Nathaniel Hawthorne, a critically acclaimed American writer of the 19th century, was born in Salem, Massachusetts in 1804. The novelist’s book, The Scarlet Letter, is supposedly his best work, and universally considered a literary classic. Concerned with sin and consequences of dealing with it, Hawthorne’s work relates to his own personal sense of shame about his ancestor’s persecuting roles in the 17th century Salem Witch Trials. By indirectly dealing with his sense of guilt through fictional circumstances, he shows his viewpoint as being highly critical of the Puritans while teaching a strong moral lesson in the process.
Graduating in the middle of his class from Bowdain College in 1825, he went on to write a variety of long stories, short stories, and articles. Generally his writings contained powerful symbolic and psychological aspects of “the effects of pride, guilt, sin, and secrecy” (Nathaniel Hawthorne). Although many moral lessons are dealt with in the book, the most significant thesis Hawthorne proved was salvation can only be earned by being open about and true to what you are.
Using excellent characterization, description and expression he develops his thesis by showing the consequences of hiding sin, like Arthur Dimmesdale, and of publicly acknowledging it, like Hester Prynne. Through Hester’s daily struggle with her public punishment to wear a scarlet letter A on her clothing to remind her and everyone in the Puritan community of her adultery, she learns how to cope with and triumph over her sin against humanity. On the other hand, Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale, Hester’s equally guilty partner in the crime, refuses within himself to publicly confess his sin until the end of the novel, whereas shortly after he dies.
Thus, Hawthorne summarizes the delayed importance of being truthful about oneself in his quote, “Be true! Be true! Show freely to the world, if not your worst, yet some trait whereby the worst may be inferred! ” (The Literary Network Forums) The authors overall presentation is very clear because to the emphasis of his main point of truth setting people free. It drags the reader into the action and enables them to live with the characters, at the same time as teaching a valuable lesson in dealing with life’s obstacles.
The style of his writing is very symbolic, descriptive, and detailed. He creates very vivid images of the story through elaborate adjectives. One of the most impressive instances is when Arthur, Hester, and Pearl have one of their chance meetings at the scaffold late at night. While Chillingworth lurks in the shadows, the reader is enhanced by his ability to picture the entire scene. They sky is majestic when a meteor flashes a bright letter A “burning duskily through a veil of cloud; but with no such shape as his guilty imagination gave to it… (The Literary Network Forums). Likewise, Hawthorne’s symbolism in the impressionistic fiction is very persistent and easy to find. Take for instance the scarlet letter A. It is just an ordinary piece of cloth to carry out Hester’s punishment, but becomes a symbol with different interpretations. It is undeserved degradation to Hester, a sign of Pearl’s innocent curiosity of the circumstances, and one of Dimmesdale’s barriers to internal peace. Imagery is also constantly portrayed by the author to help strengthen the descriptions of events and characters.
The only part of his writing that could be considered less extradinary is his excessive tendency to drag the descriptions of the updated lives of the characters in some of the chapters. Otherwise, he did a phenomenal job with his writing style. Nathaniel Hawthorne’s incorporation of the Puritans makes it obvious of his motive to write about the settings and plot he chose. His emphasis on their harsh, fundamentalist views on life show his clear judgment about Puritans and what they did concerning sin.
Also, Hawthorne included real, factual characters like John Winthrop to make it further believable and interesting, even though there is much more stress on the theme of the book rather than the setting. This book teaches an invaluable lesson about the importance of dealing with sin. Works Cited Nathaniel Hawthorne. 12 November 2010 ;lt;http://www. cartage. org. lb/en/themes/biographies/MainBiographies/H/hawthornenathaniel/1. html;gt;. The Literary Network Forums. 24 May 2005. 12 November 2010 ;lt;http://www. online-literature. com/forums/showthread. php? t=6909;gt;.