternorse which a’lows he minister no peace, and for the eventual victory the minister adsieves over his weakness. There is in both Hester and Dimrnesdale a nobility of spirit which jroves triumphant in the end. No such nobility redeems the character of Chillirigworth.

1O,
“The Scarlet Letter” as a
Psychological Novel
Or
Psychological Analysis in
“The Scarlet Letter”
Like Edgar Allan Poe, Hawthorne was an explorer of the dark recesses of the human souL Hawthorne shows himself as a reaHy great psychologist in The. Scarlet Letter. It is the inner life of the characters that constitutes the main theme of ihis,:novel. The interr elationships of the various characters among themselves, and their individual relatonships to society, are worl:ed out and developed through the medium of psychological analysis. In the case of each
Ll character, it is the state of mind 0f the individual at variou5 stages of his or her life, that interests the author Both the hero and heroine in the story undergo a severe mental agony, and the author gives evidence of a keen insight in revealing to us the n4t,urc of that agony and the causes which bring it about. The third princ ipal character. Chillingworth, does not undergo much mental torture, but in his case the psychology of revenge has been closely examined and stated in explicit terms7 Indeed, there are a number of chapters, irotably Chapters V. VI, IX, Xl, and XIII n whih ‘the central characters (including Pearl) arc made the subjects uf psychological analysis.
The Working of Hester Prynne.s Mind .
(Hawthorne’s capacity to read and analyse the mind of a dsaräci cr rn’ay first be studied with reference to Hester Prynne. ‘ Hestrs thoughts and feelings are laid bare before us at every step. When she stands on the scaffold facing the multitude of cidzcns, she has a “burning blush” and yt a “haughty smile” on her face. The burning blush reveals her senst of shame caused by the public exposure, while the haughty’ smile shows her defiance of society’s moral code and of the persons’ Who are responsible for enforcing that code. T1i &oriet Le.tter,which she has embroidered on the bosom of her dress1 reveals “the desperate recklessness of her mood.” Haughty as her demeanour is at this time, she yet suffers an agony

 

 

46 TIlE. SCPRLE.T LETTER

AS A PSYCHOLOGICA NOVEL

WitCH dic ices the people who have gathered to see her.
her heart has been flung into the streets for the people L spurn and trample upon. However, Hester goes through her or.!eal with a ‘serene deportment” because, as the author tells i25, a sufferer never knows the intensity of his ot her suffering by ill present torture, but chiefly by the pang that rankles after
it.
The memories of past life which come to Hester, as she stands on the scaffold, are psychologically true. Exposed to public disg race, anybody would turn to his or her [iast life. It is the nature of a human being to turn to past events and happenings which pre. sent a sharp contrast with present occurrences. All the past events and happenings are, however, merely a dream to Hester at this time. She realizes that the only. rçality is thç shame that she is facing, and the child that she is hoIding in her arms. When she is led back to prison, she suffers a nervous excitement which is a reaction from the calm and serene attitude that she had been able to maint ain when she stood on the scaffold.
Hester’s decision not to quit Boston, in spite of the permi. nent disgrace to which she is doomed, is again, psychologically true once we understand the special case of Hester’s mind. The chain that binds her to thiE place is unbreakable in her eyes because the man, with whom she. feels herself united by a secret bond, dwells here. But there is another reason also which prevents her from quitting Boston. This place was the scene of her guilt, and it should be the scene of her earthly punishment. With this thought, Hester persuades herself to believe that the torture of her daily shame would ultimately purify her soul.
Hestej’s mental reactions to the strange, incompreh-nsihle moods of Pearl are also accurately dscribed by Hawthorne. So perplexing and baffling. is the behaviour of Pearl, that Hester cannot help questioning herself, at certain times, whether Pearl is a human child. There are occasions when Hester’ burst into passionate tears because of Pearl’s abnormal behaviour. Again, there are times when Hester cries out in great agony “0 Father in Heaven. what is this being which 1 have brought into the world!” And she remembers the talk of the neighbouring townspeople acc6rding to whom Peail is a demon offspring’
But it is in describing Hester’s state of mind in relation to the stigma which ‘he has to wear, that Hawthorne shows his deep und erstanding of human nature and its different manifestations. The &arlrt Letter has the effect of turning Hester into a Sister of Mercy. Without claiming any of the world’s privileges, hester gives evid ence of”a feeling of her sisterhood with the race of man.” Whatever she cart spare from her. own requirements is given to the needy and the pooi’, even though she gets no thanks in return. Nobody was s devoted to the alleviation of misery as Hester, when an epidemic raged in tIme town. At all times of calamity, whether general or 0 individuals, this otitcst of society at once assumed the role of a

helper and a saviour. Many people, impressed by her icnrr’sl helpfulness, begin to interpret the ‘icarlet lifter “A’ as ‘ A ‘fr’. But this is only one of the effects of punishment that has been imp osed upon her. Another. effect . is of a different kind. All the light and graceful features of her character, .we are told by Hawt horne, withertip because of this red-hot, brand (the letter “A”), She now hides her rich and abundant hair by wearing a cap. Her looks and appearance no longer attract the amorous attention of any man. The stigma and the shame seem to have totally crushed Hester’s heart, even though the stigma and the suffering have made a Sister of’Mercy out of her.. Much of the marblë’coldness of Hest er, Hawthorne says, is due to the fact that her life has turned, in a great meacure, “from passion and feelings to thought.” This transformation, too, has a psychological validity. There isa conf usion in the mind of Hester “Thus, Hester Prynne, whose heart had lost its regular and healthy throb, wandered without a clue in the dark labyrinth of mind.” A noteworthy feature of Hester’s life, after several years of the penance that she is doomed to underg o, is that she is not one whit nearer repentance than she was immed iately after the commission of her crime. At no stage dpes she waver in her belief that her act of adultery regarded as a heinous sin by society,’ had “a consecration of its own”. As Hawthorne puts it, “the scarlet letter had not done its office.” Her mental suffering has been great, but the purpose. with which the magistrates had condemned her to wear the scarlet letter, has not been served. l’hat purpose was to’ force upon Hester a realisation of the gravity of her sin, but Hester is unable at any stage to look upon hcrself as a sinner.
Hester s decision to reveal the true identity of C’hillingworth toflhnmesdale has, again, a sound psychological basis. She has witnessed the interlse’misery of the minister. She sees that he stands on the verge of lunacy. She realizes that ihe committed a wrong in aflowing the minister to be thrown into a position where he had undergo so much avoidable suffering. Accordingly, she determi – nes now to redeem her error as far as it is possible. And, after declaring her intention to Chillingworth, she gives the shocking information to Dimrnesdale that the physician is her husband.
For a number. of years, Hester wanders in a “moral wilder- ness.” Instead of finding any justice in the attitude of bee Puritan persecutors, she becomes a .critic of all that priests and legislators have established. Shame, Jiespair. Solitude: these have been her teachers during the past several years. These teachers have made her strong, but they have failed to establish:, in her . eyes the justice of the code of which she the victim, She• suggests a ‘plan. of escape to the minister, and ‘would have doubtless gone ahead with it, if fate had not willed otherwise.
In his ciud of Hester then Hawthorne shows us the strong and resolute mind o a woman who refuses to surrender to a code of morality for which she feels an instinctive abhorrence. Not once does she, led sorry foi what she has done, because not once dot.s

 

 

THE SCARLET LETTER

AS A PSYCHOLOGICAL NOVEL 4’)

  • lp •‘l4I,,r that there was any wrong in what she did. The maus tli wliiha he continues to wear the stigma shows that she is made “I liriolc siufr. Her penance, first imposed upon her by society, ‘and larn imposed by herself, serves not to give rise to any -feeling of repentance in her mind, but only to strengthen her romantic Irhirf that an individual -should be free to seek his or her happiness wherever they can lind it, untrammelled by any social restraints.
    The Working oZ Roger chilliugworjh’s Mind
    Roger Chilhingworth personifies revenge. In delineating this man, Hawthorne’s purpose was to show “the effects of revenge in diabolizing him who indulges in it” Here, again, Hawthorne shows great – psychological insight. He analyses the feelings and motives which led old Chillingworth to marry- a young girl. Chilling. worth is htrnslf a psychologist and, speakin, to Hester in the prison, expre:’cs his sense of wrong in having induced her to rn3rry him “I, a man of thought, the lmok.worm ofgreat libraries, a man already-in decay, having given tray best years to feed the hungry dream of knowledge, what had I to (10 with youth and beauty like thine own misshapen frOtn my hinh.hour, how could I delude myself with the idea that intellectual gifts might veil physical defor. mity in a younger girl’s fantasy.” This is, excellent self’analysis. Once he has vowed revenge upon the man who has dishonnured him, Roger Chillingworth knows no mercy. Hawthorne tells us that there was a time when this man -was calm, gentle, and passionl ess. But this man’s resolve to avenge himself brings to the surface a deep malice which had hitherto been dormant and latent.
    in course of time, the effects of Chillingworth’s revengeful pasi on become -clearly discernible on his face. All the blackness of his mind appears in his countenance, Frequently “there came a glare of red light our of his eyes, as if his – soul were on fire”. And the author observes in this connection “in a word, old Roger Cliillingworth was a striking evidence of man’s faculty of transfor. rniag himself into a devil, if he will only, for a reasonable space oJ time, undertake a devil’s oFfice” And Chillingworth himself is aware of the transformation He calls himself a fiend—a mortal mmn, whit once a human heart, turned into a fiend. for the spec i.tl torment of the minister. Hester pities him “for the hatred that has transformed a wise and just man to-a fiend.” When Hester appeals to him to relax his revenge and to pardon his victim. (iaillingwortla sternly replies, “Peace, Hester, peace ! It is not granted me to pardon. I have no such power as thou tellest me of.”
    Towatds the end of the story, when Dimnuesdale has deci( led )I1)ort a tpublic confession, Chili ingworth makes a desperate
    to restrain the minister from his purpose so that his victim should not slip out of his hands. And when the minister pays no heed to his words, Chillingworth says, “Thou hast – escaped me Thou hast escaped me !“
    rite Continuous gratification of his passion for revenge has be- conic so vital for Chiltingworth that, once his victim is dead, Chili ingworth finds nothing to interest him or to keep him alive. The

itihor here makes an observation containing deep- -psychological irnth in the following words “‘rhs urihapjy; man had made the very principle of his life to consist in the pursuit arxck,systematic zcrcise of -revenge – and when by its -empletest triumph and ,imsumrnation, that evil principle was left.wiah no further-material ut support it., when, in short, there was mo more Devil’s work on birth for him to do, it only remained forae unhunuanised mortal in betake himself whither his Master would find him tasks enough, trial pay him his wages duly “ Within a year of the death of Dim. unesdale, Chillingworth -dies too, though his destination after death is different from death of Dimmesdale. – –
rhe Working of Arthur Dimmesdale’s Mind
But it is in hs portrait of Aathur Diinmesdaie that Hawthorne reveals his greatest. psychological pertetraion and might. Hcster .arad Chillingworth ase- comparatively simpler natures. Hester is a tornantic woman belieng- in complete freedom the individual and in the individual’s unlimited a ight to find hi own happinds. Uhillingwoth is the embodiment of the pasion of reenge, and he pursues his revenge singlemindedly and relcnticly. But Dim’mesd ale has a complex mind-, and it demands a vast knowledge of the intricacies of human ;nature to.- be able to portray such a mind-. I)imincsdide is oppressed by the weglat of his crime. He suffers anI gony of remorse. But he does not have the-courage to make a public )nfcssiofl of his guilt. He does not wish to tarnish the noble image wh kh the public has of laim [lawthnrnc, therefore, ightly calls him a ‘remorseful hypocrite.’’ ‘This man, l’lawthornr tells u, could have climbed to mite highest peak oh’ sanctity, if he had not constantly been haunted by a (leep s-clsc of1tuilt The ptil)l ie considers hi rn to he a ‘miracle of holincs.’’ But aj)1it Vt iteration serves merely to enhance his agony. Hç is essentially a lover 1 truth and he is, therefore, appalled by the falsehood of his OWfl life. Pc longs to speak out, from his own pulit, and tell the people what he really is. Mrre than once, he tells his hearers that he is altogether vile and the worst of sinners, but his hearers attribute such statements tO his humility. He knows that, even in thus speaking the truth about his sinfulness, he has been uttering afalsehood, and he loathes himself for this hypocrisy. .Ue undergoes a terrible penance in private,: — he keeps viguls – and fasts. night after night ; he even flogs at, sconrages himsetC- till blood oozes out of his body. He sees hallucinarons…soietime5 a herd of diabolic shapes, and somttirnes a grouo of shining angcls. lInt he cannot gather courage enough to confess his guilt opnly I-lawt horrie shows himsell’ as a true psychologist itt d’picting the mind of a conscience stricken, hypocritical, and cowardly individual.
The pricks and pangs of’ be conscience compel Dimñietdale one night to go and tand upon the sca[fbld. As the author points-out. there is a strange contradiction in–the-step- t.bt tb.: minister takes. The whole towti.s,–sleep and, therefore,- nn eves c-4n se Inn – The author thus comments on the minister’s act iota ;.VIay, thrn,had hr come hither? Was it but the mockery of penitence ?A mockery, indeed, but in which soul trifled with itself ! – A mockery at which

 

 

The SCARLeT LETTeR

miigels blushed and wept, while fiends rejoiced, with jeering laugh te. .“ It is his remorse that has compelled the minister to nion he seaffold (which is symbolic of public disgrace) but it is his co wardice that holds him back from making a public confession Thus, as he stands on the scaffold, “in this vaj show of expiation” Dimmesdaje is overcome by a great horror of the consequences of his sin becoming known. Hawthorne shows great skill in Conveying to Us the mixed feelings of the strife.torn Dimmesdalethe haunting SCflSC of guilt, the desire to confess, the fear of the consequences of a confession, the anxiety to keep his public image intact, the impulse to shriek and thus attract attention, etc.
The circumstances its which the minister experiences his second “fall”, by agreeing to Hester’s plan of escape, are minutely described The minister, bewitched once again by the sensual beauty of Hester, has no power to resist the temptation His SUCc unbing to temptation here is Psychologically quite Convincing. Hester’s plan opens out a new possibility for him and Hester will give him the support he needs to Carry out the plan. Re returns from his interview with her in a light mood. The chapter (“The Minister in a Maze”) in which the author describes the minister’s impulse to utter profaniti and obscenities is a masterpiece of psycho1i writing, which shows a Freudian knowledge of the subconscious mind before Freud framed his theories. Tndeed, it is a wonder how Hawthorne could have shown so much understanding of human Psychology before the science of Psychology had made the progress which it has made in the twentieth century.
Hawthorne has not described why and how Dinirnesdale after having agreed to Rester’s planS of escape, decjds to make a public confession of his guilt. The decision to make the public confession must have come after a conflict of the most acute and agonizing kind. After having dreamt, i’ Hester’s company, of the Possibility of ah exquisitely happy life in some distant land, it would be extremely difficult if not impossible for a man, even ofan exceptional degree of sensitivity and with a most delicate cons cience to swerve to the opposite extreme and make a public disclo. sure of the infamous deed committed by him. The araIysis of such a conflict could have proved very interesting and would have given Hawthorne another Opportunity for a display of his Psychological Sweep and depth. But it seems that the author had a feeling that he had given to his readers a sufficiency of Psychological material to digect. He desisted therefore, from further exercising his extra. ordinary Psychological powers.
Tb. Delineation of Pearl
Vt another example of Hawthorne’s Psychological equipment is to hr found in his delineation of Pearl. In this case, Hawthorne offers us a study of Childpsychology of abnormal Child.psychology to pu it more exactly. Here is an active, sprightly girl with a mind which is exceptionally quick and alert, a remarkably precious mind. But there seems to be something wrong with her mental makc.up. J’IIS child is not amenable to ru!es ‘or discipline of

AS A PSYCHOLOOtCALNOVEL

r ,

any kind. She is an impatient, wayward, and rebellious child. Hawthorne tells us that her nature possessed both depth and variety. She is a being whose elements arc perhaps beautiful and briUiant, but all in disorder. Her wildness, her detiant moods, and the flightiness of her temper are a cause of perpetual concern to her mother. There is something perverse about her. She has no desire even to mix with other children because, according to the author, she is “a born outcast of the infantile world” The author calls her an imp of evil, etublemn and product of sin, having no right among christened infants. This child knows no law, and no reverence for anyone. Her behaviour is most erratic and unpredict able, as is seen in her bespattering the Governor with water, and screaming and making frantic gestures when Hester has cast away the scarlet letter. Hawthorne has shown much subtlety. in portrayi ng Pearl. It is because he has given us a most unusual picturc of a child that this child remains for the reader an unreal and dreml ike figure.

 

 

AS A STORY OF CRIME AND PUNISHMENT

_11
“The Scarlet Letter” as a Story of
Crime and Punishment
The. &arkt Letter is a story of crime arid punshment, both on tBe personal and social level”i The act of adultery is a crime áinst arIindividual that individ/al being the wronged husband orwife Buf’aduhery is also a crime against society, because it is a violation of a moral code established and respected hy society. Aduitetiy.i one of the most seiious crimer, because it is an outrage agins( both personal and public sentiments which ale deep-rooted. Of course, it is possible to defend adu’tery by arguing that the individual has a right to do anything that Irings him satisfaction. This kind of approach to adultery mas’ be described as a romantic view of the matter. The romanticist believes in complete freedom for the individual. According to the inmantic say of thinking, it is the consent of the two parties ma sexual ieiationship that is important. If the two parties themselves agree to a sexual relationship, nothing else should matter, and nothing shoutd come between them. But such a view, if accepted by a rns-ijori.ty of people, would lead to complete chaos and anarchy in social relations. Such a view shows no respect for any kind of decency or regulated social conduct which is essential for the maintonartee of’ sncat stability and for the sanctity of conjugal rela;iuuili:’s.
Hesctr Pynne and Arthur Dimnsesdalc infringe the Seventh Commandment which says: “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” Adultery is illegal and immoral in all civilised communities and countries and it is, therefore, perverc on the part of anyone to defend it in the name of individual freedom. Having committed this crime, Hester and Dimrnesdale must pay for i, and they do certainly pay for it. The fact that we feel a deep sympathy for both the sinners does not show either that Hawthorne defends adultet or that we consider the conduct of the two characters to be pardonable.
Hester Piynne has, by her adulterous action, wronged her husband, Roger Chillingwi Lit, and thai is what she tells him fl SO many words. The wrong that she has done to her husband is a crime on a personal lev& l3iui she has also wronged society o which she is a member. 1’his society lonks upon adultery as a seritiuls kind ol’ sin that shoti Id he punished with dcath. St rangeiv enooh , I lester herself dues not consider her adulterous aetion to be

s serious cime or sin. For this reason she does not experience any deep sense f guilt even after society has pronounced its judgment upon her.J On the contrary, Hester believes in the, sanctity of the love relationship between her -and Dimmesdale. “What we did”, she says to Dimmesdale in the forest, “had a consecration of its own. We felt it so ; we said so to each other.” For this reason, her onscience does not trouble Hester, Hester’s punishment is purely social. She has to stand on the platform of the pillory, with the people gazing curiously at the scatlet -letter on her breast. ‘ Society has decreed that she shall wear throughout her life a scarlet letter on the bosom of her gown This us the stigma that Hester has to carry always. She becomes a social outcast. . Childr’en follow her aRd shout at her. Strangers gaze at the scarlet lettçr on her bosom and make no secret of their contempt for her. She is cruelly treated by society. Her numerous acts of service as a Sister of Mercy do soften society to some extent, but do not secure her its pardon. Society continues to be rigid and relentless. Any other woman in place of Hester would have felt deeply embittered by this treatment and would have been won over to the side of the Devil or the Black Man. ABut. the inherent goodness of Hester and her maternal solicitude for Pearl keep her away from any i’urther evil. In the forest interview with Dimmesdale, she suggests escape from Bost9n so that they can lead a new life, but she does so because, as has been said above, she does not consider her relationship th Dimmesdale to be immora1 or sinful. In her views on morality, she is a romantic of the extreme type. Eventually, when her dreams of happiness with 1)immesdalc have come to nothing, and her responsibilities as a mother have come to an end, she resumes her life of general helpfulness to the Boston community, and resumes also the scarlet letter on her bosom. Her crime was a serious one, and her punishment is great. But it must be pointed out again that the punishment comes from society and is unaccompanied by any pangs of the conscience.
As for Dimmesdale the reverse is the case. His punishment comes purely from within. Society does not punish him because society does not know of the sin that he has committed. He is a greater sinner than Hester because, to the sin of adultery, he adds the sin of concealment or hypocrisy. His hypocrisy saves him from social censure or social o..tracism or any other form of social action. Had society come to know his crime, it would have sentenced him to death. As it is, he is the victim of his conscience only.
Dimmesdale’S conscience not only allows him no peace but is a source of constant torment to him. He is all the time haunted by a sense of guilt. The fact of concealment serves only to intensify his misery. He undergoes various kinds of penance, including vigils, fasts, and flagellation. But, as he tells Hester in the forest, it is all penance and no penitence. One night he even mounts the scaffold as an act of expiation. But, as the author remarks, it is a mockery of penance and not true expiation. His succumbing to temptation once again in the forest constitutes his second “fall”

 

 

tHE CARLuT LETTER

hut from this he quickly recovers. Soon after this forest intervIew, lit hardens himself and determines to make a public confestion of hi3 sin. Fle carries out his resolve, unburdens his heart, and, in a few minutes, meets his end on the scaffold. This incident is the climax of his punishment, but it is also the climax of his spiritual development. He confesses his guilt and gives away his life, but he has established his right to a place in heaven by virtue of his act of genuine repentance and confession.
As Hawthorne points out, a man like Dimmesdaje should not commit a crime like adultery. Crime is for the hardened individual who is strong enough to crush the voice of his conscience. Society does not play the least part in the mental torture which ])immesdale undergoes, though the role played by Roger Chillingworrh in this connection cannot be ignored. Chillingworth persecutes Dimruesdalc and does so in a subtle manner. He greatly aggravates the suffering of the poor minister. In a sense, Roger Chillingworth may be regarded as an agent of society, because be is the aggrieved husband avenging himself on the man who has dishonoured him. As the wronged husband, Roger Chillingworth may represent all husbands of his category. However, it would be more appropriate to look upon Chiflingworth’s revenge as a personal, rather than social, revenge.

1

“The Scarlet Letter” as a. Tràgedy
The Scarlet Letter is a tragic story. There are two tragic . :haracters in it—.Hester Prynne and Arthur Dimmesdale. Both hese characters excite in us a deep feeling of pity for their sad fate. Itut this feeling of pity could be aroused only if the. characters :oncerned are also able to win, to some extent, our admiration for some noble or heroic qualityevinced by them, and this they ertainly do.
Hester Prynne wins our admiration by virtue of her candour, her strength, her power of endurance, her deep maternal attachment to Pearl, and the spirit of service which, in cOuiseof time, develops a her. Standing on the scaffold, and exposed to public disgrace, hester Prynne shows a haughty dignity,. She is, of course, deeply hurt by the crowd gazing at the scarlet letter embroidered on the bosom of her gown ; she feels a burning sensation in her hreat. lut she does not have any painful sense of shame because she is not troubled by any sense of guilt. She knows that adultery is a serious offence in the eyes of society bitt she sorrichow feels that she has committed no great sin by. her adtltery. Indeed, she shows a rare bravery in facing the crowd that.has assembled to see her standing ónthe platform of the pillory. “The author thus des. cribes her as she stands on t he scaffold. “The unhappy culprit iustained herself as best a woman, might, under the heavy weight’ of a thousand unrelenting eyes, all, fastened upon her, and conci( rated at her bosom. ft was almost intolerable to. be borne.”; While we admire this woman for her courage, we feel a deep sympathy for her. when reminiscences of her past life come to mind one by one. “Rerniniscences, the most trifling iid,,immate..’ rial, passages of :infancyatid school-days, s)orts, the childish quasv rels and the little domestic traits of her maiden yeats, catne swarm ing hack upon her, intermingled wIrJ recollect ons of ihtever was gravest in her subsequent life But her psst life is no longer real1 to her; the only realities are the infant that she holds in her antis and the public disgrace to which she is exposed.
We admire Hester Prynne for the strong determination that she shows in refusing to disclose the name of her p4tner in her crime. Neither the terrible threats of the .ReverejdMr Wilson nor the eloquent appeal of the Reverend. Mr. Dirxtsnes.dale has any effect upon her. By disclosing the, name, she can perhaps have the scarlet letter taken off her breast and •she can also give her

 

 

THE SCARLET LETFI!Ik

AS A TRAGRXW

child a father. But she tells the priests that the scarlet letter is too dec1ly branded on her breast to be taken off and that her child must seek a heavenly Father. Not only does she not disclose the name of her lover, but she declares that she would like to endure his agony in addition to her own. Hester Prynne’s words compel Dimmesdaleto acknowledge, her strength and her generosity. ‘She will not speak”, he murmurs, “Wondrous strength and generosity of a woman’s heart! She will not speak !“ One of her reasons for not leaving Boston after she has been released from prison is that she would like to stay on here so as to be able to live near the man with whom she considers herself connected in a union which, though unrecognised on earth, would perhaps be recognised in Heaven. This constancy towards a man who himself is keeping his part in the crime a secret from everybody is, indeed, worthy of admiration. Nor dbes’this constancy waver at any stage after. wards. In fact, seven years later, when she meets that man in the forest, all her feeling for him rises in her breast in a flood and she urges him to flee from Boston with her to some distant land where they can both start a new life. This woman is surely made of the stuff of which heroines aie made.
Hester Prynne is very cruelly treated by society, but she does nos turn into a cynic. She finds herself a social outcast. The author tells us that “its all her intercourse with society, there was nothing that made her feel as if she belonged to it. Every, gesture, every word, and even the silence of those with whom she came into contact, implied and often expressed, that she was banished.” But her native energy of character enables her to endure this ill. treatment. “She was patient—a martyr, indeed.’ Strangers look curiously at the scarlet letter on her breast, and ea&h time they do so she feels as if the letter has been branded afresh into her soul. And yet, having not even the humblest claim to a share ju the worid’s privileges, she does not -sever her connection with the human society around her. She goes out ‘of her way to help the needy and the poor, even though she receives ‘little thanks from them in return. ‘When an epidemic breaks out in the town, she goes round rendering numerous acts of service to those who are afflicted by disease. There is a well of human tenderne in her heart which has not been dried up by the indifference, contempt, and cruelty of the people in whose midst she moves about. She becomes a Sister of Mercy. She proves so helpful that the letter “A” on her breast comes to ‘have a different meaning from its original signification. It now’ seems to stand for – “able”. The letter is like a cross on a nun’s bosom.
We are attracted towards Hester Prynne by another quality also. She has a dcep’maternal attachment for Pearl. She puts up a vigoious fight to retain her guardianship of the .:child, and she wins her point. With her’ instability of temper ‘andunpredictable moodi, Pearl is more of a tormentor. for her mother than a source of joy. Pearl is constantly embarrassing her mother by asking her the meaning of the letter “A” which she wears on her bosom. Her tantrums and her frenzies would have infuriated any mother

less, patient and enduring than Hester ; hut Hester’s love for Pearl remains absolutely undiminished.
‘Hester feels deeply troubled on realising that Roger Chiflng. ‘worth has been persecuting ‘Arthur Dimrnesdale. The realisation makes her repent of the promise she had given to Roger Chilling. worth that she would keep his real identity a secret from everybody. Accordingly, she goes to Chiliingworth and tells him that she would no longer keep his identity a secret. She ‘then meets Dimmesdale and reveals to him the secret (of Chillingworth’s real identity) which, while shocking the minister, solves the mystery that had been one of the elements in his torment. Here, again, Hester Proves herself worthy of our respect and admiration by having performed what she thinks to be her moral duty.
The tragedy of Hester Prynne certainly arouses in us the feelings of rity and fear to which Aristotle referred. For seven long’ years, she suffers the agony of social ostracism and social censure without the least sympathy from any quarter, and with her’ own child, Pearl contributing as much to her misery as relieving
it. When, at the end of these seven years, there is a prospec( of re.union and a new. life with her lover, she suffers a shattering blow to her hopes. Eventually, when Pearl is married and settled in life, this woman returns to Boston to resume her life of service to society. Nothing could be more heroic than that and
nothing could be more tragic than that either. Roger Chillingworth speaks of the good that has been wasted in her, There has certainl y been a waste. Without that waste, there would ‘be no tragedy. But we cannot lose sight of the fact that Hester Prynne’s sufferings have ennobled her and raised her to a height which she could not have, otherwise attained. This woman who’ was once so passionate has been transformed by sin and s:rrow into a spiritual being. Thus her fate has upon us ‘that upliftng effect which every true tragedy ptoduces ‘ This splendid woman has not lived for nothing. Her life does not diminish, but it actually increases, ‘in the ‘dismal world of which she’ is a citizen She is the heroine of a tragedy, and she understands , the tragedy. En the view of the people who punish her, sin is :a hard ‘fact, a problem for ,which there is no solution. The th4e principal characters being what they are—I-lester, strong; Dimmesdale, weak; and Chillingworth revengeful—there could have’ been ‘no other ending for the story’ but the one ‘that ‘Hawthorriç has given it. The conclusion, ,is not depressing ;‘ nor is it meaningless. Hester’s ‘ life has not been hollow or vain. ‘‘‘‘-
Hester s strength is not dte to the fact that she has.- to live in public shame. —Oh the contrary, the fact that she n bye public shame is due to hem strength Her strength is an innate- quality in her. As alway. with Hawthorne’s women, she’ has more courage’ than the man with whom destiny links her. t
Dut The Scarlet Letter ‘is not only the *agedy of Hes4i’ Prynue. It is also the tragedy of Arthur Dimmesdale. In.Ia’
– some. people are of the opinion that it is more ijie tragedy T,

 

 

THB SCARLnT L8Ttp-

As A TRAOy

Arthur Dirnrncsdale than of Hester Prynne, and there is certainly SOIJIC weight in this opinion. Hester Prynne suffers deeply, but there is no conflict in her. Constituted as she is, she sees her path clearly. But the case of Arthur Dirnmesdale is different. For .,even years he keeps his sin a secret, and this secrecy allows him no peace. Tmmediately after he has committed the crime, a spiritual conflict begins in him and it ends only with his public con fession which also means the end of his life. On many occasions diii ing these seven years, this man feels like making a public confess ion of his sin, but he is prevented from doing so by the thought that the public image of him would completely be shattered. People worship him as asaint. They regard him as a miracle of holin ess; his sermons have a spell-binding effect on them. He, theref ore, cannot make up his mind to declare his sin. He imposes severe penance upon himself. He keeps endless vigils and fasts ; and, in the privacy of his room, he frecinently lashes and flogs himself. But even this cannot bring him any real satisfaction. One night he goes and mounts the scaffold and is joined by Hester and Pearl. But this, as Hawthorne points out, is only a mockery of penitence. The fact is, as he tells Hester in the forest interview, that there has been penance but no real penitence. Says he: “Of penance ,I have had enough ; of penitence, ther’ has been none
Else, I should have long ago thrown off these garments of mockh oliricss, and have shown myself to mankind as they will see me at the judgment-seat. Happy are you, Hester, that wear the scarlet letter openly upon youi bosom! Mine burns in secret I”
It is true that Dimmesd ale produces an impressson of weakt sekiad timidity. He aggravates his sin of adultery by his prol one4çoncealment of it, and he further aggravates it by trying to keep p an appearance of piety. He is an adulterer, a hijite, and a coward. He betrays his weakness by going about wfth his hand over his heart. Even little Pearl mocks at him for – this habit of his in keeping his h4d constantly over –his heart. Mistress Hibbins too comments on this in a- sarcastic -vein. He begins to, see hallucinations, one of the most startIingof these beingthe letter “A” seen by him in the sky when he stands on the scaffold one night, What is it, then, that makes this man a tragic hero?’ –
– “ – The Scarlet LeUer is – primarily the story of the – fall of• a “n’ gre’a 1Nest. Arthur Dimmesdale’s greatness as a scholar and as a
ffiitistei of the church is undoubted. He is held in great reverence all the people, besides the civil authorities and his own profess ional coleagues. His sermons are very eloquent and highly inspiñng. His parishioners listen to his words as if a Tongue of 1tcccst were speaking. This exalted personage commits what is known as a crime of passion. This crime constitutes his fall., But his conscience begins to torment him and keeps tormenting 1im incessantly. He is haunted by a sense of sin. Even without a Rocr Chilhingworth to persecute him, this man would have suffered agonies of his sense of guilt. His life is one long misery. Then comes a second fall in his life. lie succumbs to temptation

bnce again when, in the course of his forest-interview with Hester Prynne, he agrees to flee from Boston in her company. :HVifl taken a decision to flee, however, he cannot stick-tojt. His conscience again speaks, and speaks with a commandjng:,r,,jee – By’ now, the agony of keeping his crime a secret from the populace has become an intolerable burden. Roger Chillingworth; toe, has been driving him almost mad. All this forces him to make up his mind to confess his crime, and he carries out his resolve.:
This action, which leads also to his collapse and his death, makes hiw truly a tragic figure. The unhappy – minister has’- – at last redeemed himself. ‘- – – “-

Dimrnesda)e’s weakness magnifies, rather than lessens, the power of the story. This man tortures, but is unable to purify, himself. He scourges himself till he bleeds, but there is no penitence. Purity is all-important to him: truth is sacred to him but he lives a lie and thus degrades himself. His life, because of its falsehood, is a life of “unspeakable misery.” And the only truth, says Hawthorne, that Continues to give him a real existence on this earth is the anguish in his inmost soul and the undisguied expression of it on his countenance.
Dimmesdaje wins and retains our regard and our sympathy partly because of his suffering (which is due to his sensitive conscience) and partly because ‘Hester continues to love him, And yet he is a remarkable person in his own right. His haunt ed, emaciated figure is unforgettable. Hawthorne, a great psychol ogist as he was, loved to reveal, the workings of a hidden mind Dimmesdale, returning after the interview with [Jester in the forest, is filled with unexpected, irreverent and shocking thoughts which he would like to utter and which he has great difficulty in Suppressing.
According to one of the modern critics, Arthur Dimmesdale is a “tragic” character, while Hester Prynne is only a “pathetic’’ one. This critic thus develops his argument:
Hester is a romantic heroine, a splendid one. ‘ The richly embroidered “A” has been called by one of ‘her modern admirers ‘the red badge of courage’. She is courageous and strong. Arthur, in comparison, seems pitiably weak. But we must not fail to’
realise that Arthur’s situation is much more “difficult than Hester’ Hester opposes her will to., the will of society;– Her ‘conflict is
external. Having no sense of sin, she sets herself resolutely against the intolerant community. But Arthur’s fight is internal. His is a state of civil war, not war with the community. The community worships him, but he has his internal troubles which prove to be serious. (Psychiatrists often express surprise that Hawthorne, in 1850, should have understood how serious intersial conflicts can be).
Hester is a noble, frustrated pathetic figure, but she is not a tragic character, since her mind is made up. As heroism should be measured by the intensity of the inner conflict in a character,

 

 

60

TH SCARLET LETTER

Arthur must be regarded as the more heroic of the two. f-lester does not have to undergo one-tenth of the agony which Arthur endures before he makes his public confession.- The Bcarlet Letter is not tragedy, but Arthur Dimmesdale’s. Arthur’s public confession is one of the noblest climaxes, of tragic literature. “Poor, bedeviHed Arthur Dirnrnesdaje, the slave of passion and the servant of the Lord, brilliant of intellect, eloquent of voice, the darling of his congregation, the worst ofhypocrites. ‘‘His ‘conies. sion is decisive. It brings about his reconciliation with God and man, and with little Pearl from whom there had previously been a complete estrangement.

k t-;

S 13
The ThreScaffolc’Scenes Or
Tue Siçnificance of the
Three Pillory Scenes

The most dramatic and most significant scenes in The Scarlet’ Letler are those which centre round the scaffold. Thcie are three such scenes,, and they come at the beginning, middle, and end of the story. Each of these three sd& 6 itig toeflieF the major charä’fës and forces of the story, and each scene
•;çalls attenlion, in a dramatic manner, to the sculet letter “A.” The First Scaffold Scene
The first scaffold scene takes place at mid-day. There stands ester Prynne an the platform of tbe pillOrycarryisg her baby
in her arms, while the people stand below, and: the leaders of the:
cmniurdtv—civil officers,. magistrates, priests—stand above on a Falcony A group of women have already spoken to one another
about the leniency of the punishment awarded to , Hesçr Pry.rnc.. “Now the lrsThe community—-especially Governor Bellirigham eKeçendMr W1lsn, atid thc Revereaidir Dies 1avc the resonsibility of echoreing I-tester in confess the rThe of her feilow-siner. Hester can expect no smpaihy 11cm thesej persons. On the contrary, she seems to feel that whatever syrnsn‘ thy she might expect lies in the larger and wat mer heart of ihe multitude.
The centre of attention in this scaffold scene i the letter “A’’ worn by Hester Prynne, “fantastically embroidered and illuminated upon her bosom.” Toward the end ofthe scene, the Reverend
Mr: Wilson preaches a discourse on sin
with continuou refcrencc to the ignmsuiouc letter “ crler letter dominates the scnë
Hester bears her ordeal wi h a haughty dignity Alone in
world with the symbol of her sin, Hester puts on an air of pride that almost conceals the torture that she undergoes. Thea :.slw suddenly sees Roger Chillingworth: it ‘the crswd. His face daik’ns with some powerful emotion which, he’er, he controls by’an effort of his will Seeing thai. Hesttr has r&ognw d hiru he sPas l’ and calmly aises his finger and its itii his lips as if to ssk her not to reveal her kanwiedge of!iisfesen there.

5 ‘5’

61

 

 

THE SCARLCT LETTER

THE THREE SCAFFOLD SCENES 6’

In ibe balcony, with the other leaders of the community, MaiuI Arthur Dimmesdale, whose role as Hester’s pastor and spinl ital mentor forces him to address her and to askieF the saie of her partner in sin. Arthur l)immesdale is in the diftIcut position of demanding from Hester the name of her fellow-sinner even though he does not want her to name him. From the point of view of the crowd, Dimmesdale’s appeal to Hester to reveal the nan-ic seems powerful. but this appeal has no effect on Hester. Even in this first scaffold cene, Hawthorne shows the deep ambivalence of Dimmesdale’s position. Dimmesdale does not want t be exposed and yet his appeal to Hester is pathetically sincere. He wishes her to help him in a way he cannot help himself. Being named would bring shame and disgrace to him. hut also the relief of standing in his true identity. If he cannot reveal the secret himself, it is because he is afflicted with what may be called a false pride. [{c is a moral invalid who finds it impossible to surrender his public image, an image which brings him the respect and praise of the people.
After Dimmesdale’ appeal and Mr. Wilson’s exhortation have failed, Chillingworth moves closer to the scaffold and bids Hester speak “and give her child a father.” I will not speak !“ says Hester. “My child must seek a Heavenly Father : she shall never know anicarthly one.”
— This scaffold scene concludes (at the end of Chapter III) with
a final emphasis on the scarlet letter. As Hester is icc. back to
prison, those who peer after the whisper “that the scarlet letter
threw a lurid gleam along the dark passage..way of the interior.”
The opening scene of The Scarlet Letter is the paradigmnt dramatic image in American literature. With that scene and tha’ novel, New World2 fiction arrived at its first fulfiLment, and 1-law. thorne at his. And with the scene, all that was dark and treache. rousin the American uation. became exposed. Hawthorne said later that the writing of The Scarlet Letter had been oddly simple, since all h had to do Wa; to get his “pitch” and then to let it carry him along. He found his pitch in an opening tableau fairly humming with tension—with c,iled and covert relationships that contained a force perfectly calculated to propel the action thereafter in a direct line to its tragic climax.
It was the tableau of the so’litary figure set over against the inimical society, iii a village which hovers on the edge of the inväing arid perilous wilderness ; a handsome young woman stand. irig on a raised platform, confronting in silence and pride a hostile crc)w(I whose menace is deepened by its order and dignity a young Worfl;Iy) who has come alone to the New World, where circumstances have (1iv(Ic(1 her from the community now gathered to oppose her; stan(ling alone, but vitally aware of the private enemy and the private lov(r — one on the far verges of the crowd, one at the place
1. J’aradig,n example pattern.
2. New World lIciion rrean, of coutse, the American novel.

of horror within it, and netthcr COnSCIOUS of the other—who must affect her destiny and who will, assist at each other’s destruction. Here the situation inherent in the American. scene was seized entire iiiWiihout dme tdic b an Iaginat both moral and visual iifthe highest quality: seized and locateif not any longer on tEe margins of the plot, but at its very centre,..
The Second Scaffold Scene
The sec’jnd scaffold scene in the story comèspreciseiy’ati1s middle. This is Dimmesdale’s scene, staged at midnight while the eaITsn&5vas staged at mid-day. It is a scene of a “pseudo-can1&%s jioif.’ Hawthorne calls thj scne a’trnocker oTjeñce azF1’. iWhow of expiation” The scarlet letéri againemphasicrd here. iTiui5sing Dirnmesdale’s gbsesson with his guilt. Sanding on the scaffold, he feels that the whole world is gazing at the scarlet letter over his heart. 1-us shriek awakens Governor BellTngharn and Mistress Hibbin5, but neither of them sees him on the scaffold. The reves end Mr. Wilson, returning from the death-bed of Gover. nor ‘vVirthiop walks past the scaffold without noticing Dimmesda!c. On seeing lb-ster and Pearl passing by, l)immesdale calls Out to Hester and asks her to join him. As he stand. with Hester and Pearl, the minister feels the vitality of a life other than his own. But he shrinks from Pearl’s suggestion that they should stand thus together in the broad light of the fbllowiiig day. A meteor then
hts up the sky.
Hawthorne puts this meteor to good use. He refers, to pope’s habit of interpreting natural phenomena as signs of special meaning from God. Rut, for the minister, the inc feor comes to have an significance, He sees a great scarlet lette’A” in the sky, and it is to him a. s)mbolofhjsôf1t ti”fhe
have also seen th&ltter “A’n
interpret it to mean “Angel” and take ittb be a evnTy ..sign of good Governor Winthrop having been madan angel after
jL death during the night. Thus a simple naturlphenömenon .crnes to have two different meanings—a private meaning for the .inister and apublic meaning for the townspeople.
The light of the same meteor reveals Chillingworti standing near the scaffold. The expression on his features shows the malev olence with which he looics at his victim, So intensç is the minister’s perception of Chillingworth that, when the bright lght of the meteor is followed the complete darkness, the srnlinig and
– scowling face of the physician seems somehow to remain “pinted on the darkness”. The physician offers to takc.the minister bone, nd the minister goéshorne with the man whom he fears and atec, tlirnan who has now discovered th secret of the scarlet letter. iLis the moment of triumph for the vengcfmFChflffij,01 -‘
The Thfrd Scaffold Scene
The third and final sca$bld. scene comes at the end of the story. Hawthorne prepares us for this scene by focusing Our

 

 

AS A STORY OF SIN AND REGENR&TION 67

14

“The Scarlet Letter” as a Story of

Sin and Regeneration
\/

The two princjoal sinners rn TJt Scarlet Letter are Hester Prynne and the Reverend Mr. Arthur Dimmesdale, their sin being adultery. In the case of Diminesdale the sin of adultery is aggra. vated by his concealment of it, his hypocrisy, and his continuing
wear a mask of piety for several years before he makes up his mind to make a public confession. There is a wide difference between the attitudes of these two individuals to the sin which they have committed. Hester does not look upon her moral lapse as a sin either against God or against herself, though she certainly considers it to he a serious violation of the social order. Dimmesdale regards his moral lapse as a sin against God, a sin against himself, and a sin against society. Whatever the feelings of these two persons on the subject, the moral lapse of whkh they are guilty brings about an immense moral improvement or regeneration in both.
The adultery is over and done with before the book begins it is a “triangle after the event” as a critic puts it. Here as elsew here, 1aThFri’s iñiërTis not in sin but in the sense of guilt which follows it. Furthermore, the main theme is not the sin oj illicit love, but the consequent sins of hypocrisy and revenge, and t1i1i effect on the soul. For this reason the whole discussion whether or not Hester “repented” of her sin is rather beside the point. The love problem, toThe sure, is never solved.
Sin, in a sense, creates Hester; it nearly damns Dimmesdale. Yet the clergyman’s failing is less hypocrisy than want of courage. And Chillingworth, the wronged husband, turns, into a fiend when he dedicates his life to a hideous revenge. “There is one worse than even the polluted priest,” cries Dirn’nedaIe. “That old man’s revenge has been blacker than my sin, He has violated, in cold blood, the sanctity of a human heart. Thou arid I, Hester, never did so!’’
Every syllable of that protest throbs with the passionate faith in h sanctity of human personality which was the heart of Hawt horne’s religion. Yet when at last the loveis meet again and resolve to cheat fate—perhar,s eien God—by going away together,
66

Hester is ready to go througW with it ; it is the weak man who draws back and (acting according to hi, lights) saves his soul alive. The contrast between the two is not therefore maintained with
-any mecianical consistency, and it is the consistency which is the book s glory, for it keeps both alive as human oemgs, not mere members of a moral equation
Hawthorne seems ready to assert, at times, theconverie’ of Christ’s words: “If, ye were blind, ye should have no sin’. As he shows us the effects of sin in many charactrs,,,he seems to imply that only if ye sin, ye have sight—the absence of sin is blindness. It is as a consequence of sin that ne. gaiiis above all, the power to .see into the mysteries of others… After his own experience fevil doing Dimmesdale acquires that knowledge of the human heart which enables him to preach witha profundity never before heard from him. In Hawthorne’s novels the sense of guilt is always attached to the fruits of knowledge, particularly to the ability to,; see where others are blind.
As a result of the penance (in the shape of the scarlet letter that she has always to wear on her bosom) imposed on Hester by society, a great change comes over her. It was possible for her to .quit Boston for good andmigrate to some other land where”her shame would have remained unknown. But she decides to stay on in Boston, the scene of her guilt, so that the torture of her daily shame might purge her soul, “and work out another purity than that which she had lost, more saint-like, because of the result of martyrdom.” This decision is in itself a step towards moral imp rovement. As days pass by, Hester begins to make heF8elf more
_and more useful to the community around her. She offers help to • !he poor and the needy, even though she gets no thanks from them.
She is a social outcast and yet, at the time of general and individual
-, Zsorrow, she proves herself to be a Sister of Mercy so that, the •Ietter “A “ comes to be interpreted as rather than as “Adnlterou”. She keeçs vigils’by the bedside of people suffering from disease or people about to die. Her general helpfulness becomes a byword in Boston. Even though the people cannot forgive her é9rnpletely, her numerous acts of service, performed spontaneously and sincerely, raise her in their estimation to the level of an angel of mercy. s We are more than ready to forgive her completely for her moral l4pse, even though the puritanical -society of the time – find it impossible
– todoso. –
Her acts of service to society, however, should nat blind us to her real weakness of character. She is by nature a passionate, sensual woman and, though her sensuality is successfully suppres. sed by her for seven long years, t rises to the surface as soon as an opportunity presents itself. rn the course of her i’nteriewwith Dimmesdale in the forest; she removes – the letter “Ps” from her’ bosom and throws it away, añdthen she lets her- richand’ luxuriant
hair’ tumble’ down Her voluptuous beauty casts a spell on the minister Onte’, ‘again and she is able to coax him into agreeing to her plan’ of escpe from BostOn. thus the two sinners, eath of

 

 

Tile SCARLET LFTTER

whom has undergone great st”eriOg.as a result of their original lapse, ye ready…t take another plunge, thoug””in’ the cae’of Dimmesdale it is the result of a shortljved eñchàntment, “‘ñile
.zn the case of Rester this decision to flee is’ the ié’suT of a genuine Conviction. In Hester’s eyes the ädüfterous ‘rdatins hip into which she entered with Dimmesdale had a consecration
ofitsown. ‘•‘
l4hei Hester s dream of a new life with Oimmesdale in some ,dsstant lncj is shattered, she et does not lose her faith in life and cOçs not turn into a cyiiic. ‘After Pearl is married arid’ settled,
1kster returns to Boston and :resijties not only her life of service to ‘jhe community but alsô,tWe stigma of her disgrace. She becomes a r’espçced. figure in Boston because of the ‘valuableadvje that she giyes t9 all those who pproach her for guidance and because of ‘.the’rolc of ‘a ‘Siter of Mercy’tht sh continries’ ‘to pla,y- without ahy loss of zest. Thus the penance that Hester has uzidérgone. as a result of her sin has served a great purpose. Her penance has ‘ureiy ‘notserved the purpose that the. Puritan community had in’ mind, but it has served a nobler purpose still. ‘The Puritan
– cQmmunity wanted her, merely to realise thai she was a sinner and, accordingly, to repent of her-sin. Hester does,. ‘not consider herself a
nnner and does not..repent of what was believed to be her sin., “The Jcaet letter had not done its office,” But Hester’s pCnanc’]ias transformed her into a Sister of Metey, an angel, a saint, Whose mission is sèlflessservice to society. Thus has Hester’s sin brought
regenerat,n.i her,. Without havincomq-,jttéd that sink Hest er could not have riser ‘to such gea’t oral EJhts. ven siaii’
itbenelcentrésuks, ,
‘Dimmesdale too e*periences moral regeneration as a result of I?Is sin _Jt is Irtie that fOr seven long years he keeps his st a secjetfrorn the peoplc. But then he suffers deeply because of the arigs of’his cnscien&’Añ iyrifeand painful mental and spiritual cOnflict Continues to i”id him and’ cause’him to undergo. ini. ‘critiihl torturETljj’cori’fljct is by itself a token of the force and intensity “fth which the moraiside of his -ersonality tries to assert itself. Dimiiesda)e keeps ‘fá!t and vigils, and frequently lashes himself wih’ seoürge tO” the’ point of Needing. One night an ‘inner compulsion drives him to mount the scaffold and to utter a loud shriek, and this also is an expression’ of the same moral wgc within him. Keeping his hand upon his heart has become a habit which he cannot shed.. He suffers the persecution to which Roger Chillingworth ‘subjects him without knOwiijiheieaI soure of Tns SuflFiigE’Eut all this, as hehitnself says, ia perance, without pemterice,. The moral side of his personality has not, yet gathered enough strength to overpower his vanity, his desire to maintain his public image, and his anxiety to retain the worshipful regard of his parishioners. In the forest he almost succumbs to thc temptation ‘offered hy Hester. This is perhaps his second “fall”. The decis ion to flee is followed by an amazing change in him ; he feels like uttering profanities into the ears of the members of his ckurch. However, he soon recovers his mental equiibrium. And then comes

AS A STORY OF SIN AND REGENERATION 69
jhe climax——his delivering the Election Sermon which is the best he had ever delivered, followed shortly aiterwards by a public àonles.
siton of his sin. Dimmesdale dies, but he dies after havizi’ attained’
‘the pinnacle of spiritual glory. After seven years of struggle, he at last, overcomes his baser feelings and rises to a great moral height. His regezerqnis.complete..,
However, in the case of the third sinner in ‘the story, there is no regeneration. Roger C hillingworth’. n. .resiaes, in the vengeance ‘that he wreaks upon Dimn’iesdale. It is a’ br’ueal, savage, fiendish revenge that he takes upon the minister. There is no saving feature in the case of this sinner unless it be the wealth that he leaves for eari who is the product of that adultery which had driven, him to ‘undertake his devilish revenge. “.‘ ‘, ‘

4!
:‘‘‘
!) ‘…‘
.1

‘.4
I. ‘,
1,

 

 

HAWTHORNE’S PURITANISM IN “THE SCARLET LE1TER’

Hawthorne’s Puritanism in
“The Scarlet Letter”

1
Hawthorne shows himself irt this novel as a critic of the ex treme puritanism of the times. Early in the book, he speaks of the- “early severity of the Puritan character.” It was the time when a sluggish bond-servant, or an undutiful child, whom his parents had given over to the civil authority, was “corrected at the whipping. post”1; when an Anrinomnian, a Quaker, or other heterodox relig ionist2 was scouraged out of the town, or an idle or vagrant Indian was driven with stripes into the forest.3 A witch, Jike old Mistress Hibbins, was in those days sernenced to death on the gallows4. Among the people of that time religion and “law” were almost identical, and both were so thoroughly interfused in their character that “the mildest and the severest acts of public discipline were alike made venerable and awful”. In view of all this a sinner like Hester Prynne could have expected no sympathy from the townspeople Meagre and, indeed, cold was the sympathy that a transgressor might look for from such by.standers at the scaffold5”.
The conversation of some of the female Spectators of Hester Prynne’s public disgrace clearly shows the narrowly puritanical ideas that governed their thinking. These women are not satisfied with the punishment that has been imposed upon Hester Prynne. If these women had been the judges, this sinner would not have come off with su,ch a light punishment. “At the very least,” says one of these self-righteous gossips, “they should have put the brand of a hot iron on Hester Prynne’s forehead.” Says another, “rhis woman has brought sbarn upon us all, and ought to die. Is there not law for it 7” The Puritan law of the time allowed for a sentence of death for an adulteress I
The announcement8 of the beadle and the exhortatjon of the Reverend Mr. Wilson in the same chapter show almost the same attitude towards Hester Prynne. As the author observes, those people looked upon Hester’s as the taint of deepest sin
I. Chaptcr.II.
2. Chapter 11.
3. Chttpter II.
4. Chapter II.
5. Chapter It.
6. Chapter 11.
7. Chapter III.
– 70

in the most sacred quality of human life, working such effect, that the world was only the darker for this woman’s beauty, and the mote lost for the infant that she bad borne”. One of the spectators tells an inquiring stranger that “here in our godly New England, iniquity is searched out, and punished in the sight of rulers and people.
Again and again in the course of the story, Hawthorne rcfers disapprovingly to the stringent Puritan code of the times. The discipline of the family was, for instance, far more rigid in those days (17th century) than in Hawthorne’s own times. The frown, the harsh rebuke, the frequent application of the rod, enjoined by scriptural authority, were used not only as punishment for offences actually committed but as a means of promoting all childish virtues.3 In Governor Bellingham’s palace, again, there hung on the walls portraits of Bellingham’s ancestors who seemed to be “gazing with harsh and intolerant criticism at the pursuits and enjoyments of living men.”4
What is more, even Hawthorne’s natural affection for children does not prevent him from referring to the little Puritans in this book as “the most intolerant brood that ever lived.”
At one stage, Hawthorne comments ironically on the puritanic al ideas of the time to which the story relates. The grave people of those days spoke and thought “of human existence as a state merely of trial and warfare” and avowed their readiness to sacrifice goods and life at the behest of duty.” And yet these people never rejected such means of comfort or even luxury, as lay within their grasp. The Reverend Mr. Wilson is, despite all his sternness in the pulpit, a lover of comfort and luxury.
Jollity and mirth were no part of the daily life of those people. On festive occasions, like the election of a governor, -people would certainly flock into the streets and the market-place in a statç of excitement, but their general mood is one of gravity.. and even gloom. Even on the election day there were no tokens of merriment of the kind that were current in England in the time of Queen E1izath. There were no jugglers, no minstrels, no theatrical pIay.rs, no Merry Andrew. “All such professors of the several branci.ç of jocularity”6 were sternly repressed. Hawthorne’s chief compbint against Puritanism as a way of life is that it is glooitiy, joy1ess,, and rigid.
Hester Prynne is treated by the society of the time as a great sinner, an outcast, an object of ridicule and contempt. This -attit ude of society makes her feel that the scarlet letter “A” is burning on her bosom. In all her intercourse with society there is nothing to give her the feeling that she belongs to it. She awakens only
1. Chapter II.
2. Chapte.-r III.
3. Chapter VI.
4. Chapter VII.
5. Chapter VItI.
6. Chapter XXI.

 

 

THE SCARLET LETTER

HAWTHORNE’S PURITANISM IN “THE SCARLET LETTER” 73

horror and repugnance in the minds of the townsfolk whose words of scorn and hatred often fall upon her “like a rough blow uponn ulcerated wound,” When strangers looked curiously at the scarlet letter, “they branded it afresh into Hester’s soul,”2 while “an accustomed eye had likewise its own anguish to inflict.” It is extremely painful for the reader to read about the way Hester Prynne is treated by this puritancial Society and there is no doubt that Hawthorne’s own sympathies are on the side of Hester. The attitude of even the leading citizens, like Governor Bellingham and the Reverend Mr. John Wilson, towards Hester’s guilt shows narrow.mjndedness which is evidently disapproved by Hawthorne. These two worthies try even to take away Pearl from Hester’s cust ody. The energetic manner in which Hester defends her right to keep Pearl shows where Hawthorne’s sympathy lies. “Hester caught hold of Pearl, àd drew her forcibly into her arms, confronting the old Puritan magistrate with almost a fierce expression. ‘God gave me the child’, cried she. ‘He gave her in requital of all things ‘else which He had taken from me.. .Ye shall not take her! I will he first.” Subsequently Hester clearly says that if the child had been taken away from her, she would have gone into the forest and made a c 7mpatzt with the Black Man (that is, the Devil).
It would not be wrong to regard The Scarlet Leuer as an exposure of Puritan bigotry and intolerance. The Puritan com. munity of Boston is un-Christian in its unforgiving attitude to. wards Hester. The outlook of this community is narrow and limited. These Puritans, like all Puritans, take pleasure in persecuting the “fallen” woman ; they think that they dwell on a higher plane. of existence than she and so they treat her as an
OUtcast
But this should not be taken to mean that Hawthorne is an advocate of what is called romantic individualism The &arlet LeUer should not be regarded as a vindication of individual impulse or of the right of the individual to, attain happiness at the cost of establjshed.moral values. It does-not treat “passion” as something grand and sacred. Hawthorne certainly does not ‘justify Hester’s plan for th minister to esapefr.m:thj, puritanical society That is why the mifljster, after havinagd to Hester’s plan, feels impelled to go back to the Puritan path. The minister is shown as Ultimately rejecting the promptings of Satan. Arthur Dimmesdale thus stands for the claims of the Puritan law. His public confess ion is a triumph of the Puritan law and the nobility which Arthur Diwyne!daje attains at tJ:s moment shows how right he zs and how wrong Hester was in suggesting the plan Of escape. Thus does Hawthorne uphold the fundamental Puritan virtues while condemning (by implication, of course) the Puritan bigotry and intolerance
1. Chapter V.
2. Chaptor V.
3. Chapt.erV
4. Chapter VIII. –

A critic’ says about Hawthorne : “He had little . Puritanism left in him. Dealing with many of its problems, he reached his own verdicts. His human moralism looked at odd prejudices with new eyes.” Another critic2 tells us that Hawthorne always felt the religious system of Puritanism to be hard, cold, and confined. The. Reverend Mr. Wilson, wishing to judge of the state of Pearl’s soul asks her who made her. If Pearl were to say that God made her, everything would be all right whether or not the child were to understand the real meaning of such a reply. But,. as Pearl gives an answer that truly reveals the child.mind, Governor . Behlingham exclairm : “This is awful. Here s a child of three years old, and she cannot tell who made her ! Without question, she is equally in the dark as to her soul, its present depravity, and future destiny !“ The stupidity of a pompous Puritan could not have gone further.
The Scarlet Letter is, then, an indictment of harsh, stern, and self.righteous Puritanism. Hawthorne here covers the whole range of Puritan life—all the way from Governor Bellingham and the senior clergyman, Mr. John Wilson, to the children of the community—, and none of these representatives of a Puritan society produces a pleasant impression upon us. Ironically enough, it is the coarse sailors of the Bristol ship who lend a touch, a very small touch, of gaiety to the book which is other. wise dominated by the odious behaviour and attitudes of mind of the Puritans.
Another critic4 may al-so be quoted in this connection “Though Hawthorne may have lost the theology of his Calvinist ancestors, he still respects their attitude toward life. Like them, he sees the heart of man as desperately wicked like them, he refuses to become ecstatic over the sight of a man trying to lift hims elf by his own boot.straps. In this sense, then, Hawthorne is a Puritan, but he is Puritan only in a general way. Saint Augustine discovered the wickedness of the human heart long before Calvin, and the same process of brooding that produced The Scarlet Lett’r lies behind the Greek drama, Hamlet,5 and the novels of Joseph Conrad,
“Both The Scarlet Letter and The Marble Faun touch the daring theme of salvation not through sin but through the suffering which follows sin. Of Hester we are told that ‘Man had marked this woman’s sin by a scarlet letter God, as a direct consequence of the sin which man thus punished, had given her a lovely child, whose place was on that same dishonoured bosom, o connect her parent forever with the race and descent of mortals, and to be finally a blessed soul in heaven!’ But Hawthorne avoids the conclusion
1. CariVanDoren.
2. Joseph Schwartz.
3. Chapter VIII.
4. Edward Wagenlneoht.
5, Hamlet is here referred to as a Greek drama because of the role played by fate in it..

 

 

74

THS SCARLET LETTER

which many a modern novelist would have drawn. This fact is. not justification vf Hester’s sin ; it is merely a striking manifestation of soul of goodness in things evil ; the wrath of man is made to praise the Lord. Elsewhere (hi Chapter XIII), he- indicates the boldness of Hester’s th-inkingjn her imposed spiritual isolation. ‘The scarlet letter had not done its office’_._for Hawthorne did not believe that law can deal with the sins of the soul. But we are flCVer told what Hearer’s views are. This has sometimes been impute d to timidity on flawihorne’s part. As a matter of fact, it was due to his sound aesthetic instinct.”

-16
Symbolism in “The Scarlet Letter”

The Scarirt Letter is loaded with symbolism.1 In the ve first
chapter we arc told of a wild rose-bush growing on one side of the prison-gate. This rose.bush had sprung up under the foot-steps of djc sainted Anne 1-lutchinson as she entered the prisondoor. “A .,ower from this rose-bush”, says -the author, “may – serve to symbo- :
l.e some sweet moral blossom” to telieve die gloom 01 a tragic gory. In the chapter that follows the beautiful Hesier stand- – ing on the platform of the pillory and holding F baby (A her arms might suggest to a Papist the image of P’iinc Matern ity’, the ‘scared image of sinless m ‘therhood whose ufant was”to redee the world.”
But, of course, the most important symbol, ant., the one tha, occurs again and again in the novel, is the scarlet letter “A”. Tbi%r
– – letter stands, of course, for adultery. Hester is doomed- to wear,. – it throughout her life. – It cohiWiiave an evil or sinister signifI-. cance for her-. She is perpetually and keenly aware of the stigma on – her bosom. It is symbolic of the sin that she committed and, even though she – does not at any stage think herself to be a sinner, it – constantly forces itself upon her attention and makes her feel a burni ng sensation on her bosom. —
Bawthorne- shows great skill -in handling the symbol “A”.’
He never tells us in so many words what “g’ stands for – but we I rc made to understand what it means. ‘.. his, referred to as “the 1 mark”, ‘a certain token ‘, ‘the Itter A’, “the scarlet Ie’itei”
– -., / “the rd letter”, “the ignominious letter”, etc. Nearly a hundredI and fifty times throughout the book does Hawthorne, in?ine w ay or
-, another, refer to this symbol. It appears on the avrrage of more ‘tban once on every two pages. Neither Hester nor the reader is allowed to forget it It is”5ossibly the most dominating symbol in 1I literature. ._, , – –
The symbol “A” produces a deep effect upon the beholders as vell as upon Hester When, in Chapter III, Hester is led back to
“Symbolism” mes ns the representation of afl ide.., person, or thisig something else which recalls it by some analogy or associ* ion. 11. thus implies an jadirect suggestion of Ideas. The shooting of thø albatross in The Ancient Mariner is symbolic of all .io. 1nT..t. )Øio’i The Four Quartets, fire symboiizee God’s judgmeoL -or. er,.th, which ii not vindictive but purifloatory; while the roe.. tere yblize. human achievement reacbiiig ita supreme height. int,l*, perfect man, Je,u.
Chri.t.. i .‘ –
75 ‘;‘:.,:/‘ “i:…’ –

‘1’ –

 

 

I THE SCARLET LETTER

SYMBOLISM IN “THE SCARLET LETTER” 77

prison, we are told that “the scarlet letter threw a lurid gleam along the dark passage-way of the interior.” A little later in the story, the author says that, according to some observers, the symbol “A” was not mere scarletcloth, but was red-hot with the fire of hell and could be seen “glowing all alight” whenever Hester walked abroad in the night.tirn. Oñ another occasion2, the scarlet letter is magnified in a mirror to exaggerated and gigantic proportions so as to become the most prominent feature of Hester’s appearance. The naughty merriment of Pearl on seeing the magnified reflection greatly distresses Hester who feels that it is not her own child but an nip laughing at her.
Pearl, iudecd, never forgets the scarlet letter. It is constantly the centre of her attention and is constantly in her thoughts. It has a strange fascination for her. Sometimes she plays with-it as when she flings wild flowers8 at her mother’s bosom and dances joyfully whenever she hits the scarlet-letter or when she arranges4 prickly burrs along its lines on her mother’s bosom or, again, when she frames the letter “A” with eel-grass on her own bosom’. Pearl keeps pcsterng her mother with questions regarding what the scarlet-letter means and thus torturing her with incessant reminders of ‘the stigma. She even tells her mother that the sunsnine flees6 from her because of the mark she wears on her bosom. When, in the forest, Hester throws away the latter “A”, Pearl feels annoyed with her mother and feels reconciled to her only when I Lester has picked up the letter and restored it to its place on her bosom.
It must be admitted that Hester does not have any deep sense pf shame regarding the scarlet letter. It may be the mark of in famy, but it does not produce in her any sense of guilt or sin. It is just to humour Pearl that she says that it is the Black Man’s mark on
-her “Once in my life I met the Black Man. This scarlet letter is his mark.”7 She tells Governor Bellingham and others that this
— badge of shame will enable her to impart some useful instruction to her little daughter, but this is said more as a plea for keepiig Pearl in her custody than from any moral motives. The scarlet letter is not forgotten. even in the end. The novel concludes with the following, motto that is engraved on ‘H stómbst’one. “On a field, sable, the lefter, cAgules
In each scaffold scene the fearful ymbol appears in a
different form. “The scarlet letter on Hester’s breast in Chapter’Tl
) reminds us of sin in woman; Dimmesdale’s revelation in Chapter XXII confirms the presence of sin in man; the âloudy yet fiery
“A” in the Heavem, ‘described in Chapter XII, points to the
importance of sin in the universal plan.” ____
1. Chapter V, last paragraph.
2. Towards the close of Chapter VII.
3. Towards the close of Chapter VI.
4. Chapter X, middle.
5. Chapter XV, iñiddle;
8. Chapter XVI paragraph 4.
7. Chapter XVI, middle.

The letter appears in cousse of time even on the minister’s breast where it grows gradually from within asa result of his cont inuous and oppressive sense of guilt “The awful symbol was the effect of the ever-active tooth of remorse, gnawingfrom the inmost heart outwardly, and at last manifesting Heaven’s dreadful’ judgm ent by the visible presence of the letter.”2 Earlier in the story the minister beholds in the sky “the letter “A” marked out in lines of dull red light.”3 Actually, of course, it was a meteor burning duskily through a veil of cloud, but the guilty imagination of the minister sees in it the shape of the lettçr “A”.
p But thJe “A’.’ does not r1yserve. as .a symbol ofthe
ense of guilt and of a puritanical society’s punishment of the guilt. J On one occasion it becomes a symbol of goodness aud holiness, •that
ris, when Governor Winthorp dies and it is believed that. he has been fr xcceived as an angel in heaven. seen in the s1cyIy Lprsons other than the minister, stands on this occasion for “Angel”.
Secondly, it stands for “Able” :- that is when Hester becomes a Sister of Mercy and proves helpful tt all those who are in distress. Nor must we forget that “A”. stands also for Arthur, Arthur .Dimmesdale, the man who has seduced Hester •and brought uns peakable misery to her and to himself.
HesLscxpi.kmaLproficieneyat nedk.work has a symbolic 1’n. This skill pnjns to an independent_skaracterThe
defiant sp1ri which is evident iniier. ¶haiighty smile’ when she J stands on the scaffold has also impelled her to use her ntedle to
ornament with gold embroidery her mark of shame and to ‘nakc a living scarlet letter, of Pearl. Therejs. a close relationsp, tOo, letwen the_”fanrstw” quality of her needle woZandEher assop.te nature. The gorgeous robes in which the dres Pearl
.j make the child seem “the unpremeditated offshoot oi a ‘passionate f moment.” h ers,e1L.wear&clotbesof coarse material::and dark
shades Hester’sneeclle is thussymbolic.-ofihe.-supressionas well as L-te expression of her passionate natu Again, the daring that she
displays in the designing of dresses aWd robes is in keeping with that intellectual activity which is responsible for the “freedom of speculation” which she assumes and which leads her to think thoughts that would have shocked the Puritan magistrates of the ‘time.
But although her skill as a needle-woman was greatly admired and was always in demand, this skill was not called in to embroider a single wedding dress. And here too her needle-work functions as
a symbol, indicative of the attitude of the’ Puritan ‘c&ntfluflitY towards sin, ‘guilt and penitence.’ The attitude of thagistites, ministers ‘ and townspeople certainly’ did not encourage any hope of
‘;‘Hester’s social reinstatement or any hope that in the sight of God a scarlet sin could be washed off. By emphasising ‘this social attitude, Hawthorne censures the severity of the Puritanic code of law and
1. Chapter XLI.
2. Chapter XXIV—second paragraph. (The author hare mentiOns other theories also as to the origin of the letter “A” on the minister’s bçeast.)
3. Chapter XII.

 

 

78 THE SCARLET LETTER J
the harshness that made Hester’s social ostraj so painflilly
complete. The exclusion from this one branch of needle-work
(embroidery on wedding dresses) symbolises this harshnecç
Pearl is important .s a symbol in the story, She is almost as j important as the scRrlet letterL because hc is herself the scarlet letter
in another form. – T& very clothes that she wears, we are told’, remind tIe beholcjr “of the token which Hester Prynne ws doomed .IQWearupon her bosom.” ‘PrHs “the scarlet leter endowed
‘,with life.” Pearl is the object of Jkstcr’s affection and’ love, but she also becomes the emblem of Hester’s guilt and torture: Even the town urchins became aware of this aspect of Peat-I. Seeing mother and daughter, they once make the following oiervatjon : “Behold, verily, there is the woman of the scat-let]etter ‘ and, of a truth, moreover, there is the likeness of the• scarlet teeter running along by her side !“ Many townsfolk Eegard Pearlas ‘admon Offspring” beca”se she is the product of a sinful union. This makes Pearl a symbol of witchcraft. According to Mistress HibbIn5, Pearl is the daughter of “the Prince of the Air.” There are a number of references to the elf-like quality of Pearl, and it is frequently suggested that there is more of evil in her than of good. According to the Reverend Mr. Wilson, Pearl has witchcraft in her. Roger Chillingwortj, comments on this quality of the child. “What, in Heaven’s name, is she? Is the imp altogether evil ?“ When Arthur Dim mesdale Hester Prynne, and Pearl stand together on the scaffold one night, the author refers to Pearl as a symbol, as the connecting link between the other two.4 – Pearl is not only an innocent child of nature; she is at. the same time an agent qf retribution.—. e’c4-o-,- ‘/:,>( 4
Mistress Hibbins, too, has a symbolic role in the story. She represents, of course, magic and witchcraft. She is always speakjjof The Black Man (=the devil) who haunts the forest a d with whom she nd others are on visiting terms. She knows, by her powerof sorcery, that Hester and the minister have badasecret rneetiQgjn the fotest. By her mockirg and weird comnenrs, she makes Arthur Dimmesdale feel nervous, and Hester Uncomfortable. She seems to give, by her remarks, a .boy to the sccret and suh-coj5 thoughts of both of-them.
Arthur Dimmesdale’s tendency to keep his hand over his heart has too, a symbolic significance. This esture i related to Dimrnesdale’s own private scarlet letter which has been growing more and more vivid and painful. In chapter nine, this gesture of the minister is desci:ihed three times. In chapter fifteen, Peatl asks three times why, the minister keeps his hand over his heart and twice in the following chapter she comments on this strange gesture. In the same chapter, the minister presses his hand nervously against
I. Chapter VII.
2. Chaptcr VII.
3. Chaptor XII.
4. Chapter X.

 

 

SYMBOLISM IN “THE SCARLET LETFER”

79

his heart,—”a gesture that had grown involuntary with him.” In chapter twenty, Dimmesdale is seen with one hand on the Heb.rew FScriptures, and “the other spread on his breast.”
The brook in the forest is another symbol. The brook flows with a sad murmuring sound. The brookseems to be burdeiied with many sorrows. Hester says that the sonnds of th brook area reminder toher of her sorrow.’ To Arthur Dimmesdale,, the brook/ seems to be a symbol of the estrangement between Hester and her daughter. Speaking to Hester, he says :2 “I have a strange fancy that this brook is the boundary between two worlds, and that thou canst never meet thy Pearl again. Or is she an 1flsh spirit, who is forbidden to cross a running stream.” Here two symbols become intermingled.: Pearl as a symbol of witchcraft, and the brook as a vmbo1 of estrangement.
The forest itself has a symbolic meing. It is a place where one goes morally astray. Here did the act oladultery take place. Here do the two lovers meet once again and profess their love for each other, with Hester throwing away the stigma of scarlet and loosening her hair from the tight hold of her cap. ,ut if the forest stands for moral error, it also stands for natuç4 innocence, for here little Pearl becomes a child of nature anjI is recognised as such by the creatures of the forest : “The greablack forest-—stern as it showed itself to those who brought the guilt and troubles of the world into its bosom—became the playmate of the lonely infant. Sombre as it was, ft put on the kindest of its moods to welcome her (Pearl).”3 Thus the forest has a double significance, too.
The forest scene is, indeed, the most richly symbolic scene in the book Htster stands for romantic indmdual sm (in her aiiiig aside the scarlet letter), and Arthur for the claims of law Wand conscience (in his timidity and fears).
The scaffold stands for punishment at the beginning of the story when Hester has to face the crowd of unsympathetic townsmen and townswomen. The same scaffold subsequently becomes a place for expiation. The minister stands on itone night as an act of penance, nd climbs to it again to make a public confession of his guilt.
“The weedy grass-plot in front of the prison the distorting reflection of Hester in a breast-plate, where the scarIe letter appears ggantic; the tapestry of David and Bathshebs on the wall of the m nister s chamber the little brook in the forest the slight ml forrnatin of Chillingworths shoulder ; the ceremonial procession on election day—.in every iristaricC m6re ‘is. mtant than meets the eye.”
1. Chipter XVI.
2. Chapter XIX.
3.
Chapter XVIII.

 

 

AS A LOVE-STORY

17
“The Scarlet Letter” as a Love-Story
he Scarlet Letter, says Mark Van Doren, is one of the great love stories of- the -world, although it gives us no details Of lOve. But this is not a generally accepted view. For most of us, The &a’rrzeu is a story of iiita’nd the consequenceror sin Hstr and iYiimesdale are guilty of the sin of adultery: The consequence of this sin is s.nremitting misery 1th Hester and a ceaseless anguish of the soul for Dimmesdale. Dimmesdale’s sin of adultery, furthermore, is aggravated by his concealment of it and hi hypocrisy. The third principal character, Cbillingworth is a si nner, too. His sin is also tWofold —.anirtftexible pride and a self-con sumi ng revenge.
Howeyer, it has been suggested’ that, with a little shift of the angle of attention, This book may be seen as a love-story, a tragedy of the “grand pssion-’rather than a-taleof sinful passion. This book is haunted by”the mystery of erotic passion.” Passion, indeed, is the fixed reality throughout the story, while “sin” is a shifting, ambiguous term. According to this view, the passion – of the lovers enters its most iiisting phase when •the story opens infl5iii spent” wr finisbed. – –
The mitial situation involving a husband Isis wife, and her lover s jecognized and well established element in a love story
– – If l’iare no sentimental or pssionate scenes depicting the lote of Hester an Thznhlesdaie it is becaus the setting of the tEy is the seventeenth-century tl1ânical Boston. But the emphasis on the love-passion s clear. Marriage and passion are shown to be in conflict in the story, and the claims of passion, in spite of its being a sinful passion, seem to be weightier.
– Hester’s marriage, whkh took place in accordance with tradition, proves to be. poor nd mean as compared to her love-affair. In the prison scene, Hester reminds her husband that from the first she had felt no love for hhi nor tried to deceive him into thirilcing that she l4ved him. Chillingworth admits the ti uth of what Hester is saying, and adds that he had married her simply because he had hoped that she would prove a comfort to him in later years.
The sentiment which unites Hester and Arthur is of a different kind altogether. The conjugal relationship between
1. Dy Eret Sande n in 2he Starlet Letter as a 1,ot,. Story.

Hester and Chillingworth was completely devoid of passion: Ittat the love of Hester and Dimrnesdale, besides being pasSiOtiate and sensual, matures them morally and spirituallY. Under the influence of this love, they “grow to a tragic height of,eharacter which they otherwise would probably not have reacped. Yet the passion which work for their moral developine is erotic and adulterous.” From the worldly point of view,Af course, this passion brings indescribable sorrow in its wake.,,f
In terms of the intensity of both feeling and language with regard o the love.relationship between Hester and Dimmesdale, – the forest scene is outstanding. The four chapters devoted to the interview between the lovers are the heart of the book, and the overwhelming effect that is produced here is due partly to the economy of expression and the extreme brevity of the speeches. “Art thou in life ?“ “Dost thou live ?“ “Hester, hast thol.k found peace ?“ “I-last thou ?“ “That old man ! The physa— cian ! He whom they call Roger Chillingworth 1—He was tr husband 1” “1 might have known it. I did know it !…YVhy did I not understand ? 0 Hester Prynne, thou little, little knowest all the horror of this thing 1… 1 cannot forget thee 1” “Thou shalt forgive me ! Let God punish 1 Thou shalt forgive !“ At this point Hester Prynne throws her arms around Dimmesdale, with sudden and desperate tenderness, and presses his head against her bosom. He would release himself, but strives in vain to do so. And then their conversation continues. “I do forgive you, Hester. I freely forgive you now. May God forgive us both ! We are not, Hester, the worst sinners in the world. There is one worse than even the polluted priest ! That old man’s revenge has been blacker than my sin. He has violated, in cold blood, the sanctity of a human heart. Thou and I, Hester, never did so !‘‘ ‘Never never ; What we did had a consecration of its own, We felt it so
We said so- to each other Hast thou forgotten it ?“ “Hush, Hester ! No, I have not forgotten !“l In these speeches is to be found the quintessence of the love-passion between a man and a woman.
A little later (in the chapter that fOllows) hester Prynrie not only casts off the scarlet letter but takes off the formal cap that confined her hair. Her hair falls down upon’ her shoniders, and there plays around her mouth a radiant and tnrier smile that seems to he “gushing from the very heart of womanhood”, while a crimson flush glows on her cheek. “Her sex, her youth, and the whole richness of her beauty, came back from what men call the irrevocable past, and clustered themselves, with her maiden hope, and a happiness before unknown, wihia the magic code of this hour.”
And Nature endorses and apprD:es ci bli :1 t:ieSe two spirits, because the gloom – of the forest vanishes with a

80

  1. Chapter XVII.

 

 

82 THE SCARLET LETTER
sudden burst of sunshiz pourig a. ftoid: of light into its dark recesses. Nature smiles at he’joy of the iors.
Bit when all this ‘has been sai.d t must be admitted that T1e not aE’en, iitended as love story rove hters the story, bu s coes so briefly T1Ie’ sct’flç
airjfint
to ñiEme—the theme of sjp1. guilt, isolation, _______ • dei15tion. .Kawthorn’e has us all his psythoksgical powers tn nalyse’ and dissect thç rn of ?.‘ious us how the sin oadülterhs
___—o__——.-—’_-_—_ ‘V.. – ..
attecteci ann aitereo eacfl or tnem.V .. , S
— ‘. .5

V . .
The Use of Irony in
“The Scarlet Letter”
[“Irony” arises from contrast—contrast between the surface
• meaning of a statement and the real or intended meaning of it ‘or a contrast between what a person says and what be does (that is, between pretence and reality]. Or, the term ‘irony” may mean the juxtaposition of two mutually incarnpatible ‘views of life. Irony is a “neutral discoverer and explorer of incongr uities.” Irony consists also in the perception of contradictions in human nature.
It is the placing together of the pretence and the truth that provides the ironic vision. Simple irony is a Statement that implies the opposite’ of what it is saying, or implies more than it is saying. A further technique of irony is to put a speech into a character’s mouth which is not intended by the speaker as irony ‘but becOmes ironic in effect. In this case the character is made to say more than he intends. Irony also arises when certain facts, known to the reader and to some character (or characters) in the story, are not known to other characters. Another form of irony exists in an event or a cit cumstance which seems to be due to a kind of malicious trick played by fate].
Hawthorne makes abundant use of irony in The &arlt LeUer. In Chapter II (“The Market.Place”), one of the female spectators, commenting on Hester Prynne’s guilt, remarkc that “the Reverend Master Dimmesdale her godly pastor, takes it very grievously to heart that such a scandal should ha’e come upon his congregation”. This remark becomes ironical in the light of our knowledge, gained subsequently, that the Reverend Dirnmesdale is himself Hester’s partner in sin. Dimmesdale is not a “godly” pastor, because he has committed the crime of adultery and begotten an illegitimate child. In this remark, therefore, we have a contrast between pretence and rel’ty. Dimmesdale pretends to be a holy man, but in reality he ii * sinner. In Chapter III (“TheRecognition”), a townsman speaks in the same vein of “godly V Master Dimmesdale’s church”.
V Like the female speaker of. Chapter 1.1, this man too is toi*IIy unaware of Dimmesdale’s part in the drama of guh. Wr i.ui are ignorant of the real facts of the case, but the co,nInr,It .d

“ ••‘ ..
:7 ‘ij•• {. 1

I

3

 

 

THE SCARIEr LETfER

THE USE OF IRONY IN “THE SCARLET LETtER” 85

these two persons become ironical in retrospect when we g:asp the actual situation. The same kind of irony is to be found in Mr. John Wilson’s reference to Dimmesdale as “this godly youth” and “this good man” in the same Chapter (III).
Chapter III also affords other examples of irony. This is the irony of situation. Chillingwortli, separated from his v.’ife for the last two years by many vicisitudes; suddenly finds her, and finds her at the moment of her exposure to public disgrace. This is a situation characterized by irony, the irony here consisting in our perception of an incongruity or contradiction. We have here an incongruity between what the husband should have expected and what he is actually faced with. In the same Chapter (1II) Hester is confronted with her fellow-adulterer who has been charged with the duty of exhorting her to disclose the name of her fellow-sinner. “Hester Prynne”, says the minister “If thou feelest it to be for thy soul’s peace, and that thy earthly punishment will thereby be made more effectual to salvation, I charge thee to speak out the name of thy fellow-sinner and fellow sufferer.” Here, again, is a contrast between pretence and reality. Diminesdale’s words have a double meaning—one for the spectators and another, widely different, for Hester and for Dimmesda)e himself.
From this point onward Chillingworth, by his concealment of his identity and by his concealment of his motives in developing an intimacy with Dimmesdale, arouses a constant irony. There is now a continuing contrast between appearance and reality. He, Hester, and the reader are aware of his identity and his scheme of revenge ;i but neither the minister nor otliers in the town are in the know of this secret.. Hester, without fully realising what Chillngworth proposes to do, points out the contrast between his acts and his words when she says to him (in Chapter IV : “The Interview”) “Thy acts are like mercy. But thy words interpret thee as a terror !“ Posing as a well- wisher of the minister, Chillirigworth behaves like the very Devil in subjecting him to constant mental torture. In Chapter VIII Chillingworth is ironically referred to as “the physician as well as friend of the young minister, whose health had severely suffered.” Another ironical reference is made to ChiUingworthin Chapter TX when he is described as the “sagacious; experienced, .benev olent old physician. with his concord oF paternal and reverential love for the young pastor.,” We know that the [acts are otherwise,
thai Chillipgworth is not a friend of the minister, and that,
far from having.paternal feelings towards him,. is his sworn enemy. Yet outwardly he dos no harm to the minister ‘What evil have I done the man ?“.‘ Chillingworth asks Hester. “I tell thee,
L:. Hester Prynne, the richest fee that ever physician earned from monarch could not have bought such care as 1 have wasted on ‘this mierahle priesE.’ The reader knows, and Hester. too ha

become aware by this time, that Chillingworth has been persecuting and torturing the helpless, conscience.stricken mnister with a fiendish cruelty, and yet he is able to, defend himself with .a seeming plausibility against Hester s charge There is a similar ironic contrast between appearance and rcality. when. Chillingworth tries to restrain the minister from his public confession in chapter XXIII (“The Revelation”!) “All shall be well ?“ he says to Dimmesdale, “Do not blacken your fame, and perish iii dishonour; I can yet save you. Would you bring infamy on your sacred profession ?“ How innocent are these words and how frtendly they seem ! But what malevolence and what enmity .li behip4.. them ! Chillixigworth, posing as the minister’s guardian angeL..
•,eens to be trying to save him from a disastrous course of action.. But in reality he is a devil endeavouring to snatch back a soul- that is. escaping from his hands.
The culminating irony in the case of Chillingworth i.s that, in trying to wreck and ruin the minister, he damns , himself. The minister ultimately saves his soul by succeeding in maknghis public confession, but Chiflingworth who was at one time an u’pfriht man with a human heart turns into a fiend and, once the
of his persecution is gone, meets an evil fate. When there is’ no’ more Devil’s work on earth for him to ,do, he withers up and dies.
Dimmesdale, too, affords an instance of the irony df’ situation.
He, too, like Chi!lingworth, lives a lie in public. H”pri-vate sense of sin, of having broken the law, is a source’ or ceaseless:
torture to him, a torture that.is accentuated by the subtle devices. and machinations of the physician. For seven years h tIffrsin:
private the torments caused . to.’ him by his , guilty conrejence,- but all these years he has been an olject of reverence ándets!uP Ih’ the public eye. This double life that he lives, this contrast betweeiv appearance and reality, gives rise to a continuing irony.. H imposes a hard penance on himself in private, but he does not have the courage to shatter his public image by a confessiott.’ Even when he tries to depict himself as a sinner before his pa.ishiqnet in the church, he does so in an indirect manner which .has.just oppcsite effect on them from that sliich he hadinrended. Hi parishioners attribute his calling himself the vilest of, what ‘they think is his complete humility and his desire for self.effacement’, and they thus begin to think him to be even holier than they had thought him before. When he goes arid stands on the scaffold in the darkness of the night, the author calls’this gesture “a mockety of penitence” and “a vain show of expiation.” Dimmerdalesijows himself to us merely as a remorseful hypocrite. The truthahout him is known only to I-lester, to Chillirigworth and to the readcr, ‘but not to Governor Bellingham. the Reverend John Wilson, or the townspeople. And there lies the irony. At certain points in the story, this irony is greatly heightened by the author’s emphasis on the worshipful attitude of the people in general towards Dimn iesdale. The Reverend Mr. Dimmesdale, we are told (in Chapter XI), had achieved a brilliant popularity in his sacred office and

  1. Hester bcorn awere of ChHiiiagworth’e revengeful actions rat hr etal
    in the story, but the reader kncw them quite early.

 

 

THE SCARLET LETTER
his fame bad ecliped the reputatioPs of his fellow.clergymen, eminent as several of them were. The people, says the author, believed the young Dimmesdale to be a miracle of holiness.. In their eves, the, very ground on which he trOd became sacred. And all this time he felt inwardly tortured by the public veneration and adoration. ‘
Then there are a few minor examples of the use of irony in the story. In Chapter XXI (“The New England 1-loliday”), Hester is described as experiencing a sense of triumph in the face of the crowd of poeple who arc gazing curiously at the scarlet letter on her bosom. She seems to be thus addressing the crowd: “Look your last on the scarlet letter and its wearer. Yet a little, while, and she will be beyond your reach ! A few hours longer, and the deep mysterious ocean will quench and hide for ever the symbol which ye have caused to burn upon her bosom.* While Hester is pleasing herself with these fancies, the minister is getting ready to confess his crime thus put an end to Hester’s hopes. Even apart from the confession and that the miiister has decided to make, there is irony in the above- quoted words because Chillingworth has come to know Hester’s plan to escape and will effectively thwart that plan.
In Chapter XXII, the perplexed Hester sees and recognizes in the multitude of people the self.same faces of that group of matrons “who had awaited, her forthcoming from the prisondoor, seven years ago,; all save one, the youngest and only compassionate among them, whose burial.robe she had since made.” There was only one sympathizer of Hester in the group of female spectators of her shame seven years ago, and that sympathizer is dead 1 The irony here lies in the trick that fate has played, snatching away a young, sympathetic woman and, sparing the elderly, malevolent
OOCL
There is irony, too, in the way the Reverend John Wilson is dccribcd. This clergyman is very stern in the pulpit and relentless towards transgressors like Hester. But he has “a long. ‘-csblished and ‘legitimate taste for all good and comfortable things.” Hrré ‘is,i again; a contrast between pretence. and, reality. Mr. Wilson is (“The Minister’s Vigil”) ironically described in Chapter XII also. Returning from the death.charnber of Governor1Winthrop, this good old’ minister seems to he “surrounded,’ like, the saint-like personages of olden times,, with a radiant halo, that glorified him amid this gloomy.night of sin; as if the departed governor had left him an inheritance of his glory.” , ‘

‘Ambiguity in “The Scarlet ,Letter”

There is ‘an essential’ duality or ambivalence in thefictiO7a1 world of The Scarlet Letter. ‘Hester, Dimmesdale ChflingP.’ Pearly the scarlet letter itself—all signify more than one thing and all have to be looked at in more than one way’. Hestcr, for instance, in some ways shows herself, to be,, a saiflt, woman who walks in humility and patience; and she is also an unbending woman of pride, who glories in her sin. Hawthorne provides ‘material for producing both ‘ these impressiOfls. Inded, he drarnatises the double, or multiple, nature of çver’y important character, thing, and event in the story. Hestçr ,Prynne stands on the scaffold with a sense of burning shamc, an yet with,a haughtY smile She seems to take refuge in public exposure Besides she has embroided the letter “A’ on he bosom, and adorned it almost as if she were making a proud S1IQW of th symbol oi her Sin befOre the public. Yet one of the ‘fernale spe.tatrS. obser’.eS that’ !{eter has painfully felt in her heart every tttrh ui. the embrCider lettr Thus ‘ Hester glories in her later and suffers n he glo,r Only by seeing this relationship between her suffering and her ttSt of glory can we truly understand HawthOrte’5, portraYal0fr
The punishment imposed by the” communY ,changes.5 life “in a great measure, from passion an1 feeling,, to thL,ugh, ‘.
Her mind meditates over diffrrent matters -with’ a freçdorxi: slVch the Puritan code would pot permit. ‘To’ the’ Puritans, hej,tl0m of speculation would hive seemed’a greater crime’: even
crime of adultery. “In her lonesome cottage, thoughts VSLtC4 fler, such as dared to enter 0 thxwel1iUg in New,Eglan$I’ Thus, asthe autb& observes, ‘the. ,scørLet letter, had not done its 0ffiçe.
The scarlet letter has not been’ able to induce a feeliti of repentance in Hester who does not hate her sin, in spite of having to wear the token of her punishment. And because of ‘that, she must accept all that the letter brings to r__sufferiflg and .oy solitude challenge, and a resulting independeflce;,of spirit. ,The lettee was intended by the communitY to be a tokenPf Iicr sin and her punish. ment, and no more. But the letter takes on additional eafl1flg5 which show the ambivalence of Hester’s totaL; experience. It is true that Hester undertakes a life of penanCe She offers urgru111g help to the poor atl the needy At timEs of genral. çr individual sorrow this outcast of society proves to be a $iser o,f 4erCy so th

K

87

 

 

 

 

88

THE SCARLET LETTER

theletter “A” might mean ‘Able’ or even ‘Angel’. But, in spite of all this, Hester is not repentant : “The scarlet letter had not its office.” The letter “A” might also stand for Arthur—which would double its meaning of adultery and the ambivalence of Hester’s attitude toward it.
“Invented by the community to serve as an unequivocal emblem of penance, the scarlet letter has frozen Hester into a posture of haughty agony, has brought Dimmesdale to a death of triumphant ignominy on the scaffold, has victirnised the victimis er—Chillingworth. Hawthorne begins and ends with the letter which encompasses and transcends all its individual meanings, which signifies. totally and finally, The Scarlet Letter itself”.
In the forest scene, she reminds Dimrnesdale of the view that they had taken of their act of adultery, namely, that it “had a consecratiofl of its own.” She still believes that there was somet hing sacred about their relationship, sinful though the world night consider it. Thus her seven years of penance have not brought about the result which the letter “A” was intended to bring about. Hester believes in the supremacyof her passion. Her decision to flee from Boston in the company of Dimmesdale marks the climax of her thinking in this direction. For seven years she has wandered without rule or guidance in a moral wilderness. She has roamed freely, criticising whatever priests or• legislators have established. Shame. Despair, and Solitude, says the author, bad been her stern and wild teachers ; but while these had made her strong, she had not learnt the appropriate lesson from them. And so Hawthorne concludes: We seem to see that, as xegard Hester Prynne, the whole seven years of outlaw and ignominy lad been little other than a preparation of this very hour” (that is, the hour when she decides to escape from Boston in the company of Dimmesdale. The consequences of the scarlet letter, taken as a form of penance, are just like the reverse of what the Puritan community had thought they would be. “A” Sin of passion, nursed by the memory of its sacredness, has blossomed into a sin of purpose.’
Pearl, too, has a dual function in the story. A direct conseq uence of sin, a human embodiment of th scarlet letter, Pearl brings both sdrrow and joy to Hester, “Sheis my happiness—she is my torture”, says Hester. Pearl is the only ray of light in Hester’s life, but she is also an agent of rctribution for Hester’s sin. The child, says Dimrnesclale in the Governor’s palace, was meant for a blessing and for a retribution. The ambivalence of her role in the novel is. obvious.
There is an ambivalence about Dirnmesdaje’s pôsitioñ also. His sense of sin has caused him untold agony which has been aggravated by the subtle devices of Chillingworth. Yet the fundam ental falseness of his position serves him well in his professional life. His sermons prove to be very effective because the more he reviles himself as a sinner, the more do his parishioners worship him. His mental torment s genuiie and convincing but it springs

AMB’GUITY TN “THE SCARLET LETIER”
from his hypocrisy. There is an irony in the fact that his sermons are spiritually helpful to everyone except himself.
The idea that sin may have beneficial consequences contrib utes to the ambivalence of The Scarlet Letter. Dimmesdale knows what effect his pulpit confessions will produce. and yet he makes these confessions in the belief that he is punishing himself. His suffering is due to his weakness, but his weakness iould not blind us to the fact of his pride. He cannot abandon hi public image; he would not abdicate the self which isreverenced by the public. Consequently, ihough he goes thrâugh a terrible penance, it is penance without penitance. Thus, weak, and proud, he sinks deeper and deeper into hypocrisy.

)c.

 

 

 

 

THE “TONGUE OF FLAME” THEME IN “THE SCARLET LETTER”

91

20
The “Tongue of Flame” Theme in
“The Scarlet Letter”

It is the same power, his Tongue of Flame, which enables the minister to deliver, on the Sabbath following the night of his vigil, a sermon which is believed to be to the richest and most powerful, and “the most replete with heavenly influences.” People ate greatly impressed by this discourse, and many of’ them vow within themselves to cherish a holy gratitude towards the minister. The Election: Sermon, the greatest of the minister’s career, owes its nspixation to the same faculty

Hawthorne attributes Dimmesclale’s high position among the townsfolk to the minister’s heavenly gift of sympathy for human nature. In this connection, Hawthorne uses the Pentecostal Tongues of Flame to symbolise the supernatural penetration and love which distinguish the minister in his comprehension and expression of the feelings of the human heart. In the Bible narrative, Tongues of Flame were the symbols of the power of eloquence given by Heaven to men who were chosen to understand and reea1 truth in order to bring about the salvation of other. But here Hawthorne interprets them as symbols of the power “of addressing the whole humane brotherhood in the heart’s native language.”
In Chapter XI which is called “The Interior of a Heart”, Hawth(rne shows us the superiority of Dimrnesdale’s intellectual gift over those of other ministers and clergymen of Boston. Dimrnes dale’s fame, we are told, “overshadowed the soberer reputations of his fellow-clergymen eminent as several of thens were.” There were greater scholars than Dimmesciaje among them; there were men of a sturdier texture of mind than his ; there were true saintly fathers, and so on. But they lack-ed the gift “that descended upon the chosen disciples at Pentecost in Tongues of Flame ; symbolising, it would seem, not the power of speech in foreign and unknown languages, t but that of addressing the whole human brotherhood in the heart’s native language. These fathers, otherwise so apostolic, facked Heaven’s last and rarest attestation of their office, the Tongue 0 Flame.” Dirnmesdale is the only one of the clergymen of the town Possessing the Tongue of Flame, When he spoke, the people were deeply moved. They deemed him a miracle of holiness. “They fancied him the mouthpiece of Heaven’s messages of wisdom and rebuke, and love. In their eyes, the very ground on which he trod was sanctified” It was doubtless Dimmesdale’s burden of hidden sorrow that gave him a sympathetic understanding and the gift of expressing the highest truths through the humblest medium of familiar words and images.
In the forest interview, Dimrnesdale speaks to Hester about this faculty of his. lie tells her that his parishioners listen to his word “as if a Tongue of Pentecost were speaking.”

90

 

 

THE STRUCTURE OP “rHE SCARI..ET LETTER”

21
The Structure of “The Scarlet Letter”
The Scarlet Letter has receivcd much praise as regards the structural skill shown by Hawthorne in writing it. According to one Critic, it is Hawthorne’s “most intensely conceived work, the most thoroughly fused and logically developed.” Another critic calls it a perfect book and says that every word, every suggestion, every detail, and every scene in it is set in its place with sure artistry. Indeed, the structural plan of The Scarlet Letter is one of its most beautiful and aritistic qualities.
The introductory chapter called “The Custom House” may be regarded as at once a part of the story and separate from it. It is linked with the story by its reference to the letter “A”. It is separate from the story in that it is not the first chapter it is frankly introductory. The last chapter of the book is numbered XXIV and is called the “Conclusion.” The last chapter is structur ally tied into the story, but is at the same time separate from the main current. It tells us in summary form what becomes of the characters, and it is related to “The Custom House” by a reference to the manuscript of old date described in the introduction, and by a mentioji of Mr. Surveyor Pue who figures there. We may thus look upon the Introduction and the Conclusion as a kind of frame around the story of Hester Prynne.
The story itself (Chapter T—XXIII) has a clear pattern. It is built around the scaftold. The scaffold is the dominating point of the story at the beginning, in the middle, and at the end. Chapter II describes Hester standing on the scaffold. Chapter XII, which is the middle chapter of the story, describes Dimrnesdale mounting the scaffold, and being joined by Hester and Pearl. In Chapter XXIII, Dimmesdale again mounts the scaffold, this time in full view of the public, and takes Hester and Pearl up there with him. These three scaffold scenes are, in every Sense, the high-lights of the novel. The middle chapter, numbered XII, may be taken as dividing the story into two parts.
A closer examination of the book shows that it fails into a structural pattern of seven parts (leaving aside the frame of the story). Thce seven parts may be distinguished thus
(I) Chapters I-Ill “The Prison-Door” ; “The Market Place” ; “The Recognition”. Thesc three chapters describe Hester on the scaffold.
92.

(2) Chapters IV-VUI : “The Interview” Hester at hsr Needle” ; “Pearl” ; The Governor’s Hall” ; “The: Elf.child and the Minister”. These five chapters . describe Hester and” Pearl struggiing against their misfortunes.
(3) Chapters IX-XI : “The Leech”.;. “The Leech and hi Patient” ; “The Interior of his Heart”. These three chapters trace Chillingworth’s progress in his scheme of vengeance.
(4) Chapter XII : “The Minister’s Vigil” describes Dim. rnesdale on the scaffold at night-time. . .
(5) Chapters XHI-XV : “Another’ View of Hes&er” “Hester and the Physici in’ Hester and Pearl These thrr chapters describe Hester and Pearl rising.
(6) Chapters XVI..XX : (“A Forest Walk” ; “The Pàtot and His Parishioner” ; “A Flood of Sunshjn ;“ “The Child at the Brook side’ The Minister in a Maze ‘ Chtllingwai-th fafls while Hester and I)immesdale are shown as rising in thes chapters. . .
(7) Chapters XXI-XXHL “The New England Holiday”
“The Procession” ; “The Revelation of The Scarlet Letter.” Dimmesdale makes up his mind and mounts the scalTold, taking ‘Hester and Pear.1 up with him.
The chapter called “Conclusion” belongs, as has already been indicated above, to the framework of the story.
The meticulous craftsmanship shown by Hawthorne: in this’ rovel is the basis for a critic’.s division of its structure into four parts, with a different agent or character forcing the action in. each part hese four parts are (i.) Chapters 1-VIll; (ii) Chapters IX- xii (iii) . Chapters XIlI-.XX ; and (u) Chapters XXIXXI.V In constructing three symbolic characters, to present the threeliflerent sides of the same dark idea (namely, sin and its consequence), Hawthorne has three forces to impel his narrative. By placing these characters in the Puritan community of the seventeenth.century Boston, he obtains a fourth propulsive force. Hawthorne builds a structure that clearly and dramatically presents the three disparate sides and yet impresses upon us a sense of the organic interact ion of the three lines of development, and a unity of effect for the narrative as a whole. Ifl Part I of the structure, Hawthorne reveals the force of the Puritan community operating on Hester, Chilling- worth, and I)immesdaje. In Part II, Chillingworth is the force that acts on the other characters. Hester’s force is asserted in Part III and dominates the narrative in this part. In the fourth and last Part, Dimmesdale’s force drives the narrative to its dramatic conc lusion on the scaffold.
According to another point of view, there are three epic qiusts in the hook which give it its unique form. Tue first is Dimmesdale’s search for salvation as a conscious, if largely involuntary, quest. This quest ends with the final triumph of the struggling hero (though it is really God’s triumph). The second is Chillingworth’s conscious and

 

 

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THE SCARLItT LETTER

voluntary quest the object of which is to take possession of Dirnmrsd ale’s soul. This quest ends (after an apparent victory in Chapter XII) in the destruction of the avenger. The third is the unconscius and involuntary quest of Pearl who, in the words of her mother, “must seek a heavenly Father.” This quest ends when, after the kiss on the scaffold, Pearl is reconciled to the conditions of life and, instead of doing battle with the world, will be a woman in it.
Then there are a number of literary devices which give the book its extraordinary unity and movement, Hawthorne carefully employs panoramic or generalised narrations to focus his highly interesting scenes. The panoramic narration of Chapter XIII, “Another View of Hester”, for instance, skilfully prepares u for the scenes along the seashore and in the forest. Similarly the panoramic narration of Chapter XXI, “The New England J-Lliday”, prepares us for the final scaffold scene. We get a feeling of artistic complete ness and a sense of great climax because of the presence of the whole town at the scaffold in the first and the last scenes. The “limited” setting of the book also contributes to its remarkable unity. All the incidents take place in the little village of Boston of the mid-seven. tecnth century, and the rest of the world is almost forgotten. Moreo ver, it is the activities, relationships, and states of mind of only four residents of that village that constitute the centre of interest. In addition to that, the central symbol, the scarlet letter itself, serves to I bind the story together. Irony and ambiguity are other devices used
by the author to help tie its parts together.
But, more than anything else, it is the author’s persistent conc ern with guilt and the effects of guilt on the human mind that unifies The Scarlet Letter. Hawthorne took up sin as his theme for this book. Several hints of this theme are found in his Note-Books which he used for The Scarlet Letter. His jottings in these Note-Books deal with unpardonable sin, hidden sin, physical manifestations of moral or spiritual disease, a physical symbol indicating a past sin, the sense of isolation following sin, etc.

 

 

CHARACTERISATION JN “THE SCARLET LETTER’ 99

Characterjsat ion in “The Scarlet Letter”

23
The greatnes of a novelist is prirnaiily judged by his portrayal of human character. The characters portrayed by Hawthorne in The S’carkt Letter are not wooden figures but living individuals. In other words, the characters in this novel are convincingly drawn and they give us the impression that we have actually known them in real life. They may be unusual persons but they are not improbable. Verisimilitude is an important quality of Hawthorne’s characterb ation.
There are four principal characters in The &arlet Letter, Hester Prynne. the Reverend Mr. Arthur Diminesdale, Roger Chiliingworth, and Pearl. Then there are subsidiary characters like the Reverend Mr. John Wilson, Governor Bellingham, Mistress Hibbin and the people who form the crowd or the Populace of the town of Boston. Hawthorne has successfully drawn aH the characters including the minor ones.
The characters in The Scarlet Letter are not stationary or static there is a definite and almost tangible development in all the principal characters. They are widely different in the middle of the story from what they are at the outset and vastly different at the end from what they are in the middle. Thus, like human beings in real life, these characters grow, develop and change on account of certain inner compulsions, on account of their mutual inter-action nd on account of the effect of environment upon them.
Hester Prynne is a “fallen” woman who does not have any profound or deep sense of guilt. She is aware of having injured htr husband and of having violated the moral code of society but she does not believe that she has either sinned against God or against herself. She is a passionate, sensual type of woman who, however, is able to keep her sensuality under control and even to sublimate it. She has rare powers of endurance and goes through the ordeal of her life bravely. It is with a philosophic calm on her face that she goes about with the stigma ofher shame branded on her bosom. Her sin brings about a great moral regeneration in her, turning her into a Sister of Mercy. Tne manner its which she reconciles herself to her sad fate does her great credit. She is, indeed, an unforgettable character.

Arthur Dimrnesdale is a priest who siccuml”s to the temptation that offers itseifto him in the shape of Hester Prynne. He falls from the high ideals of priesthood and is, thereafter’ constantly haunted by a sense of sin that robs him of his peace of mind and becomes a source of ceaseless torture to him. He does not want the public image of himself to be shattered and continues hypocritically to wear a mask of piety. There is a constant strife in his heart between his desire to. maintain his public image and the driving force of his conscience which demands a public confession. This strife continues for several years and then there comes a second “fall” in his life when he almost gets ready to flee with Hester Prynne to some distant land in order to begin a new life. However, he saves himself from damnation by ultimately making a public confession of his fate, like that of Hester Prynne, is tragic arid evokes a deep sympathy.
Roger Chillingwo!th is the wronged husband who wreaks terrible vengeance upon. the guilty minister, Arthur Dimmesdale. Roger Chiflingworth wai at one time a good and upright man but a great èhange comes over him when he makes up his mind to avenge himself upon the priest who stole the love of his wife. From a man of human instincts, he turn$ into a veritable fiend..
Pearl i.s the product of an adulterous union. She is a singular child, who is at ‘times gentle and affectionate and at times furious àhd violent. Hester Prynne herself does not understand the psy-. chólQgy of this child. Pearl. is a source of as much torment to her motber as happiness She is constantly asking questions regarding the meaning, of the scarlet letter and abo keeps asking why the minister always keeps his hand over his heart. Her frequent violence of temper and her recurrent tantrums betoken a devilish clement inher . . .
As is clear from the above, two of the principal characters, namely Dimmesdale and Pearl, are complex in their make.up ‘and composition, while the other two, namely Hester and Chillingworth. are comparatively simplçr beings. In drawing the characters of these
• four persons,. Hawthoine shows himself as a great psychologist. There are whole chaptrs devoted to the psychological analysis of
• the hacters. In probing their minds,Hawthorne has shown an exceotinnal undertandig of huar qajre and a keen in..tght into it.. In Chapter V (“Hester At Her Needle”), fOr instance the author aily,ses Hester’s state of mind after her release from prison, ber reasons for decidmg to stay on in Boston instead of moving to nme other .plac her attitude towards the letter “A” which she is doomed to,wear on her bosom all her. life, her reaction to hersocial ostracism,nd her painful speculation: as to whether she is the only sinner jn this world. In Chapter VI (“Pearr’), the author gives us an analvsis of:the mind of the child, Pearl, and Hester Prynne’s react ion to,tho persistnt questioning oiher by the child. In Chapter IX The Leech ) it is the mind of Roger Chiliingworth and the str1ntr relationship that evetop between him and his vjctim Dimmrsd.ilr. that. are •bjected to..a minute analysis. In Chapter Xl (“‘lhr Interior Of A Heart”), the mind of Dimmesdaic is dissr ird,

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100 TIlE SCARLET LFITER

CARACTR!SATh)N IN THE SC,%RLET LLT’IK

The very title of this chapter shows that the author goes deep Intu the soul of the minister. In Chapter XIII (“Another View o Hester”), Hester once again becomes the subject of psychological analysis.
It may be pointed out that Hawthorne’s villains are all “incarnated devils”. Cliillingworth, for example, is derived from the devils and wizards of Hawthorne’s early tales. We are made to feel that Chillingworth’s peculiar gifts have been acquired by the Devil’s aid. This may partly account for the lack of satisfactory characteriz ation in Hawthorne’s villains. They are not really human, after all. The mental energy they seem to possess is the Devil’s gift. When Chillingworth has flnihed his work and his victim is dead, he is snatched to the Devil’s bosom and all his demoniacally inspired fotce vanishes in a moment; as though the terms of a pact were now exacted. This is how Chillingworth is described at this time.
“All hs strength and energy—all his vital and intellectual force—seemed at once to desert him; insomuch that he positively withered up, shrivelled away, and almost vanished from mortal sight, like an uprooted weed that lies wilting in the sun”.
Realism and Allegory in Hawthorne’s Characterisation
As we have seen, the various characters have been portrayed by Hawthorne in a realistic and convincing manner. In addition to their existence as individuals, these characters possess also a symb olical or allegorical significance. This allegorical significance, that the various characters have, reinforces Hawthorne’s moralism inthe book. Hester, for instance, is the type of a sensual woman who yet possesses an inexhaustible spirit of service to the community. It is true that Hester’s spirit of service would have lain dormant but for the stigma that she has to wear and the social censure to which she is constantly exposed. But there is no doubt about this combin ation of sensuality with a moral bent of mind which is far from puritanical or orthodox and which shows itself chiefly in a spirit of humanitarianism. Hester has another symbolical significance also. She is he temptress who seduces a holy man and’ brings about his moral fall. Dimmesdale represents the whole class of holy- men who, in their efforts to rise to sainthood, discover, to their disappointment and chagrin, that they are essentially human and subject to human errors. Pearl is to be regarded as a symbol of this sin of adultery committed by Hester and Dimmesdale. Her waywardness and her lawlessness are a consequence of the violation by Hester and Dim. mesdale of a moral code on which the stability of society is based and which is believed to have a divine sanction. Pearl is a constant reminder to her mother of the sin she has committed and the punish. ment she has to suffer as a consequence of that sin, not less in having to endure the tantrums and frenzies of Pearl than in having to wear the stigma of disgrace on her bosom. Roger Chillingworth symbolises the passion of revenge and the damnation to which such a passion may lead when carried too far. As a result of his obsession wlih his scheme of vengeance, this man, once gentle and kind, begin

to look grim and fierce like a tien. The followrag ,;, t” -..
a critic in connection with the .dlegnrical significance various characters provide a valuable aid to understanciiog tfls aspc( I Hawthorne’s characterisation.
“Màtivating most of the action in the novel is a Versatile Faustian devil whose repertory of tricks derives from the Faustian drama and the Faustian Gothic romance. As Hawthorne manipulates the controlling idea, he endows each of his main characters with an aim in life that falls into the pattern of universal human experience. His portrayal of Chillingworth as a Puritan Faust elevates the latter’s fate to a plane of numbing pathos and tragedy. In depicting Hester as a Fausta, Hawthorne separates her from the ordinary romantic heroine accidentally entangled in a net of evil. Her desperate efforts as a Faustian temptress are designed to express the eternal philosophy of womanhood : consistent with her maternal instincts, a woman’s destiny is linked firmly with her desire to attain happiness for herself, her children, and her mate. In terms of the variant of the Faust myth, assigning to Dimmesdale the character of a lascivious monk, Hawthorne, with a poetic justice that betrays his true feelings about the minister, rewards the latter’s ignominious spiritual hypocrisy and moral cowardice. And by recourse to another Faustian phenomenon. Hawthorne ennobles Pearl’s struggle to achieve identity in the human family”. (William Bysshe Stein)
The interplay of the characters in The Scarlgt Letter may be interpreted in terms of the relations which Hawthorne conceived as existing among art, religion, and science. A close relationship between art and science, as the relationship between Hester and Chillingworth shows, is barren, and productive only of misfortune. A clo3e relationship between religion and science resembles that between Dimmesdale-and Chillingwor(h ; it is a destructive relatioPs hip because it becomes an effort on the part of science to penetrate, expose, and reduce to its own terms the concepts of religion. And a close relationship between art and religion tends, as Hester’s illicit love with Dimmesdale shows, to secularise religion. Such a relationship is essentially adulterous, since its end product (as represented by Pearl) is a kind of adulteration.

 

 

WI4AT IESER ANt> DIMMESDALE TIIINIC OF THEIR SIN 103

24
What Rester and Dimmesdale
Think of The
ir..Sia..
Arthur Dirnrnesda1. is. fully and painfully conscious of the sin
/that he as co mi e• e n Od,
I iThsTocial moIt an against is own Integrity as an in ividual I and asiit. He knows also that he is doubly a sinner in so far
as he continues oncea lissil Tflsenieosjjjjjot only weighs, but preys, upon his mind ceaselessly. His sin inwardly isolates him from the community, and the deliberate Concea lment of his sin deep,ens that isolation. The secrecy which he maintains and the sense of isolation from his professional brethren and from the community in general drives him almost mad. Apart from his keen awareness of adultery as a sin, he knows that he is a hypocrite and a moral coward. The sense of sin in hini is thus heightcn’d and intensified, and allows him no peace of mind.
The public worshi by which Dimmesdale is surrounded adds to the orture of Dimznesdalc’s sense o sin. e genuinely adores his own 1ulpit, in his loudestvoice, and tell the people what he 1s I-Ic wants to tell them that he, their pastor, whom they reverence deeply and trust compk tely, is utteily. “a pollution and a lie.” Moire than once, in the course of his sermons, •he actually tells his hearers that “he was altogether vile, a viler companion of the vilest, the worst of sinners, an abomination, a thing of unimaginable iniquity ; and that the only wonder was that they did not see his wretched body shrivelled up before their eyes, by the burning, wrath of the Almighty.” But his hearers, instead of tearing him to pieces, begin to show him even more reverence because they attribute his words not to an. actual sinfulness on his part but to his s irit o umility and self-effaceo p e would thus corn men on is w6j “The
dTouth! The saint on earth.” And Dirnmesdale knew well, “subtle but remorseful hypocrite” that he was, that his vague conf ession would be viewed in that light. “He speaks to his parishioners the very truth, and yet, transforms it into the veriest falsehood.” And yet, by the constitution of his nature, he loves the truth and hates the lie, as few men ever do. Theref&Eeif ci ellegins to hate his miserable self.
is torm disijimmesdaje by his sense of sin that he begins to impose upon himself the severest possible penance. He observes rigid fasts with the object of purifying his body. He keeps
102

vigils night after night in orderto purify his mind. He lashes himself with a scourge till he begins to bleed. One.midnighthe mounts the scaffold as another act of penance but, as the author.points out, this action is only a “mockery of penitence.” Fle is driveh to the, scaffold by that remorse which pursues him e”erywhere. ‘Poor, miserable man”, says the author with reference to Dirnmesdale, “What right had infirmity like his to burden itself with crime? Crime is for the iron-nerved, who have their choice either to endure it, or, lift pressed too hard, to exert their fierce and savage strength for a good purpose; and fling it off at once ! This feeble and most sensitive of spirits could do neither
And so the minister continues to suffer the tortures caused by, his sense of sin and the persecution to which he is subjected by. Cbillingworth till he meets Hester in the forest. And then this man, whorn should long ago have confessed his sin, has his second ‘iàll”. The enchantment of Hester’s presence and her words prove too strong for this man of weak resolutions and, without putting up the least resistance, he accepts Hester’s plan of flight from Boston:
However, soon afterwards the conhlct begins again, this Lime between his desire to start a new life in the company ol Hester and tlir voice of his conscience urging him to make a public confession of his SID:
This conflict, agonising and heart-rending as it must have been, is not described by Hawthorne. We only learn that l)imrncsdale’s moral sense wins, that he bccomcs truly penitent, and that he achieves a re-union with the good which enables him in wrire the Election Sermon, to confess his sin pUl)hiCly, and to come at the end into a tre reLation with all the elements against which he has sinned.)
-4ester’s altitude to the sin of adultery is absolutely different from that of her lover, Dimrnesdale. In the first place, she does not feel that she has sinned against God. God has never been a real presence in her life and so she does not experience any sense of alienation from God as a result of her adulterous action. She would even like to go to church if she could be sure that she would not become the subject of a sermon Besides, God has given her a beautif ul child, and this means that God has not looked upon her deed as wicked.
Nor does Hester feel that she has violated any law of her own nature. She is by nature passionate, even sensual. Her love-relation ship with Dimmesdale must therefore have been a consequence of her own nature, not a violation of it. It is her devotion to Dimmesdale which makes her stay on in Bosto,s even after having been branded with the stigma of her sin, although her decision to stay on there is strengthened by the belief that her remaining there would bring about a purification of her soul. She speaks of her adultery as having a “consecration f its own”, and this shows that her deed was in harm ony with her own nature. Vhen an opportunity presents itself, she suggests to her lover a plan of flight so that she may establish a permanent relationship with him, immoral and illicit though such a relationship would be.

 

 

Tilt SCARLflT irmi

Nor yet d’cs Hester feel that she has sinned against the conr nunity. She does submit to a public, exposure of her disgrceon.tbe scaffold and she submits also to the wearing of the scarlet letter but in her heart there is no repentance of what she has done In fact as the author tells us, ‘the scarlet letter had not done its office,” mean. ing that though she wears the scartet letter for several years, it does not give rise to any sense of guilt or any feel’itig qf repentance. The bright and fanciful embroidery of the scarlet letter sho.ws. her rebelliousness against the imposition of this particular punishment. Her clothing Pearl in such away as to make the child look like a human embodi. menCOfthê scarlet lettsho’vvs the same thing. In. the absence of any feeling that she has sinned against’the cór’ mürsity,’ she believes that thommunity had no right to punish her.
In spite of all this, Hester is aware of having càmrntte’d a wrong. SpeaJcjng toChillingworth in the prison sht says I having greatly wronged thee Pearl s wa’%ardness and unfredictah 1ity of behavi our also give Hester the feeling of having committed a wrong. Commenting on Hes’.s-.reetion the’erratic hëhaVicü’of the chfld Hawthoinè says, “The child could not be made amenable to rules. In giving her edstence, a great law had been broken; and the rsult was a being. whose elements were perhaps beautiful and briman, but all in disorder.” The great law, which Hester feels she has broken, is therefore the law of order. Being aware of this, Hester éàn realise tba some estrangement from the natural course of life is her due. As for the injury she has done to her husband, she later amends her view and firmly believes that Chillingworth, in prevailing upon her to marry hiiz, did her a greater injury than she has done to him by her ad uhery

.25
Roger Chillingivorth and his Sin
Chillingworih’s first error was to prevail upon Heer to marry hirxh—And he admits this error. “Mine was the first wrong’, he says to Hester, “when I betrayed thy budding youth into a false and unn atural relation with my decay.” But having admitted this, Chilling- worth proceeds to intensify rather than expiate his guilt. The punish. ment that Hester has received from the community being,.in his eyes, adequate, he decides to ignore her completely ; bnt he must find out Hester’s partner in her sin and must wreak his vengeance upon him. In order to avengC himself upon Hester’s fellow-sinner, he also decides to conceal his identity and thereby set up a 1lse relationship between himself.and the community, and lie thus aggravates his guilt.
The main point to keel) in mind is that Chillingworth never conceives of his own actions as righteous or sinful, hut only as natural or unnatural. His values are intellectual zeal arid social harmony. His sin, as he arid I lawtliornc see it, is the surrender of his intellect to vengeance, for in this he is being false to his own inteflectua I principles.
He says that, even though Hester’s iellow.sinncr wears no token of his sin on his clothes, he will read it on his heart. His suspicion that the minister may be Hester’s partner in crime is aroused when the minister firmly defends Hester’s right to keep Pearl in her own custody. Chillingworth says to him on this occasion, “You speak; my friend, with a strange earnestness.” Subsequent1 Chillingworth probes the minister with hypothetical discussions of guilt.) He watches the minister tremble under . his penetrating look. He oserves the minister’s, increasing nervous and physical’.ensions. He constantly haunts the minister’s waking and sleeping hours,’ and torments him with numerous piercing remarks. Hester sums up Chillingworth’s subtle persecution of the minister when she says to him. “You burrow and rankle in his heart! Your clutch ‘is on his life, and you cause him to die daily a living death; and still he knows you not.” Chillingworth admits this charge and says, “Never did mortals suffer what this man has suffered.” When Dimmesdale learns the real identity and character of Chillingworth, he says that the old man’s revenge is blacker than his own sin. . Chilling. worth’s whole relation to the story and to the characters is stated in terms of revenge. When the minister is ready to make his. . public confession, Chillingworth makes a last effort ‘to keep his victim in his own grip, saying, “Madman, . hold! W ro purpose i

105

 

 

HJb
THE SCARLET LETTER

Wave back that woman! Cast off this child ! all shall he wl I can yet save you !“ But Dimrnesdale tells him that it is too And tIet Chillingworth says that there was no place where the minister could have escaped him except on this very scaffold. Chillingworth’s revenge should, at this stage, be complete with the minister’s death.But we are told that by his confession and death DimmdaIe actually deprives the old physiciar of the sustenance that he was deriving from his continued persecution of the minister
£hillinçworth considers the torture of Dimmesdale to be his most’-important function The minister s comment on OhlllIngworth in the forest zntervie with ICster ‘cems appropriate ) Chilllngworth is the worst Sinner of all because he has violated in/ cold blood the the sanctity of a human heart. I-Ic has used his skill as a physician to keep Dimrriesdale alive so that he can Continue to torture him mentally and spiritually. Chillingwoi th’s revenge upon Dirnrnesdaje is terrible. . And the relationship of avenger and victith gives rise to the only resi passion of the story apart from thc love passion shown by Hester in her meeting with Dimmesdsle in the forest. Chilling. worth’s revenge leads to Consequences which have their own ambiv alence The physician begins his sea rcb for Hester’s feIlow.Sjnner “with the severe and equal integrity of a judge, desirous only of truth.” As he proceeds however, a terrible fascination seizes the physician and he never gets free from it. Shortly before th physician sees the mark of sin on Diminesdale’s bosom when the th minister is asleep, he kels that he must search this matter to the bottom, “were it only for art’s sake.” After this incident, ChiUirgwot1ts.rvcg becomes snore intense and more personal When Hester asks -if •he has not tortured, Dimmesdale enough. Chillingworth replies: “No ! No! He has increased the debt” From a studious, thoughtful man, ChiHing worth has been transformed into s fiend who has been feeding on his revenge but who himself ultimately- becomes a victim of that revenge. Yet, for all his evil, Chillingworth has admitted to Hester that his was the first wrong; it was a mistake on his part to have married her.
Chillingworth himself could not win his wife’s love He there. fore fiçrcely hates the man who has won that love without much eflbrt.) Hjs maI is actually less of a personal resentment against DimnesdaJe (han an expression of anger at the scheme of things which has caused the frustration of his hopes. Although his anger is understandable and natural, it becomes a fatal sin when he makes it the settled Principle ohis..life. Never very benevolent before, he now converts his injured self, love into a violent hatred of his sUcces. ful rival, Be is “not badness incarnate, but goodness perverted.”
Chillingworth is sketched as a kind of Faust. Hester; standj on the scaffold, recalls her husband’s “pale, thin schoiar.ljke visage, with eyes dim and bleared by -the lamp.-lighe:” Yet those same bleat-ed eyes have a strange, penetrating power of reading the human soul, Like Faust, Chlliñgworth has pursued knowledge beyond ordinary limits and, during his captivity with the Indians, he has learnt the secret lore of medicjie Later, Chillingworth’s extra.

ROGER CUILLINGWORTtI AND HIS s 10?
ordinary skill is attibited to magic, and rumour has it that Chilling. worth’s dark and ugly face shows his connection with the 1)evil. It is said that “the fire in his laboratory had been brought from the lower regions, and was fed with infernal fuel.” Even little Pear-I warns her mother againt Chtllingworth, saying, “Come away, or yonder old Black Man will catch you! He hath got hold of the minister already. Come away, mother or he will catch you,” Chillingworth himself admits his complete dedication to evil by saying to Hester, “I have already told thee what I am ! A fiend !“
But although he is dehumanised by his revenge, vast artiount of property to the child of those whom he
and who had injured him. He may therefore not
irrevocably lost. –

he leaves a had injured have been

.4

 

 

PRINCIPAL CHAPACTERS ‘. 109

Principal harac ters

(1) Hester Pryune

26

When we first meet Hester Prynne, she has already commit. ted a scandalous deed which, according to the talk of a group of elderly women of the town, has brought shame upon them all. If the law were to be enforced in its full vigour, Hester should have been sentenced to death. We see Hester Prynne coming out of the prison, with a three-month baby-girl in her arms, and with the letter “A” embroidered on the breast of her gown in fine red cloth, surrounded with flourishes of gold thread. On the threshold of the prison-door, Hester Prvnne pushes aside the beadle “by an action marked with natural dignity and force of character.”
Hester Prynne is described, at ths stage of the story, as a tall young woman having an elegant figure. She has dark, abundant and glossy hair, a face which is beautiful with regular features, a rich complexion and deep black eyes. She looks “lady-like.” She faces the crowd that has gathered to see her with a “haughty smile” but, although her behaviour is defiant, she seems to be experiencing an agony at every step that she takes. She bravely climbs up the steps of the scaffold on which she has to stand in full sight of the crowd for three hours as part of the punishment that has been imposed upon her. Although we are at this very stage made aware of the nature of Hester Prynne’s crime yet we’ already feel a certain degree of admiration for the dignified and brave manner in which she faces the crowd, with all eyes fised upon her and gazing at her bosom.
As Hester Prynne stands on the scaffold in full view of an utterly unsympathetic crowd of people, her mind goes back to her past. Memories of her childhood and school-days, of childish quarrels, a*d the little domestic traits of her maiden years, crowd into her mind. She recalls her native village in Old England, and her paternal home. She sees her father’s face, with its bald brow and white beard; her mother’s, too, with its anxious but affectionate look. She thinks of an old man, with a scholar-like countenance, a ‘flgure of the study and the cloister”, slightly deformed. And then a full realisation of her present disgrace comes upon her. She presses 1er child strongly to her breast and turns her eyes downward at the carIet letter, to convince herself that the infant and the shame are leal while her past life is a mere dream. Already Hester Prynne has become a pathetic figure for us.
Lou

There is no doubt in our minds about the seriousness of Hester Prynne’s moral lapse, which is adultery. The. magistrates have sentenced her to stand for a space of three hours on the platform of the pillory, and thereafter to wear a mark of shame upon her bosom for the rest of her life. She has refused to disclose the name of the partner in her crime. She is given another opportunity to disc lose his name, but she remains firm in her resolve not to disclose
it. The Reverend John Wilson exhorts her to speak the truth, but in vain, He is followed by the Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale who makes the same demand to know the identity of the man inv olved in the case, hut with the same result. She can by disclosing the name of the other sinner, get rid of the scarlet letter but she plainly and firmly says that she will not speak out the name. Her altitude compels Arthur Dimmesdale to acknowledge her “wo’idrous strength and generosity in not speaking out the hame of ‘hr fellow- sinner”, and we share Dirnmesdale’s sentiment in this regard.
She shows the same firmness in her interview with ioger Ohillingworth, her husband, who meets her in the prison and-dem ands the name of the man who has wronged him. She admits the wrong that she has done to her husband but she reminds him that she had frankly told him at the time of her marriage that he felt no love for him. When Chillingworth asks her the name of. her fellow-sinner, she says that she will never di,scloe that man’s identity. However, she promises at the same time nnt to disclose Chilling- worth’s true identity to anybody.
The greatest quality of Hester Prynne, a quality,.which gives her the stamp of a heroine, is her exceptional spisit of endurance. Doomed to wear the mark of disgrace on her bosom, and the object of contempt and hatred of all the townspeople, she reconciles hrsrhf to her miserable existence and her loneliness, and prepares herself to go through the prolonged ordeal of her life with a rare loT titude. She could have left the town of Boston and gone e)scw1icrc thus escaping from the disgrace and infamy to which she is exposed. But she does not do so. She tells herself that this town had been the scene of her guilt and that it should be the scene of her earthly punishment. She continues to live here thinking hit the torture of her daily shame would at length purge her soul, and “work out another purity than that which she has lost.” The chain that bihds her to this place, she thinks, cannot be broken She is lonel and friendless in the town, her only consolation heimig her child, whom she gives the name of Pearl. In all her ir’trrcour&WiTltei.et, there is nothing to snake her feel that she bclo1gs to it.’ -Esery gesture and every word of those with whom she comes in contact makes her feel that she is banished fiom society, but she sufftrs this social ostracism with her native energy of character, andshos a rare capacity to face the terrible situation in Which she finds herself. Clergymen pause in the street to address words of exhortation tq’her. If she enters a church, she becomes the text of the priest’s sernion. Children follow her with shrill cries. Strangers look at the scarlet letter on her bosom with a curiosity that :hurtsher deeply. And yet this woman shows an unflinching courage in :the face cf all the

 

 

 

 

110 ThE SCARLRT LETTER
brutal ill-treatment that she receives. She often asks herself if she is the only sinner of her kind in this society. But as all is not corrupt in this poor woman, she struggles to beliee that no other person is guilty like herself.
Years pass, Pearl is now seven Slears old. Hester Prynne, with the scarlet letter on her breast, has long been a familiar figure to the townspeople. She has been submitting uncomplainingly to the worst treatment. She has been leading a life of blameless purity during all these seven years. She has never claimed the humblest share in the world’s privileges, beyond breathing the comm on air, and earning daily bread for Pearl and herself by the labour of her hands. She has been generous to the poor and needy, even though she has received meagre thanks frornihem. She has been helping those who were in distress. Tn all times of misfortt!ne. whether general or individual, this social outcast has bceri render ing valuable service. Her sympathy and’ her spirit of service have raised her to the status of a Sister of Mercy, in spite of the badge of shame on her breast. So assiduous and whole-hearted has she been in performing acts of service that many people no longer interpret the scarlet letter “A” as aduIter.. According to these people, the letter “A” stands for ‘Able”. The scarlet letter has, on these people, eflect of the cross on a nun’s bosom. It now imparts th Hester Prynne a kind of sacredness.
This does not, however, mean that Hester’s crime has been forgotten. The scarlet letter continues to be WOrfl by her and it continues to make her feel a burning sensation on her bosom. Her own child, Pearl, though her only joy in life, becomes a source of torture to her. The child keeps pestering her with all kin1ds of questions regarding the meaning of the letter “A” and thus 1emn- ding her all the time of her guilt. When. on one occasion, Hecter has thrown away the letter “A”, and is experiencing an e’tquisite; feeling of relief by having got rid of it, Pearl feels most annoed with her and does not let her rest till Hester has picked up the scarlet letter from the ground and restored it to its place on her bosom.
There are two other circumstances which torture Hester Pry nne. One is. the woebegone and hlpless condition of Arthur Dimmes. dale. Having witnessed the intnse misery of the minister on the night of his vigil, she feels deeply distrested. The second circums tance is her realisation that Roger Chillingworth has, in a subtle manner, been working upon the minister’s mind to aggravate the minister’s misery and to drive him almost mad. She feels that she is, to a large extent, rsponsjblc for the mischief that Roger Chilling. worth is working,, by having withheld from the minister the secret of Chillingworth’s true identity. It is For this reason that she decides to meet the minister Lxi the fbrest and to tell him the truth ab,ut Roger Chillingworth.
Her apprehemions regarding Pearl greatly add to her misery. She knows that her deed was evil,, and she can haveno faith, therefore, that its result would be good. Pearl is amenable o no

 

 

-r

PRINCIPAL CHARACTRRS 111
rules and to no discipline. She is a child of wild, despei’ate, defiant nature. Her moods are unpredictablE2° Ofien this child frowns, clenches her fists, and hardens her small features into a stern, unsympathising look of discontent. Often does Hester burst into passionate tears at the bewildering and baffling nature of this .child. Often does she cry out in a voice of agony : “0 Father in Heaven, what is this being which I have brou,ght into the world !“ But, in spite of the djttress that Peas I causes to her mother, Hester’s maternal love for the child does not in the least waver or diminish. She fights vigorously to retain her custody of the child and, supported by the minister, succeeds in her effort. The tenderness and depth of her love for Pearl is her most striking quality, next to her heroic endurance of her misfortune.
It is noteworthy that, although Hester goes through a penance of a most rigid and stern kind by having to wear constantly the scarlet letter on her bosom, she does not have any real sense of guilt. In fact, she does not think herself to be a sinner. On the contrary. she holds that her very act of adultery had a “consecration” of its own. She also believes that her husband did a greater injury to her by having prevailed upon her to marry him than she has done. to him by her act of adultery. It is this freedom from the sense of guilt that gives her a feeling of strength to bear the whole penalty that has been imposed upon her by Society. And she is not only herelf strong; she proves to be a source of strength even to the minister who is.tottering on the brink of lunacy. In the. forest-scene. she speaks to the minister with such conviction and such sincerity that the minister falls under her spell.. She suggests that he should quit Boston and begin his life afresh in some other part of the world. She urges him to go and live as a scholar and a sage amng the wisest and most renowned people of the cultivatcd world. “Preach Write! Act !“ she says to him. “Do anything, save to lie down and die ! Give up this name of Arthur Dirnmesdale, and make thyself another, and a high one, such as thou canst wear without fear or shame.” The minister’s spirit is kindled by her enthusiasm, but he does not have the strength to go into the wide world alone. And she tells him that he shall not go alone, meaning that she would go 4’ith him In the final scene she agazn proves to be a source of stre ‘gth to him. The minister appeals to her with a,, “piercing earnestneW’, to give him her strength “Come, Hester, come [Support me up ‘yonder scaffold.”
In the concluding chapter of the story, the fallen woman becomes a highly respected matron. Hçster Prynne could have lived with her daughter in comfort and even luxury But after an absence of many years, she returns to her long forsaken cottage in Boston: She feels that there is more real lile for her in this place. Here had been her sin, here her sorrow, and here is yet to heherpenitence. Skie returns, therefore, and resumes, of her own ‘free will, the scarlet lctter the symbol of her sin But recple no 1i’ger look at the scarlet
1 .

 

 

THE SCARLEI LETTER
letter as a stigma. It becomes a type of something to be sorrowed over, and looked upon with awe, yet with reverence too. People bring their sorrows and perplexities to, Hester and seek her advice. She comforts and counsels them as best as she can. She teDs them also that a time will come when men and women will have the right to find a surcr happiness in their mutual relations.
Hesttr has becn drawn by Hawthorne on a large scale not only in body but also in heart. According to Maik Van E)oren, the passion and beauty of hester Prynne dominate every other person, and colour each event. Tall, with dark and abundant hair and deep black eyes, a rich complexion. and dignity. she casts a spell over those who behold her. Hawthorne puts a unique im!,ortaflCf into her. We feel that we are close to her all the time, and we are completely convinced of her flesh and blood, of her heirt and mind. She is a passionate woman (tho gh Ilawthoriie does not cal, her passionate) because there is ths- necessary evidence to show her passionate nature. Her passionate nature is seen in her state of excitement, bordering on frenzy, in the prison after her first exposure to the crowd It is seen in. her pride and her daring when she makes more show than is necessary of the letter on her bosom. It is seen in her alternations of despair and defiance. It is seen in her continuing love for the man whose weakness hardly deserves it it is seen in her power of speech. so economical and so tender, when at last she is with this-man in the ibrest. And it is seen in the sudden revelation that through years of loneliness she has not lçt. her soul. be killed. But she is: also generous of heart. She shows a- rare generosity
iii her dealings with-both Dimmesdale and Chillingworth, and in her attitude towards people in distress.
(2) Arthur Dimmesdale
The Scarlet Letter is the tragedy, not so much of Hester Piyriite, as of the Reverend Mr Arthur Diminesdale. This young clergyman had come to Boston from one of the great English unijersitieS bringing áll’the learning of the age to t!.ie New’Wo’rtd. Whefi!C meet him first his eloquence and ieiigious fcr our five already won him a w&de reputation grcat name. He is a man of a very striking appearance with a white and lofty brow large and niin cboly eyes, and .a mouth which can express both “nervous seisibility and a vast power of self-restraint.” En spite of his high native gifts andicàkI.fitt, he Ili a half.frihfèñed look on his tce which shows as if he found himself at a loss in the pathway of human cxistence, and could only be at home in some seclusion of titS Own
Hi, first function in the story is to urge Hester Prynne to lighten the bdrden of her crime by revealing the name of her fellow- sinner, and he performs this function in a forceful manner, although as we come to know later he himself is her fellow sinner lie is grcat!y impressed by the strength and generosity of this woman who, in spite of his on appeal and the threats of the Reverend Mr. Wilson, renains firm and refuses to disclose the identity of the man with whom she has committed adultery. Subsequently be defends,

PRINCIPAL CHARACTERS

I 13

with great spirit, Hester Prynne’s tight to retain the custody of th child Pearl although, at this time, he looks careworn, ernaciatçd.and pale because of his failing beahh, the cause of which is is secret suffering. He speaks persuasively about an “awful sacrednçis”-in the relationship between Hester Prynne and the child PearL
Although the people attribute Arthur Dimmesdale’s failing health tê *cëssive itiidT tiTpiilóiisftilfilrnCntôi’his priestly diitiés rand above all, the fasts and vigils of which h had made a Treqiiet
practice, the real cause of at is the secret sense o4 guilt whic1 has been gnawing at his heart and corroding his mind ever since he coinilliTféd the sin bfdultery The pitiable condition to which he is reduced as a result o1 the easeless sense of guilt and the torment that it constantly gives rise to, is emphasised in the story again and again. Roger Chillingwortb has, as a result of his constant watch over the priest rightly come to the conclusion that this man oIl spirituafiii’ seems has inherited a strong animal nature frothhis father or his idihër – And, inded it was this element of animal nature in Arthur
1immesal’sIérsona1ity-that red -him t.o cohimitthesin of aduery 1i’Eth Hester. The ininister is a man of excellent qIralitie.s{whidli consist in his high aspirations for the welfare of the people, his -warm love of his followers and disciples, his• pure sentiments, bit natural piety which has been strengthened by thought and study,, and sp. on. But the one false step that he has taken renders all thes noble qualities almost ineffective and wrecks his happiness. Unçr -the medical supervision of Roger Chillingworth, whose company has a kind of fascination for hint. Ire finds himself becoming rnorc and more miserable. The physician having, commenced his pernicious work upon the minister’s mind, the spiritual agony of the I)riest, caused by his oppressive sense of guilt, is multiplied a thousasçl.çold. Some of the townsfolk, seeing the close association of the rnffiister with the physician, are rightly-led by their instincts ‘to’ – believe that the physician is Satan’s agent who has made his appearance in,B’ston with some diabolical plot against the minister’s soul. Arthur Dhtirnes. dale suffers unspeakable horrors md halluci nat room onlTindi&Thable mental tortures, without realising that Roger Chillingwoth is- resp onsible for most of them. He becomes vaguely awarê that ,inet hing inimical to hi’r peace has thrust itself into his life, but – he ‘does not attribute it 10 thc physician On one occasion the minister gets into a heated argument with the physician and evep feels annoyed with him for insisting that a man who has a – secret shame in his heart should confess it under all circumstances; – but even then lie does not have any suspicion that the physician has made an oblique reference to the priest’s own secret shame of which the physician has acquired adequate knowledge. – – – –
Arthur Dimmesdole c percitent at d tot n entrrg sense ol guilt
impe1 him to undergo a lot o’ enance but even that does not bring
h m any peace He has been lashrng himcell in ferret he hoc brett
keeping vigils night after night he has been observing rigornu%
fasts but .sll this has been in ain He ( en rnikes an ( ,‘Tori ,mt
a confession of his guilt in the course of his “sCrmons by describing

a

 

 

THE SCARLET LETTER

RINCT PAL CHARACThRS 117

an(l is glad to know that it will be possible for him to perform that (July hrforc departing from the town. One of the most remarkable things that happen to this man is that, once he has agreed to flee from the town in the c äri’’ofHesiëi’ sdñkièry s’icked thoughts which ad perhaps lain, in his siib.conscious mind I cir a long time, . rise to he surface, and he has to exercise all his self-control o prevent hiamel’f from giving an tittefüii’to thO’se’ihoughts. ‘The decision to flee brings with it a release from inhibitions of all kinds and from the restraints imposed on hiir by his ecclesiastical order.
Pearl, hoping to see the minister among those who are to head the election.day procession, rightly describes him in the followinh words: “What a strange, sad man is he ?“ She goes on to explain what she means. In the dark night-time he held her hand and her mother’s as they stood with him on the scaffold. He talked to her mother in the deep forest where he kissed Pearl’s forehead. Buh’e, Oi’äñdyJhnd’among all the people, he will not recognise Pear1 and her mother. “A strange, sad man is he, with his hand a’ways on his heart !“says PearJ, and this isa most appropriate comment on the minister by the precocious child. Indeed, the minister is a pathetic figure. He does not have self’conñdence.nnughvio face situations that are not exce,ptaonally_ difficult For instanca.. with all his paternal affection for Pearl, he is afraid of her. He tells Hester that children do not take to him easily ‘But in truth, as I already told thee, children are not readily won to be familiar ‘vith rue. They will not climb my knee, nor p’etle in my ear, nor answer to my smile, but stand apart, and einse ‘strangely. Even little babes, when I take them in my arms, weep bitterly.” This is a piece of pathetic self.analysis. In view of the glaring deficiences in this man, one really wonders what it was that made Hester fall so passionately in love with him. Spiritual fervour by itself has never been known to attract a sensual woman like Hester. Arthur Dimmesdale, though intellectualiva giant., is morally a weakl
And yet this weakling and.Jn lidattain tragic height after seven years of continuous mental and spiritual torture. He uitirnately. gathers courage enough to make a. public confession of his crime and thus attains a iobility which he has long..denicd to himself. His EIetion Sermon proves to be the greatest achievement of his life as a priest and, having delivered the . .sermon,.he beckons tt Hester and’ Pearl. Supported by . I-Tester.,. he.mourits the scaffold With a supreme effort of his will, he brushes aside Roger Chilling- worth who tries to prevent him from- carrying out his purpose and to whom he sas – ‘Ha,tempter I Methin’ks thou. are too late! Thy power is not what it was ! With God’s help, I shall escape.thee 110W !“ It i tO he noted, however, that even at this stage his own strength is not adequate for the purpose he has in mind. He needs I-lester’s support to keep him firm in his purpose and he cries, “Hester Pi’ynne, come hither now and twine thy strength about me! lThy strength, Hester ! This wretched old man (Roger Chilling. svortl) i upposing it with all his might ? Come Hester. come !“ This nl.n needed I [ester’s strength to flee from the town, and hr needs her strength fyi the nnbler purpose of’ making his confession.

lll confession marks the climax of pathos in the story. He reveals hl breast to the astonished and half-comprehending crowd and then
upon the scaffold. He speaksrà Hester of’ the law he and she. ‘roke, and he dies with the praise of’GEFEo? his li.PL Th enQ,fj his man is truly tragic and ennobling. ‘.
(3) Rog Chllhingworth
Roger C hillingworth is described’ as a man of small stature, with a wrinkled face which shows a remarkable intelligence itt its’ teatures. There is a slight deformity in his body, olie shoulder of which is slightly higher than the other. He j rnr of unusual ehlectual gifts, given to much reading so that he allay be regarded q a figure of “the study and the cJoister.’ His cyc, . which have erved him to pore over many ponderous books, possess a strange3 lenetrating power to read the human soul. It is in his old age that lie marries Hester Prynne, a young girl. For him to hvc married iyoung girl was a blunder, but he realises the blunder wlit.n it s oti late.. When he meets Hester in the prison, he tells her tli;et, if tie had been wise, he should have anticipated that his marriage with lrr ‘would prove a failure. Having lived a cheerless and lonely life, he had longed for domestic bliss of some kind and had, for this reason, decided to marry Hester. When Hester murmurs that she Has greatly wronged him, he is fair enough to say, ‘We have wrong d each other. Mine was the first wrong, . when r betrayed thy Midding youth into a false and unnatural relation with my decay’.”
Daring the two years that Roger- Chillingworth has spent among ihe Indians, he has greatly deelopcd his medical skill. His stay dcrar’ng a tribe of people well-versed in the beneficial properties if herbs has made a better ‘physician of him than many with
• .,rnedicaj degree. He is able to soothe the sctearning child of Hester with one small dose, and with another dose he brings about a considertble ithprovement in Hester’s own condition when she ii suffering from nervous excitement in the prison.
Roger Chillingwortli is able to exercise perlectself.controj, When, arriving in Boston, he sees his wife standing on the scaffold,
his face darkens with a powerful emotion which, however, he Instantly controls by an effurt of his will, so that the convulsion that thight have shaken another man quickly subsides in him, His face enerally wears a calm and quiet expression \vhatever the feelings ithiri him. He looks cairn, gentle, and passionless even yhen there is deep malice or hcstihir)’ in his heart. This maim had originally been kindhearted and, in all his relations with the world, ‘a pure and upright man.” Bitt the adtilterous action of his wife transforms him into a malicious and revengeful individual. I-Toweer, his evenge is not iii the least directed against Hester. He believes thut for Hester, the ptinishmeiim mf liavirmg to ssear tile scat let leatter un her bosom is more than enough. And so that she may expérien.• all the torture of this painishin’ment, he would certainly’ ‘iiot like to ‘iii
–,…. -.-,
1. Chte, LV,

 

 

TH SCARLET LETTER

PRINCIPAL CHARACTh 11

an end to her lil’e but would like her to live. “Live, therefore ii bear about thy doom with thee, in theyes of men and worniti he says to her’. But the man, who has wronged him must pay i fullest penalty. When Flester refuses to name the partner of crime, he says that he shall seek this man and that he will find hitit “I shall see him rcmble. .. Sooner or later he must needs b mint And he speak-s with such intensity about this unknovn man ii Hester is bewildered and appalled. When he is about to leave Ii after the interview in the prison, he smiles at her. strangely. Hest asks him why he smiles at her and whether the promise that she Ii given to him not to disclose to the people that she is his-wile pro.e the ruin of her soul, he replies, with another smile, “Not soul. No, not thine ! ‘ What he means is that he ajirs at the rui not of Hester’s soul, but of the soul of her fellow-adulterer.
From the time of his interview with Hester in the prison, Rog Chillingworth begins to devote all his energies to the pursuit revenge. He shows such an inflexible will in this direction that recall the correctness of Hester’s words in comparing him to ii Black Man who haunts the forest. Subsequently Pearl calls him Black Man who has got hold of the minister and who may cat Hester. Having taken charge of th minister’s health, and hav intuitively become Suspicious about him, he begins to work Ujs the minister’s mind like the very devil. It is not only the physu’ ailment ol the minister that interests him, but lie is also strong moved to look into the character and qualities of his patient. Son of Hawthorne’s worst villains are men endowed with peculiar powc to read the hearts Gi others and to control them. Chillingwou skilled in the intimate delving of the physician, makes use of h abilities to gain access to Dirnmesdate’s secret. He employs for et ends an abnormally developed skill in the dissection of the sot He -strives to go deep into his patient’s bosom to pry into his recollo lions, and to probe everything with a cautious touch. Possessit all those attributes, which are necessary for reaching the inmo depths of the minds and hearts of ot her people, Roger Chillingwori finds his investigations bearing fruit. He seems to the people be showing such assiduity and devotion in looking after the ministr that the people begin to think that God has pecially sent this m to Boston for the good of the priest. Indeed, a rumour gains growl that “Heaven had wrought an absolute miracle, by transporting t’ eminent doctor of physic, from a German university, bodily throug’ the air, and setting him down at tht’ door of Mr. Dimmesdaks study.”

is fed wth infernal fuel, the smoke from which is responsible for his face becoming darker and darker. In short, the opinion becomes prevalent that Roger Chillingworth is. Satan’s emissary who has come to plot against the minister’s soul.
Having become certain regarding the nature of the guilty secret inthe mind of the minister, Roger Chillingworth becomes even more fierce in his revenge. Gradually he acquires a great hold -upon the minister’s mind. He becomes riot a spectator only, but a chief actor itt the minister’s interior vorld. He can play upon the minister’s mind as he chooses. He has come to know the spring that controls the minister’s machinery of thinking, so that he does not merely torment him but frightens him with a thousand phantoms of horrify. ing shapes, with their fingers pointing at his breast. And he has accomplished all this with such perfect subtlety that the minister, though he has a dim perception olsome evil influence watching over ‘him, is unable to understand what that influence is. Roger Chilling‘ orth becomes the arch-fiend who will show not the least mercy to his victim. The former aspect of an intellectual and a studious man, calm and quiet, has altogether vanished, and been replaced by an eager, searching, almost ftc, cc look though he tries, to conceal this
• expression with a smile. He itow becomes a stniking.examp!e of ‘a man’s faculty of transforming himself into a devil, ifhçwill.only for a certain period of time perfoim the devil s functions For seen full years Roger Chiliingsoi th sd utinises the mlnister5s tortured heart and derives his enjoyment from it,’ adding fuel ïô the fery tortures which the minister cxpesieiice. Rightly does Hestez charge the physician with cruelty anl with the spirit of persecution, in the following words “You tread behind his every footstep. You are beside him sleeping and wakit.c. You search his thoughts, You
– brtrrov and rankle iii his heart ! Vourciutch is on his life, and you cause him to’ die daily a living death.”t AT1dyet Roger Chilling-
worth, who is a great hypocrite also claims that through his constant e[lbrts he has been instrumental in saving the life ófhe minister. He says to Hester, “Tue richest fee that ever a physian earned from a monarch could. not have bought such care as I have wasted on th is miserable priest ! But for my aid, his life would have’ burned away in torments, within the first two ears after the perpetration of his crime arid thine “ But he admits to her that he has made the minister suffer what no mortal mali has ever suffered.: He admits That he had once a human heart bst -that he has becotn a fiend fOr the special torment of the minister.

The villainy of Roger Chilling’worth does not’ end -with h$s
ceaselessly inflicting mental and spiritual torture on ‘Arthur Dim.
But there are other people who hold a different view aboi, mesdale. Constantly spying on the minister’s movements and on
worth’s countenance has undergone a remarkable change S1flCC Ii , Boston by ship, and he succeeds in thwarting this plan, though l
Roger Chillingworth. These people believe, that Roger Chilling those of Hester, he has come to know ‘of their plans to flee fl-ow
started staying with Mr. Dimmesdale. According to them, l need not have taken the trouble of doing so because the minister ‘mis
expression had at first been calm, meditative scholar-like, but nos in the meanwhile made up his’mind t make a public confession of
there is something ugly and evil in his face which they had ‘a’ his guilt. When he tries to restrain the minister from making bib
previously noticed. These people have also begun to sy that il i. Chapter XIV.
fire in the Picns laboratory hd been brought from hell ai( 2. Ckapr XIV.
J Chapter IV.
2. Chapter IV.

 

 

 

 

120
HIE SCARLET LEttER

intenderl confession, it is certainly not for any good that he means towards the priest but to prevent him from slipping from his hands. EvertuaHy when the minister has made his confession, Chillingwortb says to him more than once; “Thou hast escaped me 1 Thou hast escaped me !“ There is no mercy in this villain’s heart even at this stage.
The piemature death of Arthur Dimmesdale is a great loss to Roger Chillingworth. Having been deprived in the pursuit and systematic exercise of revenge, he begins to languish. There being no more devil’s work on earth for him to do, he withers up and dies within a year of the death of the minister. His sin of revenge is greater than the sin of adultery committed by Hester and the minister. In Hester’s opinion, Chillingwort’s having married her, even though he knew full well that she did not ‘love him, was a greater crime than her wn crime of adultery. Speaking to herself about her husband, Hester says, “Yes, I hate him 1 He betrayed me 1 He has done me worse wrong than I did him.” The minister, speaking to Hester irs the forest, compares the physician’s crime with Hester’s and his own in the following words : “We are not, Hester, the worst sinners in the world. There is one worse than even the polluted priest ! That old man’s revenge has been blacker than my sin. He has violated, in cold blood, the sanctity of a human heart. Thou and I, I-lester, never did so 1”
However, Cven this blackest of villains performs before his death, an act that redeems him, though in an extremely- small degree, in our eyes. He bequeaths a large part of his property to Pearl
(4) Pearl
The fourth main character, Pearl, child of sin, is one straight allegorical personage in the book, but it may well be that, in the state of knowledge concerning parenta’ influences which prevailed in his time, Hawthorne thought her considerably more realistic than she
is. He studied her frum his own strange and exquisite daughter Una whom it may be doubted that either he or anybody else ever thoroughly understood. With all her shortcomings, Pearl still serves as a vehicle for some of his most characteristic s)mbolism
Pearl is perhaps the most unusual child in all literature. The number of illegitimate chldreu who are depicted in literature is very large, but there is something unique about this child. I-Iawthorne has shown great subtlety in tile -portrayal of Pearl. It must be admitted, however that this portrayal is not absolutely convincing. The child Pear-I remains unreal and visionary.
Pearl is the product olan evil deed, the child born of an illegal and immoral Union between Hester Prynne arid the Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale, Certainly, there is no ihysica] defect in the child. She has a perfect shape, and a natural dcxtcrit in the use of all her limbs. By virtue ot her physical appearajice, this child seems to have been meant to be the plaything of the angels. Her mother dresses

I’MIN(lPAt, CUARACTERS 121
In splend 141 lileilti which present a strong contrast to bLr OWfl 4rIc and II%IrI4 Irc
Pearl has very umplex nature. Her nature alipears to ‘arss both 1r’ ‘t Ii 111(l ‘M.’iciy. sts is not – reSpO1 to any kind discipline. ‘I here is tiiiicc lung wild and desperate 0) her. She
• girl of tot’lly IIiIJ)l’edIt table i’noads. In bringing her into exisi “ic, says thr aitilior, a gi cat law had been broken ; and the result
ii a creature wliosc elrtiieiits wcr perhaps beautif°l and lii-i-lliant, ‘I all in disorder. iicr physical appearance, as has heri indicated – ‘ove, leaves iwtliing to lie desired. She possesses a rich and h&ui lit beauty, rycs Iio.sessiuIg depth and glow, hair of a deep, glossy
‘wit. But her nature is most baffling. There is fire in her and )h,oughout her ; she sec’itts ‘the unpremeditated -offshoot -of a
sjonate rnoiiwluL’’ . –

Hester finds it impossible to exercise any kjd of contiol over
ii child, pearl’s behaviour often makes Hester doubtlul whether:
rl is a human child. SIte seems more of “an airy Stiic” Her ..iiiods change inexplicably and unaccountably. Sometimes she t.i,Wns, and clenches her little fist sometimeS she laughs, like a ii incapable of human rr’nss’. Occasionally, she 1s?aken by lit of grief arid sobs out her love for her mother in Ir’okçn words. IC does not have a normal child’s desire for the company of other u,ildren The author (Ic-scribes her s “a born outcast of the in. titile sorld and he as \n imp of til emt tern arid ri ‘duct
-t un, she had no right auiiing christened infants.’’ – ,1,:,)0d15 at Iiildren playing but never Iries to make their aCcl flt,aflcc. f ‘ime”of them try to approach her in order’ to tease her, she frightens ‘irn away with wild and irarutic gestures. She is the kind of child vIto can never make a friend but wisri s always “5owiflg the dcagon’.s ‘eth.” So baffled is Hester I rynne by Pearl’s odd lichswiour and
-utbreaks of temper that she uflera cries out “0 FatlIcE.iW Heaven, his this being which Iltave brought into
Among the pecuhiaritirs of this singular child, is the fascina.
-ion which the letter “A” on her mother’s bosom has for her. The cry first thing which Pearl noticed in her life was, Ot the mother’s mile, but the scarlet letter on the mother’s bosom. Andwhei’i Pearl grows big enough to be able to talk, she seldom ibrg-et.S this token.
one occasion, she amuses herself with flinging, – a handful if wild flowers, one I uric, am her rnothe’5 bosotn and lancing whenever she hits the scat’ let lutcr, On another occasion, lie experiences much merl’ifnrrit to see time scarlet letter exaggerated ad magnified in a mirror. ( )n yet another o,;casinn she gathers a iandful of prickly burrs arid arranges them slong the luncr of the icarict letter on the matern.il Ifl)s,)rfl. Orice she takes some eel.grass – – – md imitates, on her osv ii huisumn, the shape of the – letter “A’’ —the ‘letter “A’’ freshly green, ,,lstra(1 uti – irjt’t. Not nly does Pearl itlay games with the letirr’ ‘‘A’’, hut she also pesterS and harasses icr mother by asking her q’icst ions as to the – ‘eusiflg of hs letter and what it signifies. For insta lice, she says to her mother “But in good earnest now, mother dear, what does this scarlet letter

 

 

122 TH SCARLET LETTER

mean ?—and why dost thou wear it on thy b50 ?“ On anothrr o((asion, she tells her mother that tbc sunshine runs away from ho beacuse it is afraid of something on her bosom. She teHs her moth(i that she has heard from an old dame that the scarlet letter is thr Black Mtn’s mark on her, and that it glows like a red flame when she meets bin-i at midnight in the dark wood. Pearl’s pernetul questions aod comments add to Hester’s miser. by constanth’ reminding her of the stigma chat she wears. Indeed Pearl is a ver precocious child. She asks her. mother not only the reason why shr wears, the scarlet letter, but also asks her repeatedly why the ministur keeps his hand over his heart.
When, in the forest, Hester has cast aside the scarlet letter, Pearl feels greatly annoyed. She bursts into a fit of passion, gesti. culating violently, and her wide outbreak is accompanied with piercing shrieks. She is pacified only when Hester picks up thr letter “A” and restores it-to its place on her bosom.
Not only does Pearl constantly remind Hester of the stigma 0 her bosom, hut Pearl i herself a personifiDation of the letter “A”. The kind of clothes in which I-lester dresses the child atd the child’s whole appt arance inevtably remind a beholder of the token which JieSter is duc’,ncd to wear upon her person. Pearl is ‘‘the scarlet letter in another form. tIe scarlet letter endowed with life “ The mother herself has carefully contrived the resemblance between the appëai ance of the child and the letter “A”, so that we perocive an analogy between the object of’ her affection aod the emblem of her guilt and torture. Even the little Puritan children perceive this icseznblance and comment on it thus “Behold, verily, there is the woman of the scarlet letter and of a truth, moreover, there is the liktness of the scarlet letter running along by her side.”
There are a number of references to the elf-like quality of Pearl, and frequently it is suggested that there is more of evil in her than of good. She is called ‘-an airy sprite” who “would flit away with a mocking smile.” She is “a little imp, whose next freak might be to fly up the chimney.” Her mother calls her an ‘elfish child.” Tue neighbours, seeking vainly for the child’s paternity, conclude that “littJ Pearl was a demon off-spring.” Old Mr. Wilson wonders whether she is one of those ‘‘naughty elf or fairies whom we thought to hae left behind us in England,” and he says, “The little baggage bath witchcraft in her, I profess. She needs not an old woman’s broon-,tick to fly withal.” Roger Cbillingworth also comrni on this quality in the child ‘‘What, in Heaven’s name, is she ? Is the in-np altogether evil ?‘‘ Hawthortw himself tells us that there is witchcraft in little Peat l’s eyes, and that on her lace is ‘‘that naughty smile s bid1 made its expression frequently so elfith.” Again, he speaks of lit-s as “a fitful and fantastic little elf.” Mistress Hibbins suggests that Pearl is the daughter of “the Prince of th Air.”
Pearl’s attitude towards the minister and icr comments on him ate notewurt I ‘. The minister is almost afraid Of IrWetinig her. When, in the forest, Hester wants the minister to meet Pearl, lie Says to her,

PRtNCtpA CHARACTERS
“Thou canst not think how my heart dreads this interview, .aiid yearns for it.” Approaching hen- mother, Pearl asks why the mHii,Iri is sitting there. On being told -by Hegter that he waits there to wl
come her and that he loves her, Pearl asks, “Doth helove us? Will
– he go back with us, hand in hand, we three together, int tIle town ?“ And then she’goes on to ask he moth.r –if the minister will
always keep his hand over his heart. Vhsi t’h ‘sthiister kis’tis on her forehead, her reaction is strange. Shëruns’tr, the brook .,nd bathes her forehead in order to wash off thks: This actr, like so many of her other actions, shows Pearl’ ca-pr Io1 nd freakish natue. On the day of the election, Pearl refers to The minster as “: stran ge, sad [nan.” She cannot understand thrtmimjjsters odd beharviour In the dark night.time, she recall-s he held he,– hand alul her mother’s hand on the scaffold. In the deep forest, he talked with her mother and kissed her on her forehead But nos.’, bn, a sunny day, among all the people, he would not r.cogzii-se her and her mother, and they must show no sign of recoguising him: ‘A strange, sad man is he, with his hand always over his- heart”, the says. Eventually, however, Pearl softens towards the minister. Wh11, Oil the scaffold, where the minister has made a fubtic confessi(ir, e a’sks Pearl ilshe would kiss him, a spell seems to break and Pearl
– him. The “great scene of grief” has developed all her sVmpathjes and tears fall from her eyes upon hir father’s cheek 1 hr Sc tears
says the author, “were the pledge that Pearl would grow tip amid human joy and sorrow, and would be a wdh-ian in the orld instCa(l of doing battle with the world for ever –
Pearl cries for a red rose in the Governor’s garden. To the question Who made her, she replies that she was not made at all but
– “had heenpIuckecf by her mother OfT the bush of wild roses th:it grew by the prison.door.” She decorateher hair with powers. She is reflected in the pool in “all the brilliant picturesqueness of hen
F. beauty, in its adornment of flowes.’ She i a diflicuft hild, capri. cious, unintentionally cruel, unfeeling in hén,dcmand fr truth, but she has both the naturalness and the beauty’oltlie rose, and like the. rose she is a symbol of love arid promise. –
‘It is through Dimmesdale s expiat on that Pearl bcorns human being Her ultimate calvat’o, re s s iT- God, br het (itt as a woman in this life lies in her father s hands ‘iA’fien he confess< s his sin, Pearl is reclaimed from the realm .ofN.fjir’e and herwjldness and perversity wither away, Or perhaps brie could say that they arc blown away by the kiss of the love and reognltjç,z) that Dirnmn l ib exchanges with Pearl when they come togetlici- on the scaffold ii tlir
revelation scene : ‘Pearl kissed his lips. A spell was broken.’ whole significance of Pearl may he found in this Situation. Oiler (lie
sin of her birth has been admitted, a Issychic- translór1nalij, ciimt’ over her. Dirnmnesdale reveals himself, and the long sean-hi lot Ii., father comes to an end. A sense of certainty, even of so-iil ‘a.ii ii h now pøssible lbr Pearl.” In the ‘Conclusion,’ Ifawt boric a’no i that Pearl has at last adapted herself to society. Shi.’ iii.iki’5 i p,’ marriage and bears childre,p. She treats her mother with due ioia

I

 

 

124 THE SCARLEr LETTER

siduration. ‘Pearl stands, at.the end as an apotheosis of Puritan
Pearl’s function in the plot is signficant. She serves, as a kind of commentary. on both Hester and Arthur. To Hester she is not only a ray of light in the midst of the gloom of ‘life, but also a constant reminder of her stigma. Rightly does Hester say to Governor Bellingham, “God gave me the child’! She’ is my happiness f—She is my torture none the less ! Pearl punishes me toO !“ Pearl is the object of Hester’s deepest affection, but she is also an agent of retri. bution for Hester’s sin. She also sehes as an element of fantasy in the story. Being an improbable child, and because of her “elfishness” she adds to the “marvellous” quality Of th€ book and enhances the book’s “romantic” characrer
The over.all impression that Pearl produces is not favourable to tier. We cannot say that she is a sweet or lovable child. Axi eminent critic (1’.O. Matthiessers’) expresses the view that “the tedious reiteration of what she stands for betrays Hawthorne at his most barren “and that she is worth murdering.” Judging by other opinions, Pearl may well be ‘the most unpopular little girl in fiction.”
Pearl is pure symbol, the living emblem of the sin, a human embodiment of the scarlet letter. Her mission is to: keep Hester’s adultery always before her eyes, to pt’event her from attempting to escape its moral consequences. Pearl’s childish questiOns are fiendishly apt ; in socech and in action sh never strays from the control of her symbolic function ; her dress and her looks are related to the letter. When Hester casts the letter away .in the forest, Pearl forces her to reassume it by flying into an uncontrollable rage. Yet despite he undeviating arrangement of every circumstance which surrounds her, no single action of hers ‘ ever incredible or inconsistent with the conceivable actions of any child under the same conditions. Given the central improbability of her undeviating purposiveness, she is as lifelike as the brilliantly drawn children of Richard Hughes’s The Innocent Voyage.
“Pearl has for eyery reader some unreality She also has sorriething of the supernatural about her. She may even be the devil’s child Something sinister in her, something unpredictable, equals 1WT charm. She is sunshine ir her mother’s -hfe and yet her pouts and scowls, her frenzies and furies, are not the least of Hester’s desperations. 11cr behaviour in the forest, when she insists that Hester don again the letter she has cast off, has more meaning than it has at other time.”
Hawthorne’s view of Nature in The. Scarlet Letter is neither beneficent nor amoral. The forest is a ilace of’ immorality, the homr of the savage Indians, the place of the witches’ Sabbaths, the symbol of 1-lester’s mn al ‘wilderness ! The sun in the forest shines on Hester

PRINC[?AL CHARACTERS 125
orilywien she gives in to a lawless passion. That the sun immed iately envelops Pearl that the forest accepts her as one of its own, can .only-signi fy Pearl’s intrinsic lawlessness.
It is Pearl’s unconscious kinhjp,with Nature which prorripts her to reply perversely to the Reverend Mi’: Wihon’s question who had made her. Her reply that she had not been made at all but had been plucked by her mother off the bush of wild roses that grew by the prison.door expresses her symbolism rather than hrr character, like other parts of her conduct and sphh’

I

  1. Jo ‘i’hL American Renaissance.

 

 

28
A Critical Discussion
‘of the Introductory Chapter
“The Custom House”
THE CUSTOM HOUSE
Synopsis
This chapter, described as “Introductory to The Scarlet Letter”, contains a brief account of the author’s three years’ experience in a Custom House. The psincipal reason why the author wishes to talk of this experience is.to explain how,a large portion of the book called The Scarlet Letter;came into his possession, and thus to offer the proof of the authenticity of the narrative contained therein. But, in accomplishing the main purpose, he has also thought it fit to gsve a faint representation of a mode of life not described by anyone before, together with some of the characters that were invjived in it, among whom Hawthorne himself was one. –
irhe Cusorn House to which the author refers was situated in his native town of Salem which was a busy poi’t half• a century before. The author was the Surveyor, or the Chief Executive, of the Custom House. The Custom House officers who worked under him were aged gentlemen who were most of the time sleeping in their -old- fashioned chairs but who might occasionally be heard talkingto gether in feeble voices. T’his old town of Salem, says the author, had a powerful hold on his affections. His attachment to the town was probably due to the deep and aged roots which his anstors had struck into the soil.
The author then goes on to say that it ws nearly two centuries before that the earliest of his ancestors had settled down in. the wild settlement which subsequently developed into a city. That first ancestor was a soldier, legislator, judge he was ruler in the church ; he had the Puritanical traits, both gocsd. and evlt. He was a bitter persecutor. Hic son, too, inherited the persecuting spirit, and became well-known for witch-hunting. The, author feels ashamed of the cruelties and misdeeds perpetrated by those ancestries of his. ,, . .
If those ancestors were to come back to life at4 leaz that a
– descendant of theirs had. taken to writing story bg0k5, they would feel shocked. They would ask what.kind..of.a business in life it was
,.,. . ‘.ctt ‘.
129

 

 

TIlE SCARLET IEITER

A CRITICAL DISCUSSION OF THE INTRODUCTORY CHAPTER 131

It) WI ite stories. This descendant’s calling would seerri te herc nciihr to h a mode of glorifying God nor a mode of being s-rvicea ble to mankind. And yet scorn him as they might, certain strong traits of their nature were to be found in this descendant also.
After -the death of those earnest and energetic ancestors to whom reference has been made, the race continued to live in Salem:
always in respectibi1ity’; never disgraced by a single unworthy member ; but seldom or never, after the first two generations, perf orming any memorable deed. Gradually, they sank almost out of sight. From father to son, for about a hundred years, they followed the sea. It is for this reason that the spell of Salem survives for the author, and it survives so powerfully as, if this native town of his were an earthly paradise. This deep attahmeni of his for his native town seems to him, however, something unhealthy. Human nature cannot flourish, just as a potato will not flourish, if it Is planted and re-planted for too long a time in the same soil. It is lucky that the author’s children have had other birth.places and shall strike their roots into other soil.
The author then recalls the day when, with the President’s commission in his pocket, he entered the Custom House as its Chief Executive Officer and was introduced to the corps of gentlemen who wert to assist him in the performance of his duties. These gentlem en were, most of them, aged. They were ancient sea-captains, for the most part, who, after their many arduous voyages, had finally taken up employment in the Custom House. Two or three of their uumber, being gouty and rheumatic or perhaps bed-ridden, nevçr made their appearance at the Custom House during a large part of the year. As a result of the author’s representations, some of’ them were compuls orily retired. The majority of these officers were Whigs. The author himself was a Democrat. For this reason, he found, on his arrival there,. an expression of fear in the faces of most of them,. a fear of being “guillotined”. They knew well that they should have long ago given place to younger men better fitted to perform the duties of their offices. However, the author did not think it fit tG interfere with their continuance in their positions so that they soon discovered that the new Surveyor had no great harm in him. It was thus with light hearts and with the happy conscience of being usefully employed that these good old gentlemen continued to perform in a most purfunctory manner the various duties of office. They made great fuss about little matters, while unable to detect serious cases of of smuggling. However, the author grew to like them all and ‘even found it pleasant to hear them chatting and exchanging jokes of past generations.
The father of the Custom House was a certaib permanent Inspector who was a man of about eighty and certainly one of the most wonderful specimens of old age. He had a thorougly healthy and wholesome body and still retained the capacity, at that extreme . age, to enjoy all, or nearly all the pleasures which h had ever aimed at. He was, in truth, a rare phenomenon ; perfect from one point of view, and shallow from every other. He had no soul, no heart, no

mind ; he had only instincts. He was a glutton and was very fond of talking about the good dinners that he had attended in his time.
Then there was the Collector, a gallant old General who, after brilliant military career, had come to the Curom House, twenty years before, to spend there the declining period of his life. He too was nearly eighty years of age ; but’ he was burdened with many infirmities. He could not walk without the assistance of a servant, an it was very slowly and painfully that” he could ascend the steps of the Custom House. His countenance was mild and kindly. l3stt it seemed that he was yet capable of flinging off his infirmities and starring Itfe once more as a warrior. Athong his traits of character was a fondness for the sight and fragrance of flowers. He seemed to have a youpg girl’s appreciation of the floraltribe. This brave old General usedo sit beside the fireplace, whilt the Surveyor (that is, the author) was fond of standing at a distance and watching thGeneraVs quiet and almost slumbrous countenane.
There was one man in the Custom House, the observation of whose character gave to the author a new idea of talent. Th15 i-nan’s gifts were emphatically those of a man of business. He was, prompt. acute, clear-minded. He had an eye that saw through all perplexities. He had been brought up in the Custom House from his boyhood. The Custom House was therefore his proper field of activity. ‘$ecause of his abilities, he was valued as much’ by the merchàflts ‘ as by his colleagues. He was a man of perfect integrity. He was thoroughly adapted to the situation which he held: Men of this kind, “ays the author, are rare.
These were the people in whoe company the author found himself now, alter having lived for some linac under the influence of an intellect like Emerson’s after having talked with Thoreau at Walden, after his fellowship with the dreamy brethren of Brook Farm. In some ways he found the change of companions and of environmen* not altogether unwelcome. Literature had ceased to be of much consequence to him in this environment. He cared not for books at this period of life. He did not care even for Nature. It seemed that a certain faculty in him was suspended and lay inanimate within him. However, he was dimly aware that his stay in the Custom Iousc was a brief stage in his career and that soon another change would occur in his life.
As a Surveyor of the Revenue, the author was as-competent ‘a’s he was expected to be. True that be was a si-san of thought, fanc’ and sensibility, but even such a. man can be a successful rnaa of affairs if he takes the necessary trouble. His .feilaw.officer, and the merchants and sea.captairss.with. whom his official duties’ brought him into Contact, looked at him only asa governmentofficer,aJw him in no other character. Nooc ofthcm had probably.readLa page of his writings or even known that he was a wriees of stories. Occasionally the Naval Officer wouldengage him in’ a’ litrars’ dis. cussion. The Collector’s junior clerk, tao-, used: now arid thii to speak to him of books. That was theonlyiiteraty aspect of hi Iii’ at the Custom House. .

 

 

THE SCARLET LETTER

A CRITICAL DISCUSSION OF THE INTRODUCTORY (;IIAPUIt III

‘lite author then goes on to describe a large room in the second storey of the Cu;tom House. Heaps and heaps of official documents and paers encumbered this room. One day, poking into the heaps of rubbish in that room, the author came upon a small package which aroused his curiosity. The package contained certain documents of a private nature. They were written by one Jonathan Pue who had at one time been a Surveyor at this Custom House. But the object that most drew the author’s attention, in the mysterious package, was apiece of fine red cloth with traces of gold embroidery about it, This piece of scar1t cloth, on careful examination, assumed the shape ofa letter. It was the capital letter “A”. By an accurate flteasurnsent each limb of the letter proved to be precisely three inches arid a quarter in length. It had been intended as an ornam ental article of dress, but the author could not understand how it was to be worn arid what rank it indicated. And yet it strangely nteregted the author.
His eves fastened themselves upon this scarlet letter, and he found it difficult to take them off it. It seemed to him a mystic symbol with some deep meaning in it, though he could not irnmed iasely understand what it was. He wondered whether the letter might be one of those decorations which the white man wore in order to attract the attention of Indians. Under this impression he placed it ott his breast but, on doing so, he experienced a sensation of burning heat as if the letter was nt of red cloth, but of red.hot iron. He shuddered and let it fall upon the floor.
Absorbed in his contemplation of the scarlet letter, the author had neglected to examine a small roll of dingy paper, around which it had been twisted. On opening it, he found a reasonably complete explanation of the whole affair recorded by the pen of Jonathan Pue. There were several fuiscape sheets containing many particulars regarding the life and conversation of one Hester Prynäe, who appeared to have been a noteworthy personage in her time. She 4sad flourished during the period between the early days of Massac husetts and the close of the seventeenth century. Aged persons, allyc in the time of Jonathan Pue, and from whose oral testimony the 2arratkre had been made up, remembered her in their youth, as a very old woman of a stately and solemn aspect. It had been her habit to move about the country as a kind of voluntary nurse, doing whatever miscellaneous good she might ; taking sipon herself, likewise, to give advise in all mitters by which means she gained from many people the affection and respect due to an angel, but was looked upon by others as an intruder and a nuisance. Reading thr manuscript further, the author found the record of other l ings anti the sufferings of this singular woman, an account of which has hen given by the author in the story called The Scarlet LUer, the main facts of which, he says, are aurhorised and authentjv at d by the document of Jonathan Pue. However, in dressing up the tale and imagining the motives and modes of passion that in. fluenced the characters in it, the author has not confined himself within the limits of Pue’s rnanu ript. On the contrary, he has ‘allowed himself as much licence as if the facts bud been entirely

of his own invention. What he insists upon is the authentiir ‘if the outline.
It seems to the author that the ghost of Pue has exhorted hint to bring the story of Hester Prynne to the–notice of the public. Accordingly, says Hawthorne, he has spent much thought on die story which became the subject of his meditations for many art hour at the Custom House. But he found that the atmosphere of the Custom House was most unfavourable to his intention of bringing the story before the public eye. He felt his intellect paralysed by the narrow and cramping environment. He captured some of his intellectual energy by seeking the invigorating company of Nature. but in vain, he found that his capacity for deep thinki ng or intense feeling had departed from him. He had ceased to be a writer of essays and tales, and had become a good Surveyor of the Customs. That was all. The effect of public Office on his mind and character had proved to be disastrous. He was led to the conclusion that a Custom House Officer, of long continuance, could hardly be a very praiseworthy or respectable personage. He begast to grow melancholy and restless. He tried to calculate how much longer he could stay in the Custom House, and yet go forth as a man. It became his greatest apprehension that he was likely to grow grey and decrepit in the Surveyorship, and become such another animal as the old Inspector. This was a very depressing prospect for a man who felt it to be the best definition of happiness to live througho ut the whole range of his faculties and sensibilities.
Providence had meditated better things for Hawthorne than he could possibly imagine himself. A remarkable event of the third year of his Survcyorship was the election of General Taylor to the Presidency. This election was the triumph of the Whig Party, while Hawthorne was a Democrat. Hawthorne was shocked to find that the Whigs were fired by a fierce and bitter spirit of revenge against the Democrats. The Democrats had been liberal in their out look. They knew how to spare, and even when they struck, it was with out ill-will. But with the Whigs it was different. Hawthorne found himself to be the first casualty of the new administration. It was not an agreeable experience for him, bu he realised that even a serious misfortune brought its own remedy and consolation with it if the sufferer made the best of the accident which had befallen him. In his particular case, the consolation was close at hand. He had been feeling tired of his office and had entertained vague thoughts of resignati3n. His was therefore the case of a person who entertains an idea of committing suicide and who meets the good fortune of being murdered. In the Custom House, as before in the Old MITIW. he had spent three years, long enough to have lived in an iinitatiiiI state, doing what was really of no ad’.-antage nor delight to human being, and withholding himself from the kind of ,,l lice could have given him some satisfaction. Although he had ni t’rrrt an active Democrat, he was regarded by the Whigi as an enemy citil was duly fired from office. The press took up his case with gteas vigour but he was not interested in this press campaign on hi’, lili*l1. He felt that everything was for the best. He bought ink, paper, pens,

 

 

131

THE SCARLET LETTER

oicncl iis long disused writing-desk, and became again the Jitrary mar that he had formerly been.
cow it was that the manuscript of Jonathan Pue occupied hi thoughts more fruitfully Of courSe it took ham some tame before h could bring his intellectual machinery to work upon the story ith dn atifactory result Although he found the story to be stern a”d ‘ornhre yet he felt happier while going through its gloom, shari at any time since he had quittedthe Old Manse. What he ‘stoic at this period of his life may be described as the “Posthumous Papers of a Decapitated Surveyor.” –
The life of the Custom House lay like a dream behind him The old Inspector was overthrown and killed by a horse; otherwise he would have certainly lived for ever. He and all those aged ptrsonae who Ssorked with hini became shadows in his memory whiteheaded and wrinkled images. He became completely disconn ected from the merchants who had seemed to occupy so important a position in the world. Soon his old native town would also1ose much of its reality. The author wishes peace to all the world and forgiveness to his enemies, because he finds himself “in the realm of ‘quiet.”
CritaJ Comments ( us
,/‘
The C,sai.om House is a piece of autobiography covering three years of Hawt&,rne’s flhe, the period when he• worked as a Surveyor of the Revenue in his native town, Salem, The author here gives us his reminisceacofhjoffjciaI life. These were by no means the happiest years ofIii life; on the Contrary, a Jceeñ feeling of discont entmerlt with the kind oflif that he had ó lead as a Surveyor is apparent throughout the chapter. In view of the severe attack on the way in which ‘sork at the Custom House was done during those days Hawthornes skeh a.s he tdls us in. his preface to the second edition of Tk.e ScqrW LeLUr,, created an unprecedented excitement in the respectable cornm’.rnLty irnmediatiy aràund him.” This excitement, he says, ‘could hardly have been more violent, indeed, had he burned down the (a.ti Otis House” But a re ceadtng of this sketch convinoed the autht* t1ist the nly remarkable features of the sketch are its frank and enujn” gtlöd hLmopr and the genera] accuracy with which he ha c’mveyed has SiflCCre impressions of the charactrra therein described Aftfrugh this sketch has very little to do with the storyof The &r1t Lttkr, yet it must be regar‘ ded as an important and interesting docunapni
The first thing tlat strikes us ab’. this sketch is Hawthorne’s power of delirieatirg .pharacter. The Inspector, the Custom OffIcers, and the Collector have 411 been portrayed in such a reala tile thtough comic mnne that we are made to feel that we have come into actual contact with them All these figures havi’ 1 ecti fndde to live bef’orc us Indeed the vividness and the life likr’n.-ss of these portraits are marvellous in spite of their satirical purpose
Seiondly Hawthorne showr his talent for a graphic description of places and scenes ‘1 he bristling wharf of Salem the building

A CRITICAL DISCUSSION OF THE INrRoDucToRy CHAPTER 135
of the Custom House, the particular room in which the author is supposed to have discovered Jonathan Pue’s manuscript, the moonl ight falling upon the various articles in a familiar room, have all been described in such a vivid manner and with such wealth of detail that we gin to feel that we have paid an actual visit to all these places. ‘J
Anothr”striking feature of this sketch is the humour and the irony, which is never very bitter, with which the author has treated his subject. This sketch is the best of his works in the comic kind, and shows Hawthorne’s satirical wit. The aged Custom Officers have, for instance, been described thus “More frequently, on ascending the steps, you would discern a row of venerable figures, sitting in old •fashioned chairs, which were tipped on their hind legs back against the wall. Oftentimes they were asleep, bitt occusion ally might be heard talking together, in voices between speech and a snore, and with that lack of energy that distinguishes the occupants of almshouses, and all other human beings who depend for subsist ence on charity, on snonopolised labour, or anything else, bitt their own independent ezertions”. Referring to his termination of the services of some of these aged officers and their subsequent death, the author observes : “They were allowed, on my representation. to rest from their arduous labours, and soon afterwards—as if their sole principle of life had been zeal for their country’s service—withd rew to a better world”
The great fuss that these gentlemen made about little matters and their total incapacity to detect serious case of smuggling is also described by the author iii a most amusing manner. Amusing also is the desesiption of the conversation of these individuals : “They seemed to have flung away all the golden grains of practical wisdom, which they had enjoyed so many opportunities of harvesting, and most carefully to have stored their memories with the husks.”
There is much humour and irony in the delineation of the Inspector who was, “one of the most wonderful specimens of winter- green that you would be likely to discover in a lifetime’s search” Age and infirmity, we are told. had no business to touch this man. It was the careless security of his life in the Custom House, on a regular income, that had contributed to the preservation of his phys ical health and wholesome spirit. But “the original and more potent causes lay in the rare perfection of’his animal nature, the moderate proportion of intellect, and the very trifling admixture of moral and spiritual ingredients.” The author goes on to say that this man “possessed no power of thought, no depth of feeling, n’s troublesome sensibilities,” Here is another comic remark about ihr Inspector “He had been the husband of three wives, all long sitter dead ; The father of twenty children, most of whom, at every agr hf cbHdhood, and maturity, had likewise returned to dust.” l 1,ttr of the domestic tragedies the Inspector lisd nor lost his sunny
osition ‘‘One brief sigh sufficed to carry off the entire 1ii,dru I hese dismal reminiscences. Tue next moment, he was “
for sport as any unbreached infant.” Furthermore, ilti iieti w,i very fond of recalling the good dinners which hr ii.tI ,aiu.el.’l

 

 

136

‘HE SCARLET LETTER

the course of his life. ‘‘His reminiscences of good cheer, however .iiici’n the date of the actual banquet, seemed to bring the savoir of pig or turkey under one’s very nostrils. There were flavours on his pa’ate, that had lingered there not less than sixty or seventy years and were still apparently as fresh as that of the mutton-chop which hr had just devoured for his breakfast.” This kind of writing shows Hawthorne as a master of comic irony.
The contrast between the Inspector and the Collector is notew orthy. This contrast is based on the proposition that man’s inner nature can he more real than his outer life. Hawthorne obviously believes that the Collector’s inner life makes him a better man than the Inspector who is much more alive physically hut does not seem ever to have used his mind for reflection or meditation.
,T.. ke.ling of complacency. wiiic “ :‘; e..erises government officials is also exposed to ridicie by the author
“Art effect—which I believe to be observable, more or less, in every individual who has occupied a positied—is, that, while he leans on the mighty arm of the Republic, his own proper strength departs from him.” Being certain that he will get his monthly salary from the government, a govcrnrnent employee has no incentive to woric hard : “Why should he worl for his living here, or go to dig gold in California, when he is soon to be made happy, at monthly intervals, with a little pile of glittering coins out of Uncle Sam’s pocket ?“
Some of the generalisations made by Hawthorne in this chapter contain sound sense. For instance, he observes “Externally the jollity of aged men has much in common with the mirth of children In one case, however, it is real sunshine ; in the other, it more resembles the phosphorescent glow of decaying wood.” And, again, ‘There are few uglier traits of human nature than this tendency—. which I now wiLnessed in men no worse than their neighbours—to grow cruel, merely because they possessed the power of inflicting harm.”
The real interest of this chapter, however, centres round Hawt horne’s own mind nd personality. What stands out most in this study of his own mind is his tolerant and .nerous nature, his keen perception of the ludicrous aspece, of human nature, his attachment to his native Salem, his total incapacity for creative work during the years of his .Survcyorship at the Custom House, his keen regret at having to live in an environment most unfavourable to the developm nvnt of his literary faculties, his graceful acceptance of the termir tktion of his services as a government official, etc.
Says Henry James ‘This sketch of the Custom House is one of lic most penlct of Hawthorne’s compositions, and one of the most gracefully and humorously autobiographic.”
Note.. The relevance of The Cstrn house to The Scarlet Letter is discussed elsewhere in this book,

.29
A Critical Analysis of the Plot of
“The Scarlet Letter”
Synopsis
The founders of a new colony or settlement have always rec ognised it among their earliest practical zieedstd allot a portion of land to be ueed as a cemetery, and another portion as the iite of a prison. Accordingly, thr f*idrr5 of the city of Boston had built the first burial-ground round about the grave Of Isaac Johnson, aDd the fist prison-house somewhere in the. ..ncighbo.urhood of Corn.I-Iiil. Some fifteen or twenty years after the tosnof Boston came into existence the wooden jail was already marked with weather stains, and the rust on the huge irori.woik of its oaken door looked almost ancient. Before this ugly structure, and between it and the wheel- track of the street, was a grass-plot rrrtich’bvergrown with unsightly vegetatIon. But, on one side of the gàte,altnost at the threshold was a wild rose bush covered in this month of June with fragrant and beautiful flowers which were not mised by the prisoner as he went in or by the condemned criminal as he came out to meet his
doom. ,,. . ..
According to a legend, this rose-biih had.prung up uer the footsteps of the sainted Anne Hutchinson,.as she entered the prison.
door. One of the flowers of this rose-l)ush, says t.he awhnr,,tnay have the effect of relieving the dark close ofthe”talc.pfhunia1t frailty and sorrow” which he is going to relate..
Cr5I’caI Comments I
The story has a grim opening. The nt’i’nn of a prison-hotne
and a cemetery is not only depressing butfrihtes?ng. -Tne yI trot r
to the wild rose-bush, however, rëlitv this gi-imness and has s
refreshing effect upon the reader.1 The belii-f-thac the rosr-h,hj
1. This is one of the numerous eontrats in the flO(’t—ll prieoittiiii’ n one hand and a rose-bush on the other.

CHAPTER I The Prison-Door

137

 

 

1311
THE SCARLET LETrER

had sprung up under the footsteps of the sainted Anne Hutchins00 renIs to have a symbolic significance.
The author psychologically prepares us br the stress and strain of the story telling us that it is a “tale of human frailty and Sorrow.”

CHAPTER II

The Marktt..p1ace

Synops5
On
a certain summer morning, about two centuries ago’, a fairly large mjmber of the inhabitants of Boston collected on the grass.pjot before the prison.house. The expression on the faces of the crowd was rgic1 and grim. It was apparent that these people were waiting forsame culprit to emerge from the prison in order to receive . sver punishment There were several women in the crowd. II was evident that these women felt a peculiar interest in whatever peial iflfiiction was in store for the criminal.
– The cOflvertion of the members of this crowd showed that these Pcopleere, waiting for a female criminal of the name of
este Pr n e. In the Opinion of eoftfeemaje members of t eçrowc, fester Prynne had been awarded a light punishment by the znagitratcs. JIester Prynne, it appeared, had been guilty of scandalous conduct for which the appropriate punishment was death. At the very least, the magistrates should have ordered the branding of Bcster ‘rynne’s forehead with a hot iron. Merely being sentenc ed to wcar a certain mark on the bodice of her gowa was no punis1nn’ritc-.
‘I’hç Iqor of the jail was flung open and there emerged yg_
ciryng in .herrms a child, a gjj2f some thrc_month’s
. With aurning blush, and yet a hgyj.Jle anWa dtfiant jji hi Woman looked at the townspeople. On the breast 01 her gown, n fine red cloth surrounded with an elaborate embroidery and fantasfic florsJ of gold-thread, appeared the letter “A”. The with a figure of perfect elegance. She had dark and buritIi,, 1r and a- face which was not onlybeaufjt Impressive Her appearance was characterjd by a certain dignity vlii1iv her the look of a lady. And never had Hester Prynne app eared more lady-like than as she came out of the prison. Those who saw her were astonjhed to see how her beautv e1ieved, to a lar’e extent, the misfortune and the disgrace which had befallen her. jJie scarlet letter “A” fantastically embroidered on the bodice of her gown, produced a strange effect on the behoIlers. It seemed that in cmbroidring this letter, Hester had not only shown her skill at the needle but had made a proud show of what the magistrates had intended for a punishment
The beadle’ who accompanied Hester announced that Hester would be placed on the scaffold where everybody would be able to
i. The scene of tho story is laid in Bostofl in the seventeenth century.
2. A beadle is a lid of ofticer in a church

‘lifE PLOT OP THE SCARLET LETTER 139
have a clear of her and of the scarlet lCtter stitched n her bosom. Accordingly preceded by the beadle, and, followed •by the crowd of people Hester Prynne cet forth towards the market place where stood the saffoId’ This caffo1d was the platfOrm of the pil)ory.2 Hester Prynne was tOjJjjor a diiratio f t ree hours upon the piatfornn and to display herself to the surrounding mu t, tude, Her Sn Wa obvious. ThJpy inher arms was, a produr of that sin the Sifl of adultery, syrobolised by tht scarlet letter “A’. The unhappy Woman Sustained herself as bet as she could under the heavy weight of a thousand merciless eyes, all fixed on her, and all concentrating their attention on her boom. It was almost intolerable. But ffester had strengthen her mind sufficiently. tor face the contempt of the crowd
Although esr Prynne was experiencing at th8 time all the bitter disgrace of her situation yet her mind was croded by recDllections and memories of the past, memories of her childhood., her school.ays, her childish quarrels a,d the little domestic traits of her maiden years. Standing o that 1nise,abje platform, she again saw her .ptive Village, in Old En land, and her paternal home. She saw he , too, with the look of anxious love which it always wore in her remerrbrance ‘ She aw her own face, shining with girlish beauty. And she sw another ( race of a man adaeed age a pale th1n face with eyes dim and beared by the lamplight in Which they had pored vé many Huge J books. Hester Prynne recalled that this màñ Wa slightly deformed, with one shoulder slightly higher than th Othr. And then caüie back to her mind the market-place of Bton, with all the towns- c people assembled and looking sternly at her with an infant in her arms, and letter “A” in scarlet, fañtatica1iy embaojdeed withgold thread, Upon her som Nester Prynne clutched the child to her breast and touched the scarlet letter with her finger, to make sure that the infant the shathc were real. Yes, these were her
realities. All else had vanished, –
Critkal Ceniment
In thi chapter we are introduced to Hester Pynne, One Of the principal character in the drama that is tà unfold itself in the Couise Of thç Story, Although we are not told ir’dear terms what her Sin ws W arC ieft in no doubt about its natje he letter A” stands for adultery Guilty of the sin of adulte;she has ën sentenced lo a Punishment that, in the Opinion of the
of people, is rather lenient She has to stand on the platform of the pillory for while and she has to wear the lecter’•’A” on the bodice of her go Peraanent1y A passing refeenc’ is ade to the Reverend ?(aster immesda1e who will be found to be arioilirr important c lracte i the story. A veiled reference is made t ‘lie
1. A scaffold i a raia platform
2. A pillory i fraO,QWork On which an offender is epol ridicule end dsgra6

 

 

THE SCARLET LETTER

‘‘t. I

(Irfornicil figure of the study and’thè’ doisteriv,’ th third important cliara(’tcr who has not yet been named here.
Already we feel a deep pity for Hester Prynne. in view of the punishment that has been imposed upon her. And we feel’ this pity in spite of our realisation of the serious nature of her sin. This feeling of pity is due partly to the callous attitude of the crowd, especially the female members of the crowd, partly to her’ brave endurance of her disgrace, and partly to her legant and lady. like figure and her unusual beauty. Part of the pity is perhaps due also to the l’act that this woman carries a three-month baby in her arms.
The early severity of the Puritan character has been so com• niented upon by the author that we mentally ;rrevolt against it. It was the period when a slugg, servant or an Undutiful child was publicly whipped in order to be corrected. An Antrnomiap, a
/ Quaker, or is Similar other person was driven ath stipes into the 7 brest. A wman, believed to be a witch, was doomed to die upon
the ‘gallows,. ,/A – transgressor could expect no sympathy from the crowd of the Puritan by-standers, as he or she stood on the scaffold. Nor was th ciilprl allowed to hide his or her face while he or she stood on tht atform of the pillory. To this crowd, adultery with its conseqi.sent ñiothcrhood was the deepest sin in_ the most sacred quality of human life
The memories and reminiscences, which crowd in the mind of Hester l’rynne as she stands on the platform, give ps the necessary background of this oman She was born an Old England and had subsequently migrated to America. The details of this migration, however; have not been furxhed. Nor have we been told at this stage the tature of th relationship between hqr ‘and the aged scholar,5 a rccollccdon of whom mingles with her other recollec-’ tjotis.
CHAPTER III
Recognition
SynopsiS

Standing on the scaffold, Hester Prnne discerned in the midst of the crowd a figure whom she recognised to be no other than her husband who had been missing for the last two year. Tier recogni.l ion of him had an electric effect upon her. The une’xpected pres ence of this man in the-. crowd greatly added to her distress. She could not understand how he happened to be there.
As for the man, who vas a stranger to this place, tie too was astonished to see Hester Prynne standing on the scaffol exposed to public shame. On inquiring about the reason for her standing,
5. Au ontinomian is a person who b1ieves that the ‘ora1 law is not, binding on Christians.
2., Qiinler—a member of a certain religious sect.
3. He is the man to whom Hester was rnrried.

itin PLOT OF THE SCARLET LETTER , 141
I’;
there, this mart, who called himself Roger Chillinwot1i, teakg that the woman had leen guilty of the sin of adultery and, that, s’ltho’ugh the penalty for this transgression was death, site had becp e.nte’ic,d to a lenient punishment She, was to stand only for-a paceof.tli.ree hours on th platform of the pillory and thereafter,: for tlim, rest of her life, to wear a mark of shame (the letter “A”)upón.jr bosom
A few moments later a voice was he,td’ from’ the balcony situated directly’ over the platf nfl on whit!1 I1eter -Pryrine stotid.
Ii was the voice of John Wilson, the oldest clergyman ‘Ofl3oston.
-John Wilson made a reference to the ‘silefiesndb1ackflesof I-fester Prynne’s sin and announced that’ the. ‘Reverend Mr. l)irhm nesdale would now/address her with a ‘iey.:to finding out the partner of her sin. (The Reverend Mr. Dimmnesdale stepped forw ard and, addressing Hester Prynne, called upon her to speak out the name of her fellow-sinner and, fellow-sufferer. Although the ministet had spoken in a powerful and persuasive voice, Hester simply shook her head. The Reverend Mr. Wilson then spoke to her and exhorted the woman not: to – transgress “beyond the limits of heaven’s mercy.’3 He told her that if she spoke out the man’s name andilshe was genuinely.repentan of her misdeed, she might be allowed to take the scarlet letter off her breast. Hester ,Prynne said, “Never !“ A voice from the crowd then spoke to-Hester and
Hester replied’ that she would not speak out the name and tha-tTher child must seek a heavenly father as it would never know a-n earthly one.,
Finding Hester adamant in her purpose, the et1er clergyman addressed to the multitude a discourse on sin, in all-its branches, but with repeated references to the disgraceful letter, “A”. A little later, Hester Prynne was led back to prison.
Crit,WI Comments
The story now moves rward – Hester Prynne’s lost husband appears on the scene, (although we are nnt explicitly told about the ‘relationship between Hester Prynneand the ‘nan who has just arriv ed in the town and is a stranger thére)’ The features of this man show a remarkable intelligence in -him. ‘ He has a slightly deformed figure, and the deformity is immediatly rcogni’sed by I-fester’. He is described as a man chiefly accustomed: to’ look inward, a rn,n to whom external matters are of little ‘value arid sfgmuifican e, unless they bear relation to something with-in ;th–r’r*itid, He feels agi’tated to see Hester Prynne standing on the platlorrne.,cposeti. to public shame, but he immediately controls his ,agitat’ii On learning the sentence passed against her, he observes: “A wis ntence ! Thus she will be a living sermon against-sin, until the ignominous letter Jegrive I upon her tombstone –
Three other characters are introduced tout, in tLis ch;ittrr.-, Governor Bellingham, the Reverend Mr. Wii-ga and the Revrirrjrl Mr Dimmesdale The Reverend Mr Wi1t speaks to lb srt tit1i all the self.-ighteousness and the indignation expected from a r?etgy

 

 

142

THE PLOT OF THE SCARLET LETTER

THE SCARLET LETTER
mais of his kind and eventually delivers a sermon to the crowd on the subject of sin with speial reference to adultery.
This chapter also tells us how Hester had ot separated from her husband two years before. She appears in t is c aptertohea woman of a strongirpose. She not only withstands ‘the shock caused to her by
/ crowd but categorically refuses to
7 . She appears truly to be a woman of spirit who, despite tne agitation and tumult going on in her mind, is able to face the terrible situation bravely. Her attitude makes__Pimesdalelir murmur
V) the followiflg words:”She will not speak! Wondrous strength and I’ jenerosityofa woman s heart She will not speak’
The scarlet letter has already come to have a symbolic signific ance in Lhestory. When Hester is led back to prison, the author observes :“It was whispered by those whopeered .after her, that t scarlet )etter threw a lurid gleam along the dark passage-way of the
interior.”

/

CHAPTER IV
The Interview

Synopsi
Afterber, return to.the prison,Hester Prynne was found to be in a tatef great nervous excitement. Her baby too seemed to be extremely ‘ell. In view of the condition of mother and daughter, the jailer thght it fit to send for happened to be no other than’ ‘Hesters.h.t1sbanLj who :e name was announced as
Chillin wo tb. The physician administered to the child a draught w c immediately proved efcacious, although Hester had a vague suspicion that her husband wanted to poison the child. He gave another draught to Hester, and this too proved to be very soothing. lie toldHester that she should not have the least suspicion that he wanted toppison her or her little daughter. He said that the scarlet letter that’ the wore on her bosom was enough punishment for .,her:; He went on to say that he could not understand why she had degraded herself to the Cxtent of committing adultery. lie admitted, however, that being deformed and old, he eld not have expected any love from- her and that, in view of this, it was no’ very surprising that she should save commjttd that sin
Hester reminded him that she had been quite frank with him at the time of marriage and that she had told him that she felt no love for him. But she admitted that she had greatly wronged him by her sin (of adultery). The physician replied that he Ld wronged her too and that, in fact, his was the first wrong. He then asked her the name of the man in this sorry affair. Hester Pryrine refused to tell him the name.
The physician there-upon said that nothing could prevent his finding out who he was and that, when he had discovered who he was, he would not spare him : “Thou wilt not reveal his name? Not

the less he is mine.” lie then demanded from her a promise that, just as she was keeping her lover’s name a secret from him, she should likewise keep her husband’s identity a secret, from evçryhody. He made her Swear that she would not letanyone know that he wa
her husband. “: “,•‘
CratcaJ Comments
Ast he title indicates, this chapter, describe the ititeryjew between Hester Prynne and her husband who had been missing for two years. She naturally feels suspicious of the intentions of Roger Chillingworth in administering a medicine to the culd and to herseif The physician, however, diseis ‘h’ sutPjcjos in this regard, telling her that it was enough that sl’had to carry her doom on her person, in the eyes of all men and women.
This chapter gives us some more inhbrrnatjon”abpt the past life of Hester Prynne and Roger marriage of the mis-shapen old man with a young and beautiful girl, the total want of love on the part of the young girl, the old man’s vain and llsory, hope that his marriage with her would give him the comfort that . he badly needed. Roger Chillingworth admits that, if he had used, his knowledge and wisdom to analyse the ituation, h should have anticipated that this ill-matched union would. bring happiness to neither of them.
It must bc said to Hester Prynne’s credit that she dè1 disclose the name of her lover to Roger Chillingworth. Foiled in his purpose of knowing the ldentit Of the man, Roger Chillingwor speaks to Hester in a manner that gives usa forebodingor the evil that he will perpetrate upon the man who has wronged him. ‘With a scheme of vengeance in his mind, he persuades Hester Pryñne to swear an oath that .the would not disclose his identity to anybody.’
CHAPTER V
‘Hester at her Need’\’
\ (flester Prynne was at last r’eleas from prison. Existence now Sed to be a great bji to her. The thought that everybody would hold her in contempt was a torture to her She cot}d’hae left the town and gone sozhere else but she felt that the chai that bound her to this place could not be broken. Also, the thoi that
• tier tellow.sinner and fellow-sufferer lived in this place ‘prted her from leaving it. Another reason why she decided to stay on ‘in this town was that, this place being the sceneof her guilt,’ ft should also be the scene of her earthly punishment. She had a feeling that the torture of her daily shame would at length pu e her sotil, and work Out another purity than that which she had lost Thus, did not lea’e Boston, She took up lod in hatche on the outskirts of the town,’vay from any other habitation., She had ro difflcult so far as the question of her livelihood was cOnc emned She was a skilled needle-woman ‘]‘be lttir “A” that she

 

 

IHE SCARLET LETTER

TUE PLOT OF THE SCARLET LETrER

had siitchcd on her gown was a specimen of her imaginative skill. It htc.iiuc known all over the town that Hester l’rynne possessed an etr:iordanary skill in embroidery. As a result, she found herself flood d with orders for ruffs, bands, gloves, and various other items for which embroidery was needed. Baby linen afforded still another posstlidity of work and profit. By degrees her handiwork became the fashion.
That did not, however, mean that pen pie paid no more attent ion to the scarlet letter which she was doomed to wear on her bosom In all her intercourse wi.h society, there was nothing that made her feel as if she belonged to it. Every gesture, every word, and even the siltnce of those with whom she came in contact, implied that she was banished Clergymen, on seeing tier, paused in the street to speak axioms of morality, that brought a crowd around the poor, sinful woman. If she entered a church, the priest would begin to deliver a sermon on the sin of adultery.’ Children followed her at a safe distance and shouted at he’-. Strangers looked curiously at the scarlet letter. In the midst of this kind of ill-treatment, she wond ered whether she was the only one in the whole town to have committed that particular sin,
/
Critical Comments
, “(‘This chapter tells us about the course of life that Hester Prynne adoted after her release from the prison. Her release marks the beginning of the real ordeal for her) She has now to carry her inf amy on her bosom and thus fh become the general symbol of a woman’s frailty and sinful passion. About one thing she is clear in her mind, namely, that she would not leave this town.
Hester’s extraordinary skill as a needle-woman solves the pro-’ blem of her livelihood. Fler charitable disposition is indicated, by the fact that she bestows all her superfluous income on the poor add the needy, even though she gets little thanks for doing so. We also learn that she has in her nature a rich, voluptuous, oriental charact eristic, a taste for the gorgeously beautiful which finds expression in the exquisite productions of her needle. Her patient endurance of /her misfortune is also emphasised in this chaptr.

The author shows himself as a penetrating psychologist in analysing Hester’s consciousness of 4’ier sin. The scarlet letter, rays the author, gave Hester a sympathetic knowledge of the hiddei sin in other hearts. She has a vague feeling that the outward appeaçance of purity in other people is just a lie, and that if the truth were ,to be known, a: scarlet letter would blaze forth on many a b som Jesdes her owil. The author observes that in most cases the sense of sinirs a human being Yeads to a complete loss of faith in human n:ture. However, all is not corrupt in Hester Prynne who yet strugg.Ies to believe that ‘no fel1w mortal is guilty like herself.
A symbolic significance is given to the letter “A” by the story that became current about it among some people. These people declared that the letter “A” on Hester’s bosom W45 not merely

145
carlet cloth but wag red hot with the lire of hell nd could be seen glowing in light whener she walked abroad at ight
CHAPTER VI
Pearl
‘ ,:-:,
‘synopsis “,,
Hester’s daughter, the productof a guilt passion,: Was a most unusnal kind of girl. Hester had given her the ‘name’ By this name she intended to Signify that the girl was her, mother’s nly treasure and that a great price had been paid for this treasure. It was Hester’s great apprehension that the little girl, the’product of a evil deed, would have something evil in her. Certainly, there was no physical defect in-the child who possessed a faultless beauty and native grace. Her dresses, ,too,’ designed b’ Hester herself, were richly ornamental but there was something wild about her. Her0 nature seemed to P°ssess both variety and depth. She could not
made amenable to any rules Or any discipline. ‘
This ‘child was born as a consequence of a great law having’ been broken and the result was a creature whose elements were perhaps beautiful and brilliant, but all in disorder. In her Hestet recognised her own wild, desperate, deiiant ‘nature, and a flightiness of temper. 7’h girl Was utterly unpredictable in her moods. Hester discovered tnat it was no use tr)ing to exercise a strict control over the child. She found it ‘best to permit the thild to be swayed by, her own impulses There was sometimes a Peculiar look in PearJ’s eyes. It was a look so intelligent, yet so perverse and malicious, though sometimes accompanied by a wild glow of spirits, that Hester. could not help aking herself whether Pearl was a human’ child or an airy spirit. Unable to understand the child’s nature, Hester would sometjme burst into passionate tears, On .uàh occasion, Pearl’s reactions varied according to her moods Sbiiietimes she wsuld laugh aloud, like a thing incapable of human sorrow. And sometimes she would be shaken by a fit of grief and would sob out her love to her mother in broken Words.
Little Pearl did not have any taste for the company of other children It was as it’ she were born an outcast from the world of children An imp of evil, the emblem, and product Of sñ she seemed to have no right to move among the children of rëipCctabje parents. And she instinctvel); understood her own loneiine She
saw children playing their games hut she never tried t make their acquaintance. Even If they tried to speak to J-ier, she shot’ed no inclination to speak to them. Sometimes, after gazing at Pearl, Hester Prynne would cry out in great distress, “0 Father in Heaven, what is this being which have brought intO the world !“
One Pecuiariry of the child’s behavIour wa’s per’ strange mite rest in the scarlet letter Hester’s bosom. Thisletter was the firs objett of which Pearl Seemed to l’jve become aware caught sight of the ‘scarlet letter, a strange expression would ‘nmn

 

 

146 THE SCARLET LETTER

nto tier eyes and a peculiar smile to her lips. It seemed to Hester that there was some kind of malice in that smile. It was as if an evil spirit possessed the child. One day, after Pearl ha gtown big enough to run about, she gathered handfuls of wild flowers and flung them, one by one, at her mother’s bosom and danced up and down whenever she hit the scarlet letter. This was, again, a painful experience for Hester. In short, Hester was completely puzzled and baffled by this child. Some people in the neighbourhood had given out that little Pearl was a demon offspring, such as had occasionally been seen on earth, through the agency of a mother’s sin, to promote some foul and wicked purpose.
Crjical Comments
– This chapter is devoted to a detailed anaiysisofthc nature, teniperament, and behaviour of little Pearl. Pearl, as is clearly indic ated by the author, is not a normaichil4 Endowed with exira.r Fdinary physical beauty •and loveliness, the child is altogether a 1reak of nati.ire. Pearl is an elf.child. Her mind is inexplicable, and her behaviour is often perverse. often too there is a gleam of malice in her eyes. The strange nature of the child aggravates the mother’s distress and sorrow. The letter “A” acquires an even more malignant aspect in her eyes because of Pearl’s abnormal Interest in it. Hester has sometimes the feeling that there is a fiend looking at her through Pearl’s eyes.
Zn delineating this child, Hawthorne has shown an extrao rdinary insight into abnormal psychology. Indeed, we have in this chapter a masterly portrayal of a strange, wild, remote, and complex being who proves to be a source of bewilderment and bafflement not only to her mother but also to the reader. Whçn Hester Prynne, tells her that she was sent into this world by her Heavenly Father, this child, perhaps prompted by an evil spirit,
• gives a reply that appals her mother as also the reader. “J1id.p send me !“ cried she ppsitively. “I have no Heavenly Fathet!” Y No won&r that some townspeople believed Pearl to be a den?on
offspring
/‘ CHAPTER VII
The Governor’s Hall
Synopsis
One day Hester Prynne went to Governor Bellingham’s residence. She had to deliver there a pair of gloves which she had fringed and embroidered to the Governor’s order. But sho had another and more important reason for going there too. Shi had heard that there was a move by some of the leading citizens to take away her child from her. These citizens argued that Pearl was of demon origin, and that a Chririan interest in the mothcrs soul required them to separate the mothrr and the child. If the child, on the other hand. were really capable of moral and religious developm ent, it would be safer in hands other than those of Hester Prnne’s. Among those who supported this move was Governor Bellingham. Full of concern, therefore, Hester Prynne set forth from her cottage.

TIlE PLOT OP THE SCARLET LETTER 147
Little Pearl, of course, went with her. She Was now of an age to run lightly along by her mother’s side.
Pearl possessed a rich and luxuriant beauty. She had a bright complexion. Her eyes possessed an intensity both of depth and glow. There was fire in her and throughout her. She seemed the unpremeditated offshoot of a passionate moment. She was at this moment arrayed irs a crimson velvet tunic of a peculiarcut,, richly embroidered with gold thread. This attire made her look like a bright little jetpf flame.
The child’s whole appearance inevitably reminded the beholder of the token which Hester Prynne wore upon her bosom. Pearl appeared to be the scarlet letter in another form : the scarlet letter given a human shape. The mother had deliberately contrived to represent the scarlet letter in Pearl’s appearance. As mother and daughter walked towards the Governor’s mansion, a group of little urchins on the way attempted to throw mud at them. But Pearl, wh was a fearless child, made such threatening gestures at them that they ran away in panic.
The doorman at the Governor’s residence told Hester that his master had guests and was busy with them. But Hester Prynne paid no attentiofl to him and walked into the hail. Littl Pearl looked around her at the furniture, the decorations, etc. Then she suddenly drew her riother’s attention to a reflection in the Convex mirror of the Governor’s breast-plate, which hung upon the wall. Hester looked and saw that. owing to the peculiar effect of this convex mirror, the scarlet letter was greatly magnified, so as to be the most promi*ent feature of her appearance. Pearl seemed to be greatly amused to see this. Pearl’s reaction to this muagiiified image of the scarlet lCtter made Hest,r feel most ii.comfortable.
Crit4I Comments
The plot moves hut little in this chapter The only new deve
Jopmentjs the move that. is afoot to take away the child Pearl from
Hester Prysne. This move naturally makes the mother most anxious.
Accordingly, she decides to go to Governor Bellingharn . and,1.plead
her case. .
The physical beauty of Pearl is emphasised in this chater, and so is hpr abnormal nature and behaviour.
j/Noteworthy in this chapter is the description of, Grnor Bellingham s house and its decorations rhe brilliispcy n1gt Jave befitted Aladdin’s palace ratber than the. ninsion of a ,ic,t,old .. Piuan tuler It was further decorated with strange and seemingly cabalistic ures and diagrarris…….” The furniture of the hail has also been escribed in this chapter alici a reference is made to a:: row of portrait hanging flPOfl the vall and representing l3ei1.inhani’s forefathers. There is also a suit of mail suspended at tl.ie cntni of the oaken panels of the haiL
• _#_‘ . .
The nlargement of scarlet leurr in the convex minor lm.is, again, a It seems that at eretv trj) their i’ a

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THE SCARLET LETTER

rrtniiidei’,,for Hester, of the sin which this letter signifies. But more poiiilul than this fact is the peculiar interest which the scarlet letter has for little Pearl.,
CHAPTER VIII

Synopsis

/

The Elf-child and the Mii,iter

Governor Bellingham now entered the hail. He was accom‘ pa&ed by Mr. Wilson, Mr. Dimmesdale and old Roger Chilling- worth. The last-named person had now been settled in the town for two or three years past and had acquired an excellent reputation as a physician. He had become quite friendly with Mr. Dimxnesa le whose health had severely suffered and who was being medically attended upon by this physician. Looking at Pearl, Mr. Wilson calle d her a “little bird of scarlet plumage.” He asked her if she was a Christian child or if she was one of the naughty elves or fairies. The little girl replied that she was her mother’s child and that her name was Pearl.
Gavrnor Bellingham told Hester Prynne that it had been decided to take away the little child from her because it was not pro. per that a woman like her, who had stumbled and fallen amid the pitfalls of the world, should have the guardianship. of the child. But Hester Prynne pointed out that she would be a better .guardiaTl for the girl because she could teach her what she had learnt from her disgrace.. Governor Bellingham then called upon Mr Wilson to examine the girl and find out if she had had the kind of Christian training that was necessary for her. Mr. Wilson asked Pearl if she knew who had made her. Of course, Mr. Wilson wanted her to reply that God bad made her. But the impish girl gave a totally unexpect ed answer. She said that she had not been made at all, but that she had been plucked by her mother off the bush of wild roses that grew by he prison.door. At this answer old Roger Chillingworth, with a smile on hs face, whispered something in Mr. Dimesdale’s ear. Hester Prynne looked at tt old man and was startled to perceive that a change had come.,jr his features which now looked, much uglier since the days sh’llamiliartY known him. She also saw that his dark complei’tenied to have become darker, and that his figure had become more deformed. Gvernor Bellingham e.xpres sed his astonishment at the answer given by the child. He said that, if a girl of three could not ieH’whr, hod made her, se obviousl y was in the dark as to her c.oul and should not be allowed to remain under7he guardianship of Hest r Pryrtn.
fuester Prynre, feeling ced by the remar of Governor Belliigham. said in passinnac tones that the child had been given to her by God and that she wod riot give her up. The child, she said, was her happiness sh( was also !ier torture, being the symbo[. of the scarlet letter. She declared that he would die rather than give up the child. Then turning ., r. Dimmesdale, she called

THE PLOT OF THE SCARLT LETTER …. , i49
upon him to speak for her because he had bçher pastor. At tlis flp,al, the young minister came forward àn d’’ed Hester rynne with all his energy. He said tflear1 was thi child of her father’s guilt and her mother’s shame but. that ‘she had come from the hand of Gad in order to work in,rnny ways upon the heart of )ier mother. The child was meant by God as a blessing, as th ohe lessing of the miserable woman’s life. The…ç,hiid was meant isG as a punishment, a constant reminder to tç iotftr Of’ the sin he
had committed; .. .. .
Mr. Di&mesdale’s spiritd defence of the woman had the desir ed effect, Mr. Wilson and Governor Bellingham accepted Mr. Dimnmesdale’s plea. As for Pearl, she crept towards Mr. Dimmesdale and, taking hold of his hand, pressed her cheek against it. The affair was thus satisfactorily concluded, and Hester Prynne and Pearl departed-from the house. As they descended the steps, Mistress ‘libbins, Governor Behlingham’s ill-tempered sister, who was execut d as a witch afew years later, called.out to Hester nd asked her if she wotild accompany her into the forest at night to meet the Black {an. Hester replied that she would certainly have accb’mpartied ‘Mistress Hibbins if the Governor had taken away he.r,cbild fromh’er,
t/
itical”Comments
. .
here is only a slight development in the plot in this Chapter.
overnor Behlingham and _M Wilson. are thwarted in their
design of taking awavParl from her mother. Their design was, of course, motvated by their rigid and orthodox Pt.iritatiical ideas according to which it was not desirable that a woman who Wre a scarlet letter on her. bosom should continue to be. th,e guardiati of ‘the little child, .
Mr. Dimrriesdale’s argument show his broad-mindedness and his generosity. We cannot guess, however, what hiS attitude would 1ave been if the woman in question had been, not Hester Prynne,
one whom he had never known on suth a personal’ and intimate ‘basis. . ‘• . . –
Hester’s strong maternal feelings are emphasisfa by qe ray in ich she declares her resolve not to part wi(’T’ child) There is much weight in her arguoDhat the child is hr pnl’ lrapiness ‘and that the hi1d is, at the sa-nè time, by in a’symbol of the camlet letter, her punishment an her retribution.;’ Her appeal to Mr. Dimmescjale is happily conceit’ed\becaue only he could have
re fe7ed her with any degree of convi’tion.
1’ The comments of Mr. Wilson and old oger Chillingworth Ofl
I are noteworthy. On seeing Pearl go jumping down the hal! in
1i an \ iii flfler Mr \‘ii ho , – To irtle baggage htli itli
craft in her, I :profcs.s. She needs no ccldwoman.’s broomstick to fly
ithT!,,R o’gcr Ch1Tlii1i calls her a strangé•hild ndsug
at Z5in’ i ese.arch should be macic to analyse the.child’s nature, and roii that analysis to arrive, at a shrewd guess at the father. li Vilson, however, rejects this suggestion as sinful.

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  • “ t1’L.C I..LIItK

CHAPTER IX

The Leech

THE PLOT OP THE SCAp’i LETTER 151
‘thing ugly and evil in his face. It was also said by these people that the fire in the physician’s laboratory had beei brought from hell, and Was fed with infernal fuel. This was believed to be the reason for his face becoming darker than it had been àriginlly.
/ it
rCratj Comments 7 I
There is little Plot.developmcnt in thjs ëhapir.LTb minister and the physician start living togethetjn the, same house, so that the physician can look after the minjste’s hea1th) To th reader, this Jes’eJoprne seems to be ominous. Roger CtIThingworth directs all ,ias energies to the scrutiny of the inner depths of Mr. Dimmesdale.
tries to investigate and probe into the secret thoughts of the niirilster, because he is convinced that he will be able to tinearth some Secret hidden in the minister’s soul. We fcel almost scared by the manner in whi the author describes Roger Chillingworth’s designs tIupon the fflifljster
Towards the end of the chapter thç evil nature of Roger Chi1iingw is made explicit by means of a:reference to a certain
Pection of the community who believe the physician to be Satan’s rn&sary Sent to dig into the minister’s heart and to plot against his
1ioW. rhe author observes that, judging fràm the gloom’ and terror in the depth5 of the poor minister’s eyes, the battle between him and ,Satan s’agent was to prove a fierce one.,
CHAPTjjx
The Leach and
his Patient
Old Roger Chillingworth had begun his investigation, as he nagirjed, with the integrity of a judge desirous only of knów.in the ruth about the nian in his chrge. He nôu started digging into the ioor minister’s hears, like a miner serching for gold. One of hts iscoverjec was that the minister, all spiritual as he was believed to e, had inherited a strong animal nature from his father or his iother And the physician decided to carry his investigation further in this direction
As for Mr. Dimmesdale be kept up a fam.iJjr intercourse with The physician daily receiviig him in his study or visiting his laboa rorv and watching lie proces by which herbs and weeds Were oriverted into medicines He did not have any inkling that the hysician was the spy who wanted to fathom his secrets.
In the course of fle of their cowersation the physician frmarked that some people died with their secrets buried in their bosoms. To this the minister replied that there was no harm if sonir eopIe did not reveal their secrets before dying. The physician ctprcssed the view that it would be much better for people nfl (0 ide their Secrets but to attain relief through confession. Mr. ,immesciale said that some people were kept silent by dir u’ery ê,rsstitution of their nature and that some rmajned silent because, by

/
The conversation between Mistress Hibbins and Hester Prynuii ha5 its own significance. Hester Prynne would have willingly sigiird her name in the Black Man’s book if her daughter Pearl had brrs forcibly taken away from her. The author’s comment in this cnn flCCtj0 is significant. If Hester had been separated from h.* daughter, “the offspring of her frailty”, she would definitely hau. turd on the side of the devil. But Mr. Dimmesdale’s interventHis Oi bebaif of the woman had saved her. “Even thus early had Lii
) Child saved her (the mother) from Satan’s, Snare’’-

(The “Black Man” refers, of course, to the devil).
Synopsis
As has been indicated in the preceding chapter, Roger Obillin Worth had settled down in the town of Boston. The nalne ‘Ror Chillingworth” was an assumed name. The man had diearded I origina.1 name and settled in the town under a new appellation. On Hester Prynne knew who he was and she had been sworn to secre regarding his true identity. The town knew him as Roger ChilIin Worth, the physician. He had enhanced his medical skill by his si’ among the savages who had taught him the properties of certa herbs and roots useful in concocting medicines.
This learned stranger to the town lad chosen for his spirit guide the Reverend Mr. Dimmesdale. The young divrne’s beau having begun to fail, Roger Chillingwo’th had also undertaken look after him and to give him all the benefit of his mTcal ski! The tqwnsfolk welcomed this development and believed that Rog lfingrth had been sent to the town by heaven for the sped
,Welfare of the young minister. In this manner, the myious ol
/ Roger Chillingwoçth became the medical adviser of tllRrcn
‘%Mr. Dimmcsdale. The young minister found a fascination ;j ii .c0mpany of the man of science, in whom he rccognised an intelir
of high calibre. On his part, Roger Chillingworth strove to go dru 1nto his patient’s heart, trying to discover the secret of his declini health. His intuition told him that the young minister’s heart burdened with a secret which he had not revealed to anybody.
After a time, an arrangement was eWected by which the t men were lodged in the same hou-e. so that the physician could ke a CQfltjfluO watch on the health of the minister. There was mu JOY throughout the town at this arrangement, because ‘it was held be the best possible measure for the young clergyman’s welfare, It there was a certain portion of the community who took a diffe View of the relationship between M. Dimmecdale and the mysterin old physician. These persons thought Roger Chillingworth to be agent of Satan. They held that Roger Chillingworth’s face b undergone a remarkable change while he had dwelt in the town a especially rince his abode with Mr. Dimmesdale. At first his expr SiOfl had been calm, meditative., scholar.like. Now, there was son

YDo p5 is

 

 

 

 

A

THg SCARLET LETTER
doing so, they could serve God and man better. The physician
that such men deceived themselves and that they were afral confessing the shame that belonged to them.
Just at that time, the two men heard the wild laughter of young child’s voice. Looking from the open window, they
Hester ?rynne and little Pearl passing along the footpath. Lii Pearl had pauses to gather prickly burrs. Taking a handful of dir she arranged them along the lines of the scarlet letter on her rnotht bosom. The burrs, being thorny adhered to the• gown, and Hrit did not pluck them off Seeing this, Roger Chillingworth said to I minister that there was no Jaw and no reverence for authority nih up with that child’s composjtjo The other day, he said, he I seen her throwing water at the Governor himseff He wondered the girl was an evil imp.
To the minister’s query regarding his own state of health, i physician replied that, in order to treat the minister’s dhc, effectively, he needed to know all the facts concerning the rmninl The minister’s bodily disease, he remarked seemed tO be a syinpi of some ailment in his spiritual part. He, as the physician, mi know what was wrong with the spiritual part before he could app himself to heal the bodily evil. Mr. Diznmesdale replied that, I the cure of his soul’s disease, he would turn to God and heaven ii not rely upon an earthly physician Saying this, Mr. Dimmesd.i rushed out of the room in a fit of anger. However, the two nu became reconciled soon afterwards, and Roger Chillingwomth wenti with his medical supervision of the minister.
One day Roger Chillingworth found the minister in deep sir in his chair. Th physician approached the minister, laid his hai upon his bosom, and thrust aside the garment that covered it. Wh the physician saw brought a wild look of wonder, joy and horror its his eyes. He turned away making extravagant gestures with hi hands, and stamping his foot upon the floor. The kind of ecstasy d held him at this moment was comparable to Satan’s ecstasy wh a p’ecus human soul is lost to heaven and comes into Satan clutchc
•ticaj Comments
Therc is, in this chapter again, little plot.’developrnen in ten, of physicJ or outward action. But there is plenty of pIot.developmr in terms of Psychological action, This chapter shows Hawthorne a great psychokj5 Bent upon probing the inmost depths of ib minister’s Roger Chilljngworth succeeds to a large extent his purpose !f%’e find that Mr. Dimrnesdale is almost helplessi Roger ChiIlUgworth’s clutches. Even .‘en he feels annoyed wit àtmj leave he ‘oom in a lit of anger. Mr. Dinimnesiji cannot cut himself adrift from Roger ChiHingworth. Roger Chilling worth fid his patient to be “a rare case” demanding a deept scrutiny. “A strange symnpathbetwixt soul ody !“ he says
himself ‘Were it only for the art s cake I must search tliflhianrt
🙂 The bottom f” lUdeed, we feel sorry fo the fate towrds which M Dimmesdale seems to be headinj, and we already feel a stro,ng hatrc

ThE PLOT OF TI-tE SCARLET LETTER . 153
for Roger Chilhngworth who has estab5she4 hmself as th7 i1lamn of the piece not only by his heartlesättthdeÔwards PearVand her mother, but also by his diabol ical designs on the minister.f
The li’it incident in this chapter is sothWwllat mysff’ons \hit Roger Chi!Jingwortli sees on the minister’s uncthtered bosom is not made clear to us. We are only told that what the p5hyscian saw N filled him with “a ghastly rapture”, comparable ‘to the ecstasy of
Satan wheneei Satan wins a victory over God
CHAPTER XI
The Interior of a Heart ‘
.5. – .,I.:,, it i i
SYnOpsis- 5— ‘. 4,,
(
.,,5’ . S
ji Qocr Chiilzngworth now 1d a definite course ol action in h ,mmnd. He wasoutwardly calmn5..gentie, and passionless. 3 .tt1re
was in his mini a deep mj which led himtoconc v greater revenge.than a-iy human being had ever wreaked upon an enemy,
as certai about the correctness of his
‘secret of the young minister. He felt that Proy.ce ffa gr3T him a reve,,j,n He believed that he was now n a poiitiôn to see the very inmost soul of his victim.’ He became hencefmh not a spect4tor oM’, it a chief actor, in the poor mini$ter’s i’ir thoghrs,) He could ?Yw tornçnt his victim, fill him with a sense of shazneç,,5wi inspire terror in his heart, just as he pleased. He vas able to acquire all this influence upon the minister in such a subtl manner that tb minister, though he had á dim knowledge of soe evil infiuenLe Operating on him, could never understand its acyal nature. . The minister continued his habits qf social familiarity wzN the old ‘man and thus gave him constant o’portunities to complct’Jis nef’árioüs
purpose .‘(
Although Mr Dimmnesdale was suffering both bodily and spiritual torment, he had achieved a vast popufarity in his acsed office. He Won it, partly by virtue of his sorrows and partly by virtue of his intellectual gifts. His reputation as a priest eclipsed that of all others of his profession. Indeed, he could have climbed to high. peaks of spiritual faith and of sanctity if he were not constantly burdeped by the weight of a secret in his heart
/The people regarded Mr Dimmesdale as a mi’crê thcLness ç They behevc4 him’” be the mouoece of ‘heaven s
messages. Tr their eyes, the very grl on. whidi wa’ked became sac d. The virgins of his church worshipped him, The aged mem ers of his church believed .that he was surely for heaven. But all this time, Mr. Dimmesdaje hirnelf was tcrme.c’iç by thoughts of a different nature. He longed topeák out, frt his, own pujpj, and tell the people what he was He wanted to tell them S.. that he was Uy a pollution and a lie and, indeed, he tried, more than once, to tell his audiences that he was altogether vile, the of Sinners, and an object deserving the utmost. co• .Btitiits listeners attributed these statements to hinss. and Lu has humility. He had spoken the very tfruth, bUt his listeners bad taken it in an altogether different light ,/

 

 

154
THE SCARLET LETTER

THE PloT Ut’ THE SCARLET LI!rrER

synopsis

CHAPTER Xli
The Minister’s Vigil

Critical Comments

155

Yn the privacy of his room, Mr. Dirrimesdale had often lashed himself with a Scourge. Re fasted as an act of penance. He kept vigils, flight after night. He inflicted every kind of physical torture upon himself
One night, a new thought struck the minister. He put on his priestly garments, opened the door, and went out of the house.
ritjcak Coziaments
This chapter is, again, a study in Psychology The very title f the chapter “The interior of a heart” is a pointer to its contents.
c..—çIt reveals the great power which Roger ChilJinggii has acquired nver the mind and thoghts of Mr. Dimrnesda1j (It .&eridescribes
/ the mental sufl and agony of the young r9.isfister. His reputation as a nest is now at its height, but his iflnr Hfe is at a very low ebb.) e is constantly haunted by the sense of sin and the COflSCIOUSflej guilt. I-Ic tries to reveal his degradrtion to his audience in the church, but the listeners put a different interpretation upon his) words It is pathetic to read the manner in which he scourges his body as an act of peafle He is haunted by visions of all kinds. He sees hallucinations } knows no rest. His life has become a ceaseless torment Ion him. And then he takes a decision which will only serve to precipitate the tragic end that is in store forhim.

to Mr. Wilson and asking him to come up the scaffold, but he managed to restrain this impulsc It occured to the minister that very soon the morning would break and that the people would see him standing on the satTold on which Hester Prynne had once stood Under the stress of this horrifying thought, the minister burst into a great peel of laughter. .1-us laughter was repondedto by a childish laugh which he recognised as that of little Pearl,
Mr. Dimmesdale now saw Hester and little Pearl approaching the scaffold. He called out to Hester and. asked where she had come from She replied th’st she had been watching at Cm ernor Win throp’s death-bed, and was• now, going homcward The minister asked both mother and daughter to,Join him on the scaffold hsch they did. The minister took little Pearl’s hand in his on and. s he did so, he felt the rush of a new life in his heart., asi11 the mother and the child were comthunicating their vital warmth to his body. The three of them formed an electric cb: in.
Pearl asked the minister if he would stand with her and her mother at noontide the next day. The minister replièd that he wor)d stand with them not the next’ day but on the great jucln’ienr.day Pearl laughed at this answer. .Just then the sky ‘as hrig1tly illumined by a meteor. There stood the minister co the scaffold, with his hand over his heart; Hester Prynne, with the enlbrojd(-red letter “A” on her bosom ; and little Pearl, herself a symbol, arid the connecting link between these two. Asthe flhinister lool;ed upward at the sky, he saw there the shape of a huge letter, the letter “A”, marked out in I nes of dull red light. Pearl had withdrawn her hand from Mr. Dimrnesdale’s and was pointing at a figure which proved to be that of old Roger Chillingworth, who stood at no great distance from the scaffold. Mr. Dimmesdale felt alarmed to seethe physidan, and told Rester that he hated this man and also felt a n’ame1esg horror of him. The physician now accosted the minister and obser’.’ed that it must be excessive study t.at had robbed the minister of sleep and that had sent him thither in a kind of waking dream. He offered to take the minister home, and Mr. Dimmesdale could not refuse.
The next day, the minister preached ‘a sermon which was believed to be the richest and most powerful that he had ever delivered. A little later, the old sexton met him, holding up black glove which the minister recognised as his owh The setonsid that he had found it on the scafiold The sexton also told he minister that a great red letter, the ettcr “A”, had been seen in the sky during the night. The sextoti added that the Içer “A”, seen in rlic sky, stood for “Angel” and referred to the good Governor Winthrop who had been made an angel after his death.

Walking as if in a dream, Mr. Dimmesdalo sient to the scaffold or. platform on which Hester Prynne had stood seven years before to face public disgrace He went up the steps. It was his feeling of remorse that had driven him to this place. 1-Jis cowardice had prev ented him from confessing his sin, and yet his sense of sin had never allowed him a moment’s peace. He was not the kind of man who should have perpetrated a crime. He was a fee L,le and most sensitive of spirits Crime is for the man of iron nerves.
His standing on the scaffold now was not an act of penttenc, hut a mockery of penitence a mockery at which angels wept, while fiends rejoiced it was a vain show of cxpiaton He was overcome with a great horror as if the universe were gazing at a scarlet token on his naked breast right over his heart. Then siiddc.nly he shrieked aloud. He did so in order to wake up the town and to be seen by them at this spot. But the town, did not awake. Governor Belling ham, indeed, looked out of his window with a lamp in his band. So did his Sister, old Mistress Hibbing. But neither of them realised the nature of the cry they had heard.
A few moments later, the Reverend Mr. Wilson passed that way. He had prayed at the bed.sjde of Governor Winthrop who had died a little while before. Mr. Dimn’iesdale felt like calling out

The movement of the plot, in terms of’phvsca1 action, is vrry
v. Mr. Dimniesdale in order to escape.frdm his mensl ri,u’nI. almost decides to show himself on the scaffold so that poplr tn.iv came to know the secret of his sinfulness. But he does. s iiiiki thr
‘‘effct of an impulse. His terrible fear of the COnscm]uCn(rs ,l Ii

h

 

 

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g t THE SCARLET LETTER

disclosure restrains him from taking the fin1 plunge. .Rc tells little Pearl that it would not be possible for him to.take her and, her mother’s hand at noontide in full vicw’f the people, and that he would stand with them oiiiy on the great Judnient. day.
The letter ‘A” seen in the sky has a symbolic significance it is an outward manifestation of Mr. Dirnmesdale’s inne’ sense of guilt. A reference is also made by the author to the superstitious interpretat ions of all meteoric phenomena, which were current in those days.
rt is a strange coincidence that on the very night that the minister decides to go and stand on the scaffold, Mr. Wilson passes the scaffold, followed by Hester Prynne and little Pearl, who in turn are followed by Roger Chillingworth. They have all come from Governor Winthrop’s death-bed. As a result of this coincidence, Roger Chillirigworth at last finds a confirmation of his suspicion regarding the minister’s dark secret. Roger Chillingwortb is regarded by the author as the archfiend, standing near the scaffold to claim his victim. The minister confesses to Hester his deep terror of the physician. The physician does not give the least inkling to the minister that he finds anything suspicious in his standing on the scaffold. With the hypocrisy which is one of the chief traits of his tharacter, he attributes the minister’s abnormal behaviour to excessive poring Ov€r his books.
It is to be noted that the sermon delivered by the minister on the following day is the most powerful he has ever given. It would seem that his spiritual agony has lent a new intensity to his discourse.
The sexton’s interpretation of the letter “A” seen in the sky during the previous night is to be noted also, He says that the letter stood for “Angel” and has reference to Governor Winthrop who was made an angel on his death. Thus the,letter “A” has a double symbolism in his chapter.

Synopsis

CHAPTER XLII

Anoth.r View of Hester

At her accidental meeting with Mr. Dimmesdale during the night, Hester Prynne was shocked to see the condition to 4t*hich the minister had been reduced. His nerve and his moral force seemed to have been completely wrecked. She felt greatly touched by the terror that this fallen man had felt at the sight of Roger Chillingwotth. His wretched condition made h r r alise that she had a duty towards
him.1
(During the seven,4ears that had pssed since her first ignomur’. Hester Prynne had le such a blamels life that the townsfol’lTai begun to feel a cen sympathy’her. Whenever she had found anybody in distress, she had tried to provide relief and succour.
was a kind of a self-ordaiuied Sister of Mercy. Even th]Es\ “A” was no longer interpy people as adjlry.’ They said lthr’i
7’
, ‘-

THE PLOT OF THE SCARLET LETTER i’5
meant “Able”.” It is true that the rulers and ‘the lar:nd nen’b1’tli comrnuni?V”Took a longer time in acknowledging the good qualitie of Hester than the common people, But even thy rere no longer a
(“i rigid as they hd been orsgtnally The scal’Tet letter now had the et öfa.crosson a nun’s bosom. imparted tô it5’ear& akinj of’sacredness.) The.effect of the symbql on tlernin.d. of Hester Prynne herse{f was powerful and pecu1ir., the light and grace. of her character had been dried up by the. searlt leter whIch bad:
acted as a red-hot bra,d. the a yepçs of;htr person .4iàd gone. Shcrher rich and luxuriar air hi”ddei by . . cap.. She worW’the most austere of garments. Her I nr VC most ixnde.’ mönstrative. Her life bad turned, iu ateatjneasu,re from passion and feeling to thought. Standing alone in tle woçld,, she assumed a freedom of speculation which would hav.’s cad’the people if they had become aware of it.
• The interview with Mr. Dimrnesclale had given Heste. a hew’:
subject for reflection.. She had witnessed the intense misery beneath2 whith the minister struggled. She saw: that he •stqçd on the . verge ofi luhacy. Besides the sectet sting of remorse, there was, a secret enem)C in the person of Roger Chillingwortb who
• the ninister’s side, under the guise. of a friend and•. hIps. ‘HesrI felt that sise had committed an etror by agreeing to Rog:CbilLing.:
worth’s dem’snd that she should keep her husband’s iJentity a secret. She now made up her mind to redeem her. error, so far as it was possible. She de’ided to meet hr former husband and do what she could to rescue the victim whom hç held in his eJitcIies. The occasi on was not long to seek. One afternoon, walking with Pearl, she saw the old physician collecting roots and herbs in a loncly place.’
CrjcaI Comments .
The only development in the plot here is”Hster Prynne’s decision to do her utmost to rescue Mr. D.immesdale frdithe clut-’ ches of Roger Chillingworth. For the r/tis c ap gi:ves ‘us an, account of Hester Prynne’s mude of life during the p t”eyeO years and the impression she has created u,on the peopl’ EJPhi way
life, Hester. has elevated, herself to a high moral 1Ye(el. Tnded tbe reader. finds in this tragic figure the stuff of hiahg’rçiithleroit are’ made. Her adulterots act is pushed irit& ‘tebkround by the:
blameless purity of her life during all these ‘y&ars id<’b hç genuñ&’ spirit of service that she has been displaying’ “ She hli&beeii eer ready to relieve the distress of the pooraud t;’eneçd. in spite of her own poverty. None did so much service th.e ailing and the sick as Hester Prynne. In all sea.sons of calari-ijtv, vbethe’ general or of individuals, this outca3t of society, at me ,Cjslered the house that was &srkened by trpuble. Her nature sfruwedtself as warm and:, rich Her breast, with its mark of shanç,wa asolt pillow for the., heads of suffering and afflicted women. No wonder that the people,! began to stmpathise with, and admire, her.’.
The author gibes at “the rulers, arid the wise and learned men of the community” who take a longer titnC in; acknowlecging the’

 

 

158
THE SCARLET LETTEk

TifF PLOT OF THE SCARLET LETTER

synopsis

influence of Hcstr’5 good qualities than the common people. The topmost people who should have been the first to re’cognise these good qualities prove to be the last to do so. While individuals in private life have quite forgiven Hester Prynne for her frailty, the men of rank do so in a grudging manner. -(L
The scarlet letter in this chapter emerges as i’symho[ It iscortipared to the cross which a nun wears on her bosm and which Icuds. to her a kind of sacredness. L is true that the effect of the scarlet letter on Hester’s rnjnd has been to wreck her physical grace and beauty and to crush her natural ardour, but, (ecause of Hester’s willing and spontaneous to people in dhtress, the scarlet letter comes to have a flew jfianc9
The” psychological quality of this chapter, as of several’other chapters in this novel, is its most striking feature. The author has given us a detailed analysis of Hester’s state of mind and the actions resulting there-from. fleste’s life; we are told, had turned, in a great measure, from passion and feeling to thought. And the author has tried to probe the kind of thoughts that hold a sway on her mind. ‘the author has also analysed the minds of the people with regard to Hester Prynne, and the great change in their original attitude towards her. He has, likewise, revealed the state of mind of “the rulers and the wise and learned men of the commun;ty”
CHAPThR XIV
Hester and the Physician
Hester asked little Pearl to run to the seashore and play with the shells and sea-weed. The, child flew away like a bird and became occupied with her childish games. Hester addressed the physician and told him that she wanted to speak a word with him. Old Roger Chillingworth informed her that the authorities were thinking of removing the stigma of the scarlet letter from her bosom. Hester replied that the power to remove it did not lie with the authorities. If she were worthy to be rid of it, it would autornatic ally fall away or be changed into s9mething that should convey a different significance. The physician said that, in that case, she could Continue to wear the letter on hçr bosom.
Looking steadily at the old man’s face, Hester found that the ‘former ‘look of an intellectual and studiousrnap had departed from his face and that it had been replaced by an eager, searching, almost fierce look. It seemed also that it was the physician’s effort to mask this expression with a smile but in this he did not quite succeed. A spectator could see clearly the evil in hi’s expression. Old Roger Chillingworth seemed to poesess the faculty of transforsrsing himself into a devil by undertaking to perform the devil’s function This man had for Seven cars devoted himself to the constant anal-sjs of the tortured heazt of the minister and had been trying to add to the torment which racked the minister’s brain.

Hester told the physician that she wanted tospeaksto him about I the miserable priest (Mr. Dinimesdale). She.. reminded,,, him of the-i romise that he had taken from her years ago that she would. not lisciose his real identity to anyone. She said”’fsat it9ad ben a nistake on her part. to have given the promise because he had onstant1y been tormenting the minister an,d,had heen causing him laily to die a living death. The.physcin repJd that there had )een no alternative for her but to give the, promise h hd asked for.
-Ic said that, if he had betrayed the
ninister would have been thrown into a .dungcon1d frorn there,.,. ent to the gallows. Hester said that that wotsldhave beena’ better) ate for the minister The physician then told her that he had been, avishing all his medical skill and care upon thernisibl priest and hat, but for him, the priest would have been dead long ago because ,e lacked the strength that she possessed. Hester replied that it vould have been better if the minister had died ‘at once- :
The physician then told her that the priest knew tha’n?4 nfluence ‘had constantly beeri. working upon ii.tha’i nfriendly. hand had been pulling at his heart trirsgs ntftt’ffi’ ‘infriendly eye had been probing the evil in him,.but that/rtheprj lid not know that the eye and tue hand were those of the physicja’ The minister had been feeling tortured with frightful dreams and Jesperate thoughts the sting of remorse and desoase of padd’i There sao been bend at he mmnItç-ts elbow And this fiend s
>ther than hr Roger C”nllu1gorth viho 00Cc had a human “earl u- ‘ho had heLome a fiena for the special torment of D1mme4aje A
Hester asked him if he svasnot 3’etsatisfIed with the revenge hat he had taken. The physician said that Dimmesdaje had not
>nly not paid tise debt but ‘had actually Increased it. He reminded jester that nine ears before he had been an innocent and peaefl’ nan. a studious seeker after knowledge and truth a man, true, kind od just If he had no become a fiend the rr nicter aa, ‘esponsib le for t Hii P.r,ne said that the responcibility ias hers and hat he had already avenged himself upon her She went on o sa ha she must tell the minister who the physician really She
added that there was no good for an bod, in the situation as t had
developed. There was no good for the minister, no good fKr her
good for Roger Chsllingsort ana no good for little Peai I
Rogei (..hiliingworth experienced a thrill of’ admiratjo for Hester because of the majestic quality of the despair whili Stie expressed. He said that there were great elements in her .charaQter and that, if she had met in time with a better love thais ‘offer-j., her by him, she would net have beq guiv of any evil ‘ pity thee, for the good that has been wasted in thy nature’, he saij to hi Hettr replied that she ‘pitied him fc’r the hatred that had ra1u.Oe,
r rn h t lii i, tu t a I ‘i th rsdis
character and become human once agaiI She appealed to him IrCI fori ye the priest, and leave any further retri buticn to (od. ‘ But th old mars replied S(ernjv that it was not l’or him to pardon, Ji seas she who had taken the first wrong step. and what had happened suhse

 

 

160 rt SCARLEt LETTER

quenily was inevitable. “Let the black flower blossom as it may”, he said, and again started gathering herbs,
Critical Comments
This chapter shows the change that has come over Roger Cbillingworth in the course of the past seven years as a result of the cruelty that be has been inflicting upon the r.iinister. He himself admits that he has become a kind of fiend in the pursuit of his revenge. We are greatly struck by the contrast between what this man used to be and what he is now. From a human being, he as changed into a devil. Nor does he soften ip response to Hester’s appeals and entreaties. He proves ielentless and inflexible in his purpose. He would like to let the black flower of revenge blossom as it may.
Hester has made an earnest efTort to rescue the minister from the physician’s clutches but in vain. She plainly tells Roger Chillingworth that she is no longer bound to keep his identity a secret from Mr. Dimmesdale. She is keenly aware of the torture which Mr. Dimmesdale has been undergoing and it is for this reason that she says that it would has’e been better if the man had died at once.
Roger Chi)Jingworth’s comment on Mr. Dirnrnesdale’s nature is perfectly appropriate.. He tells Hester that Mc. Dimmesdale’s spirit lacks the streigih which has enabled her to bear the burden of the scarlet letter. The Creator never made auoçher being so sensitive a Mr. Dimmesdale, the physician tells Hester.

Synopsis

CHAPTER XV
Hester and Pearl

The mslicious and vindictive nature of Roger Chillingworth had flow aroused in Hester a deep hatred,r the man. She reca!led the time that she had spent with him as his wife and wondered how such a man had been able to prevail upon her to marry him. She felt that this man had done a greater injury to her by pecsuading her to marry him than the ipjury she had dQne to him by her act of adultery. ‘Yes, I hate him”, she said to herself. “He betrayed me. He has doue me worse wrongthan I did him.”
Nnw that Roaer Chillingworth was gone. Hester called out to Pearl to corns.hack. Pearl had kept hersdt buiy b1 playing with reflection in pool of water, by making little boats out of htrch.bark and tto.uhg thom on water, and by flinging pebbles at birds. She had finally gathered sonx -weed and covered herself with it in order to look like a mermaid, At the same she had taken some e gri nd go it th chane of lette ‘\ oq her
‘A” but freshly green, instead of scarlet. Out seeing ic ittiCt
in green on the child’s bosom, Hester told her that a child had no reason to wear such a token, he then asked the child it’ she kae

THE PLOT OF THE SCARLET LETTER 161
why her mother wore this letter I’ai’l, replied that it was for the same reason that the minister kept his hand over, his heart. Then Pearl went O to ask her mother what this scadee letter meant and why she wore t on her bosom She also as1ed why the nunaster kept his hand. Over his heart. . Hester wonderd if Ic was posi.bie for ler to wan Pcarl’s sympathy by telling her something about the letter A’. But she decided against telling anything to the child, and merely sid that, while she did not know anything about why the minister. 1cpt his hand over his heart, she wore the scarlet letter forthe sake of Sits gold thread. ‘nail the seven..bygc,neyears, Hestr Pryfli’je had never before been raise to the symbol on her bôstsrn. .
But Penn persisted in her qiiesdbns. Several ifmes “in the course of that day she asked her mother
And the next XXrorning, the first thing Pearl did ‘was to ask hr mother why the minister kept his hand over his heart.
Critical Comments
This chapter describes Hester’s reactian Roger Chi1lin.. worth’s refusal to soften towards Mr. J)’iffittaesdAle Hester Wofaders whether’ the earth would punish such a by greetin’hi ‘with poisonous shrub5, whetherevry .wholesomgr,tl woukl ‘change into something malignant and dangerous at his touch. whether ‘he would suddez1l sink into . the earth ,apcl, be 1ost; The extreme sirdict encss of the man also givc iso tp aitothea uiougl tin Hester c mind. She comes to the conclusion that this marl had slimed in persuading her to many him, and that hj sin’ was ofa more.hejnous nature than hers
Hester’s reflections with regard to Roger Chillingworth are followed by her conversation with PearL Pearl is more 01’ an enigma than ever. The letter “A” has a strangefascjnj0 for the child. She not only COVCI•S her dwn ‘tYc)som with the letter ‘A” made from grass but she asks persistent questions ast.,- ts neaning, as’ rlso the meaning of the minister’s keeping his hand o’r hh hCrt The child’s precocity and acurraess are, indeed, remarkable There i no knowing what tlis elfish child would grow itito. .
t is not Only the letter “A’ which is to ,be ,regardcas. havln a symbolic stgnjfic, The child, Pearl. “too ic to he regardcl as a symbol in the story. As Hester. rglises,. Pearl represeots a design of Justice rmd retribution in so far as she is constaniW haring upnn the theme of the scarlet letter. Bitt the child i’s alo, perhans, a symbol of divine mercy and heneficenct an so rar os shc is l, mother’s only Comfort in lite. “‘‘
CHAPTER XVI
A Forest
Walk ., ,
Synopsis ‘. ‘
Having resolved to acquaint Mr. Dimmt’sdale wth the’ true identity of Roger Chihhingworih, Hester Prynne now lnokd for an

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162

TN! SCARLET LPrrR,
opportunity to meet the priest. One day she learnt that Mr. Dimmes. dale had gone to visit the Apostle Eliot, amorg his Indian converts, and that he would return in the afternoon of thee next day. Accordingly, on the next clay, Hester set forth for the forest through which the minister was to pass. ‘Pearl went with her. On the way, Pearl, who skipped and danced as”she went, told her-mother that the sunshine did not love her because it was afraid of something on her bosom. Saying these wrds, she ran fbrward to “catch” the sunshine.
Hester smiled to perceive that Pearl did actually “catch” the sunshine and stood laughing in the midst of it As Hester approached the little girl, the sunshine vanished.
Pearl now’ asked her mother to tell her a story about the Black ‘Man who haunted that forest, carrying a book with him, and who asked everybody that met him to write their names in that book with their blood. Pearl said that she had heard the story from an old dame who had also said that the scarlet letter on Hester’s bosom was the Black Man’s mark on her and that it glowed like a red flame whenever Hester met him at mid-night in the dark wood. ‘Pearl asked her mother if shehad been going o meet. the Black Man at night time. Hester replied that she had met ‘the Black Man unce in her life and that the scarlet letter was his mark. –
Mother and daughter then sat down at a retired spot in the forest. There was a streamlet flowing nearby, producing its ceaseless babbling sound. Pearl said that’the’foolish little brook was sighing and murmuring because it was sad and had no courage. In one cenr Pear! resembled the brook, smi’h a’ he ‘urrpnt v’f her life also flowed from a mysterious source and had passed through gloomy scenes. But, unlike the little stream. Pearl danced airily and merrily. Pcar] asked her mother what th sad little brook was saving. The mother replied that Pearl would understand the meaning of the sounds c,f the brook after she had a shrrow of her owi, She then asked the child to go and play, but not to stray far. The child went singing away, fpllowing up. the current of the brook, and trying to mingle a cheerful sound with its melancholy voice But the little stream would not be comforted and kept producing a mournful sound. Pearl then tried to forget the stream and. started gathering flowers.
In the meantime, Hester Prynne niw the minister walking along the forest track. He looked pale and weak, and seemed to be suffering from a nerveless despondency. There was a listlessness in his gait, and he was, keeping his hand over his heart,
Crjtkal Comments
The story moves forward a step in this chapter. Hester Prynne, having decided to see the minister in order to reveal to him the true identity of Roger Chillirigworrh, goes into the fotest. Pearl.goes with her. There are three situations in this chapter, having a symbolic significance. Firstly, there is Pearl’s rcxnai’k’ that the sunshine does

ERR PLOT OP THE SCJ’.RLET LETTER 163
not love Hester and that it thereforc ‘vanishes whenever Hester,:
approaches it. This, symbolically interpreted, means that Hester’’1 life is permanently enveloped in gloorn,.ancl that happjness vanihes at bc apprOach. Secondly, Peat! tells, her mother that’ she’ had heard that the scarlet letter was the Blaclc Man’s mark, on her. Hester, admits that that is so. The letter “A” is hefre invested witl ,an evil iignilcance which it has throughout the book (apart from its auspi.” cious meaning as seen by some people at a feW,’ points ‘in the stor’9). Thirdly there is the babbling sound,ofthestream which is inter – preted as a kind of lament over’sorne’ sorrOw which the stream has suffered. The mournful sound of’the strea,rn beqpes synboic of Hester’s misfortunes in life. ‘‘‘ ‘““ “‘‘ –
The chapter concludes with’a brief”description ‘of the appear’ ance of the minister who is now Pas3ing .throtgh thetorest.,, Tht minister is depicted as feeble and haggard. “‘
4’ , . -, – .,
CHAPTER .XVII,, ,; :, “v,’
Pastor and his Parishioner
Synopsis
Hester Prynne called out to thrninrster who was astonished to see her there. He asked her if. she hoj brore hri as an ctuab living human being. Hester Prynne answered that she was yet alive and then asked him if he too was alive. It was to wonder that 4hey thus questioned each other’s actual and” bodily. etistnce: ‘ So strangely d’d they meet) in the dini-wood, that each thought tha,t the other was a ghost or a spirit. . With some fear in hisheart. Arthur’ Dimmesdale put forth his cold land whidh met the cold hand of Hester Prynne. This physical contact ,àiadCbo(h of them realise that they wtre yet alive and ‘belonged to this world.-:’ They then
stepped into the sha dows of” the forest aOd down.where Hester /and Pearl had been sitting befor
CTe minister asked Hester if she had found peace. Shestnjlec,l. ç.. drear.il looking down at the letter “A”upon her bosom. She asked “
an return, if he had been able.o find peace. is reply tvai that ., he had found nothing but despair, He told ‘her: tl-iat”he’was most
Th,.reverence of the people merely added to his ‘misery, sa1d.3:jined soul, like ‘his, could’ iit help others to attain’
4Ji5On. Holluted soul could not ‘guide others in their efTor”st i/at self-purification The contrast between what’ he really Wats”
what the people thought him to be sirnpy
Hester tried to console the minister. She tqld.lji,1. e
his sin behInd be1 he had deeply an4 oyrepçr4ed His good works, she said, sh4uld bring him peace) Bt t’t ‘çJyrnaO repli.ed that although he h4d had enough of “j.eñanfr’,tIirçad en no “peniten&”. in his aeart. There was, agr,c4 ,etween her’ condition and his, he went on to.say. 44sear[etctt openly. on her bo m, but his scarlet 1etce tept bur4ing secretly in , his heart It was a reat relief to him that U&ashr, 1ae tè fic “ with someone wlo r cognzsed ham for what Ji tkIIy ‘*hs
. “ ‘ 1%t’ I
– , ‘.,, ‘-“ ‘“

I
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164 THE SCARLEt LEtTER
Hester Prynne then told the priest what she had come to tell him. She knew that Roger Chillingworth had been tormenting the minister in a subtle manner, and that he had been trying to dis.
organise and corrupt the minister’s spiritual being. Roger Chilling- worth had brought the man, whom she still passionately loved, to a state of ruin. She told the minister that the physician, who was known by the name of Roger Chillingworth, was her husband.
This revelation came as a horrible shock to Arthur Dimmesdale. He held He’tcr responsible for having exposed his sick and guilty heart to the eyes of the man who had been gloating over its misery. He said that he could not forgive her for having concealed the secret from him. Hester appealed to him for forgiveness. She threw her arms around Shim and pressed her head against his bosom. Again and again, she begged him to forgive her till, at last, the minister softened and said that he forgave her freely. He said that he and she were not the worst sinners in the world and that Roger Chilling- worth was a greater sinner because of the black revenge that he had been nursing in his heart. Roger Chillingworth had violated, “in cold blood, the sancitity of a human beast.” Hester agreed, saying that what she and the minister had done “had a consecration of its own.”
The priest asked Hester what the course of the physician’s revenge would be now that he knew that she must have revealed his true identity to the priest. Hester replied that the thought that the physician would not betray the minister’s secret and teat he would
: seek some other means of satisfying his passion for revenge. The ‘ minister, speaking to her in desperate tones, asked what he should
do. She told him that the town of Boston was not the whole world. She suggested that he should escape from the town and go elsewhere,
He could go to England, or Germany, or France. or Italy, where he would be beyond he power of the physician. But the minister said
hat be could not quit his post. Hester reminded him of the niisery that had crushed him during the past seven years. She urged him to begin a new hfe because the future could still bring him happiness. The minister replied that he did not have the courage to go anyw here alone. She told him that he would not go- alonc.
Critical Comments
This chapter is one of the highlights of the story. Arthur Dimmesdal and Hester Prynne have secret meeting in the- forest. The minister is able to unburden his heart and to reveal the harrowi ng agony which he bas gone through for the last seven years.’ He is naturally shocked to learn the true reality of Roger ChillingwOrth. He flow understands why his heart had always recoiled from the physician whçnever he had seen or met him.
a5a-4 t.5
fl1tHester Pryfine ,.s-sti41- passionately in love with Arthur Dimmes
dale)She begs him to forgive her for having kept the identity of Roger Chillingworth a secret from him. When he has forgiven her, she makes a remark that shows that she does not think herself to be sinful. She says that what she and the minister did had “a conscc

 

 

 

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