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The Scarlet Letter

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Essay title: The Scarlet Letter


Hawthorne wrote The Scarlet Letter as a novel of symbolism and the nature of revenge. There are many types of traits each main

character has in the book. Hester has a strong and noble type, while Dimmesdale has the very weak type. Chillingworth has the very vengeful

type and Pearl was born into a evil type of sin.

In the beginning of the novel, Hester is portrayed as a young and elegantly beautiful mother who is being punished for a horrid sin.

The townspeople think of her as a haughty and wretched woman, and her punishment should be much harsher. "The magistrates are God-

fearing gentlemen, but merciful overmuch-that is a truth" (38). When she comes out of the jailhouse, a beautifully sewn letter "A" is

embroidered onto her breast. The townspeople see this as her taking light of her punishment. In the middle of the novel, Hester has become a

more mature woman. Her strength, embroidery, and her compassion towards others become apparent. Also, she shows responsibility and

courage by going to the governor's house and asking to have custody of her daughter, Pearl. She defends her argument by stating "I can

teach my Pearl what I have learned from this!" (84). She now lives in a thatched cottage on the outskirts of town, and has become ignored

somewhat by the townspeople. At the end of The Scarlet Letter, Hester is now a woman who is looked up to. The townspeople's view on the

meaning of the scarlet "A" has changed from "adultery" to "able", because she was strong enough to take care for herself, others, and Pearl.

Dimmesdale was the only weak and cowardly person in the book. All three main characters, Hester, Chillingworth and Dimmesdale

undergo changes that mark the development of events. However, it is Dimmesdale who changes the most. The reason for his change is the

sin he commits with Hester. At the beginning of the book, we meet a young and self-confident minister who is trusted by the townspeople, as

their moral and religious leader, “So powerful seemed the minister’s appeal…” (74). As the story progresses we see Dimmesdale become

weaker physically, due to his moral torment “, who’s health had severely suffered” (119). In Chapter 8, we see him through Hester’s eyes, as

a man who “Looked now more careworn and emanciated than as we described him at the scene of Hester’s public ignominy: and whether it

were his failing health, or whatever the cause might be, his large dark eyes had a world of pain in their troubled and melancholy depth” (124).

For a large part of the novel Dimmesdale becomes both, very sick physically and mentally, as a result of Chillingworth’s “friendly care”.

Chillingworth, Hester’s wronged husband pretends to be his friend, but he actually plays an evil game with Dimmesdale throughout the whole

story. In Chapter 17 Hester tells Dimmesdale about his so-called friend “Thou hast long had such an enemy, and dwellest with him, under the

same roof!”(215).After their conversation, Dimmesdale regains his lost power again and decides to confess. Although Dimmesdale is

physically very sick at the end of the book, he seems to be quite clear mentally. Hester and Pearl have to help him, get onto the scaffold, to

confess his sin.


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