Themes and Analysis

The scarlet letter, by nathaniel hawthorne.

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s ‘The Scarlet Letter’ is stuffed with themes that border around aspects of religion and human morality such as sinning, confessing, and being penalized for such sin - much to the author’s intention of sending some strong moral lessons to his readership.

Victor Onuorah

Article written by Victor Onuorah

Degree in Journalism from University of Nigeria, Nsukka.

Hawthorne’s move to go by such name as ‘ The Scarlet Letter ’ for the book’s title is symbolic in itself and already hints at the themes of penitence and punishment for the crime of adultery committed by two of the book’s major characters in Hester Prynne and the priest – Arthur Dimmesdale. There are some foundational themes as there are other subsets that still carry a vital message in them. The most important ones will be analyzed in this article.

Sin and Punishment

These are probably the two most obvious themes of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s ‘ The Scarlet Letter ’ and they are very clearly executed throughout the pages of the book – beginning from the first chapter. 

Hester Prynne, who is the heroine of the book, is one of the characters who bear such guilts of sin and punishment. The sin for which she is being punished is that of adultery – which she commits with a Christian preacher, Arthur Dimmesdale.

Being she lives in the era of a Christian-inspired puritan society, her punishment becomes one of massive social shaming and disgrace – whereby she has to wear a dress with a large inscription of the letter ‘A’ appearing on her chest in blood red color. 

Contrition and Penitence

Hester and Dimmesdale – two prominent characters harboring the most damnable sin of their era – appear to have had a contrite heart after the act, particularly with Hester, who is publicly announced and disgraced. 

Readers could feel the genuineness of Hester’s contrite heart, having been legally married to Roger Chillingworth, her long lost husband – even though she would never regret the love she feels for Dimmesdale and the product of such love being her child, Pearl. 

Gender and Status Inequality Before the Law

Nathaniel Hawthorne, through ‘ The Scarlet Letter ,’ may have tried to point out the sheer inequality of the purity society before the rule of law. Hawthorne’s time is critical of several aspects of Puritanism, and here questions why preacher Arthur Dimmesdale doesn’t get served the same amount of humiliation as Hester gets. 

Though an argument can be raised that the executors of the puritan laws don’t punish Dimmesdale because they do not know for sure if he committed the crime – especially with Hester refusing to give that information out. Still, one can easily sense that they don’t do enough to get the man who’s responsible. 

Two hypotheses here are one; their interest in not punishing men but the women in such crimes. Two, Dimmesdale’s religious status makes him a very important person, so the executors would be tricky with handling a case of such a class. 

Necromancy and witchcraft

There is a massive dose of talks and meetings about and with witches, and even the devil – who is referred to in the book as ‘ The Black Man .’ These subjects are part of what gives the book its dark, spooky ambiance characteristic of gothic fiction. 

Mistress Hibbins is a high-profile suspect whose behavior is, by a puritan society’s standards, termed diabolic and hellish. Hibbins goes about negatively influencing people – like Hester and Pearl – instilling strange, anti puritan mentality in them, conducting and attending meetings and conventions where they invoke and commune with ‘The Black Man’ or devil himself. 

Key Moments in The Scarlet Letter

  • After losing his job with the Salem Custom House, a man puts together a piece of the manuscript that he had discovered littering in the attic of his former job. On the cover is an inscription, ‘Scarlet Letter A .’ 
  • The story which he has assembled from it narratives the story of a young woman called Hester Prynne who lives in a 1600s puritan society. 
  • She appears to have been imprisoned for a heinous crime and is processioned out and made to stand over a public platform wearing a dress with the scarlet letter ‘A’ written boldly on her breast, on which she also carries her baby. 
  • The crime for which she is paraded is adultery, and under a typical puritan leadership, social shaming and scorning are the repercussions for such acts. 
  • While she faces the worse moment of her life, a man stands a stone’s throw away in the crowd observing the whole event. His name is Roger Chillingworth, the long-lost husband of the woman being punished at the platform. 
  • On the platform with Hester is a popular preacher of the town, rev. Arthur Dimmesdale publicly pressures her to say who’s responsible for her baby, but Hester wouldn’t tell and is thrust back into her cell.
  • With a keen interest in the matter, Chillingworth lies that he is a doctor to get access to his wife, and when he gets past security into the cell, he threatens her not to let anyone know she is married to him and that if she does, he would search out the man responsible and hurt him very badly.
  • Following her release, Hester moves away from town and tries to survive as a dressmaker with young Pearl. Chillingworth is still in town posing as a doctor as he tries to unearth the father of his wife’s baby. And by now, Dimmesdale, the popular town people’s preacher, has failing health and is being tended to by Chillingworth. 
  • Pearl grows fond of the scarlet ‘A’ on her mother’s breast, but Hester wouldn’t tell her the truth about it. 
  • With Chillingworth now spending so much time with Dimmesdale, he starts to notice an unusually strange correlation between Hester’s case and the preacher’s health history. 
  • One faithful day during Dimmesdale’s medical examination, Chillingworth finds that his patient has a similar scarlet letter ‘A’ etched inside his chest. He is convinced Dimmesdale is Hester’s lover and father of the illegitimate child, Pearl. 
  • With this knowledge, Chillingworth decides to exert revenge on Dimmesdale by giving him the wrong meds and treating him so much so that his health deteriorates further by the day. 
  • For Dimmesdale, it seems that his inability to confess publicly is eating him up and causing him constant emotional trauma and heartache. And on several occasions, he doesn’t eat and chastises and whips himself for his mistake. 
  • On a faithful day, just after twilight, troubled by his guilt, Dimmesdale climbs up the platform and is joined by Hester and her daughter shortly, while Chillingworth skulks by the shadows observing them before a shooting star shimmers through the night sky to reveal his presence. 
  • What follows next is an exchange of emotions. Hester begs Chillingworth to stop torturing Dimmesdale, but he argues he’s lenient to him. 
  • Hester then plans a rendezvous with Dimmesdale in the wilderness, where she exposes Chillingworth’s real identity and begs Dimmesdale to elope with her across the Atlantic to start afresh in a new, distant town. He agrees to go with her after he has delivered a scheduled sermon. 
  • On the day of the sermon, Dimmesdale is moved by his preaching that he decides to confess publicly that he is Hester’s lover and the father to Pearl (both of who had joined him on the platform). Opening his chest, he exposes a scarlet cut he had been carrying in his chest and dies as soon as Pearl kisses him.
  • Chillingworth’s revenge is taken from him, and he dies a few months later. Hester leaves town with her daughter – explores Europe and marries a wealthy home, and seldom writes her mother. 
  • When Hester dies, she is laid to rest beside Dimmesdale, and the later ‘A’ is erected in their resting place.

Style and Tone 

Nathaniel Hawthorne’s writing style is typically one that deploys a lot of metaphors and symbolism to execute his works – with the end goal often having a ton of morals to impact on the reader.

Hawthorne’s works are mostly mysterious, somber, and morose in terms of their themes and storylines. ‘ The Scarlet Letter ’ is no different from his typical style and follows his trademark standard for novel writing. 

The tone in ‘ The Scarlet Letter ’ is mostly sad and contrite, but also critical and disenchantment about puritan cultures, their leaders, and their tendency for being highly hypocritical.

Figurative Languages

Hawthorne brings the pages of ‘The Scarlet Letter’ to life with his heavy use of figurative expressions. Among the figurative language used include metaphor – which seems to appear pervasively throughout the book.

The author also uses tools like irony and personification to highlight his critiques of the purity legacy and traditions. 

Analysis of Symbols in The Scarlet Letter 

This is perhaps the foremost symbolism in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s book and represents a variety of things. One such thing is that it serves as an identity for the transgressor or sinner of adultery – as is the case with the protagonist, Hester Prynne. 

Hester’s daughter’s character also has an allegorical attachment to its overall essence. Pearl is a direct repercussion of Hester’s son of adultery, but also a symbol of hope for a better life, in the latter part of the book.


In the book’s reality, he is the husband of Hester, but in terms of the motif to which he represents, Chillingworth proves to be as his name appears; cold. He’s a cold and means man towards the people around him, and this is perhaps one of the reasons Hester could never find love with him. 

What is the main theme in ‘The Scarlet Letter’ by Nathaniel Hawthorne?

Sin and punishment are probably the two most discussed themes in ‘ The Scarlet Letter ,’ and these subjects are pervasive and heavily indulged in by the author throughout the book. 

What does the color red represent in ‘The Scarlet Letter’?

The color red represents sin, and in the book’s case, the sin of adultery – which Hester, the protagonist, is indicted of from the onset of the book. 

What narrative style is deployed by Nathaniel Hawthorne in ‘The Scarlet Letter’?

Nathaniel Hawthorne utilizes the third person narrative technique in his book, ‘ The Scarlet Letter, ’ as this allows the narrator to tell his story subjectively – but from a rounded, three-dimensional standpoint on the characters. 

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Victor Onuorah

About Victor Onuorah

Victor is as much a prolific writer as he is an avid reader. With a degree in Journalism, he goes around scouring literary storehouses and archives; picking up, dusting the dirt off, and leaving clean even the most crooked pieces of literature all with the skill of analysis.


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The Scarlet Letter

By nathaniel hawthorne, the scarlet letter themes, public guilt vs. private guilt.

Perhaps the foremost purpose of The Scarlet Letter is to illustrate the difference between shaming someone in public and allowing him or her to suffer the consequences of an unjust act privately. According to the legal statutes at the time and the prevailing sentiment of keeping in accordance with a strict interpretation of the Bible, adultery was a capital sin that required the execution of both adulterer and adulteress--or at the very least, severe public corporal punishment. Indeed, even if the husband wanted to keep his wife alive after she committed adultery, the law insisted that she would have to die for it. It is in this environment that Hester commits adultery with Dimmesdale, but we come to see that the public shaming cannot begin to account for all the complexities of the illicit relationship--or the context of it. What Hawthorne sets out to portray, then, is how the private thoughts, the private torture and guilt and emotional destruction of the people involved in the affair, are more than enough punishment for the crime. We wonder whether the state or society has any right to impose law in private matters between citizens. Does adultery really have no impact upon the lives of others? If not, it should not be seen as a crime against the village. A more charitable reading of the Bible would come later in reflections on the New Testament interpretation of adultery law, namely, that the public need not step in to punish a crime when we ourselves have our own sins to be judged. Each person suffers enough already for his or her own sins.

Punishment vs. Forgiveness

One of the more compelling themes of the novel is embodied by Chillingworth, who seems the arbiter of moral judgment in the story, since Dimmesdale--the minister and the supposed purveyor of righteousness--is himself tainted as a party to the crime. Chillingworth is surprisingly forgiving of Hester's crime. We sense that he understands why she would forsake him. After all, he is deformed, he is older, he has not been nearby, while she is beautiful and passionate. Indeed, we get the feeling that Chillingworth's self-loathing allows him to forgive Hester, but this attribute also increases the relentlessness and rage with which he goes after Dimmesdale. In Dimmesdale, he sees the vigor and passion which Hester desires and which he himself does not possess. Like a leech, he's out to suck Dimmesdale of his life force, not just to punish the minister for the crime of fornicating with his wife, but also to symbolically appropriate Dimmesdale's virility. And as the novel continues, Chillingworth seems to grow stronger while Dimmesdale seems to weaken. That pattern continues until Dimmesdale dies in an act of defiance, his public demonstration of guilt, which essentially leaves Chillingworth stripped bare of his power to punish or forgive.

The scarlet letter is symbolic in a number of different ways, but perhaps most in the ways that the sinners choose to wear it. Hawthorne's generative image for the novel was that of a woman charged with adultery and forced to wear the letter A upon her clothes, but upon wearing it, decided to add fancy embroidery as if to appropriate the letter as a point of pride. Hawthorne read about this choice in an actual case in 1844, recorded it in his journal, and thus The Scarlet Letter was born as Hester Prynne 's story. Hester, a knitter by trade, sees the letter as a burden laid on by society, an act of community-enforced guilt that she is forced to bear, even though it seems to make little difference for her private thoughts. Dimmesdale, however, as the town minister, wears his own scarlet A burned upon his flesh, since it is the community's rage he fears the most. Thus we see the difference between a woman who has made peace with the crime, publicly confesses, and endures the suffering the community imposes, and a man who imposes his own punishment because he cannot bear to reveal the crime to the community.

Sin and Judgment

Hawthorne's novel consistently calls into question the notion of sin and what is necessary for redemption. Is Hester's initial crime a sin? She married Chillingworth without quite understanding the commitment she made, and then she had to live without him while he was abroad, then fell in love with Dimmesdale--perhaps discovering the feeling for the first time. Is the sin, then, committing adultery with Dimmesdale and breaking her vow and commitment, or is the sin first marrying Chillingworth without thinking it through? And what is Chillingworth's sin? Essentially abandoning his wife for so long upon their marriage, or failing to forgive her once he knew of the crime? Is Dimmesdale's sin his adultery or his hypocritical failure to change his sermon themes after the fact? Or are all of these things sins of different degrees? For each kind of sin, we wonder if the punishment fits the crime and what must be done, if anything, to redeem the sinner in the eyes of society as well as in the eyes of the sinner himself or herself. We also should remember that what the Puritans thought of as sin was different from what went for sin in Hawthorne's time, both being different from what many Christians think of as sin today. This should not teach us moral relativism, but it should encourage us to be wary of judging others.

Civilization vs. Wilderness

Pearl embodies the theme of wilderness over against civilization. After all, she is a kind of embodiment of the scarlet letter: wild, passionate, and completely oblivious to the rules, mores, and legal statutes of the time. Pearl is innocence, in a way, an individualistic passionate innocence. So long as Dimmesdale is alive, Pearl seems to be a magnet that attracts Hester and Dimmesdale, almost demanding their reconciliation or some sort of energetic reconciliation. But as soon as Dimmesdale dies, Pearl seems to lose her vigor and becomes a normal girl, able to marry and assimilate into society. The implication is thus that Pearl truly was a child of lust or love, a product of activity outside the boundaries imposed by strict Puritan society. Once the flame of love is extinguished, she can properly assimilate.

The Town vs. the Woods

In the town, Hester usually is confronted with the legal and moral consequences of her crime. Governor Bellingham comes to take her child away, Chillingworth reminds her of her deed, and she faces Dimmesdale in the context of sinner (his reputation remains untarnished despite his role in the affair). But whenever Hester leaves the town and enters the woods, a traditional symbol of unbridled passion without boundaries, she is free to rediscover herself. The woods also traditionally emblematize darkness. In the darkness of night, Hester is free to meet Dimmesdale, to confess her misgivings, and to live apart from the torment and burdens of the guilt enforced by the community. Dimmesdale too is free at night to expose his guilt on the scaffold and reconcile with Hester.

Memories vs. the Present

Hester Prynne's offense against society occurred seven years earlier, but she remains punished for it. Hester learned to forgive herself for her adultery, but society continues to scorn her for it. (One might remember Jean Valjean's permanent identity as criminal after a single minor crime in Victor Hugo's Les Misérables .) Indeed, Hester reaches peace with her affair and in that peace comes to see the town as insufficiently forgiving in its thoughts and attitudes. Pearl is enough of a reminder of the wild choices in her past, and as Pearl grows up, Hester continues to live in the present rather than in the past. Reverend Dimmesdale, meanwhile, is haunted in the present by sins past and seems to reflect (along with Chillingworth) the town's tendency to punish long after the offense. In suppressing his own confession, Dimmesdale remains focused on coming to terms with a sinful past instead of looking squarely at the problems of the present.

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The Scarlet Letter Questions and Answers

The Question and Answer section for The Scarlet Letter is a great resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.

Scarlet Letter Quotes Please

Her breast, with its badge of shame , was but the softer pillow for the head that needed one. ch 13

Why does Dimmesdale decide to flee with Hester?

Dimmesdale looks beyong his place in the community and embraces his role as a father. He wants his family, so he decides to leave.

who is the elder clergyman who speaks to hester

The elder minister is John Wilson.

Study Guide for The Scarlet Letter

The Scarlet Letter study guide contains a biography of Nathaniel Hawthorne, literature essays, a complete e-text, quiz questions, major themes, characters, and a full summary and analysis.

  • About The Scarlet Letter
  • The Scarlet Letter Summary
  • The Scarlet Letter Video
  • Character List

Essays for The Scarlet Letter

The Scarlet Letter essays are academic essays for citation. These papers were written primarily by students and provide critical analysis of The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne.

  • The Little Human A Incarnate
  • Perception Blanketed by Passion
  • Original Sin
  • Hawthorne's "Witch-Baby" in The Scarlet Letter
  • Hester's Role as Both the Sinner and Saint

Lesson Plan for The Scarlet Letter

  • About the Author
  • Study Objectives
  • Common Core Standards
  • Introduction to The Scarlet Letter
  • Relationship to Other Books
  • Bringing in Technology
  • Notes to the Teacher
  • Related Links
  • The Scarlet Letter Bibliography

E-Text of The Scarlet Letter

The Scarlet Letter e-text contains the full text of The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne.


Wikipedia Entries for The Scarlet Letter

  • Introduction
  • Major theme
  • Publication history
  • Critical response

scarlet letter theme analysis essay

The Scarlet Letter

Introduction the scarlet letter.

This historical novel of American Romanticism was written by Nathaniel Hawthorne and published in 1850. It created a lot of controversy in literary circles. It showed the settings of the Puritan region of Massachusetts Colony of the 1650s, narrating a storyline of a woman, Hester Prynne, who suffers after having an affair with a church minister. However, she alone has to suffer for that affair with her daughter for having none of her crime. Her struggle to go through this repentance won her readers’ hearts. Despite comprising strong strictures against the hypocrisy of the religious bureaucracy, this novel is still considered Hawthorne’s tour de force.

Summary The Scarlet Letter

The story begins with a crowd preparing to punish a woman, Hester Prynne, for giving birth to a baby girl without revealing the husband’s identity. The crowd punishes her by making her wear a scarlet letter “A” on her dress to show the public that she is ashamed of her action. She is also forced to stand three hours on the scaffold to demonstrate that she feels ashamed at her sin. Women, mostly jealous of her beauty and dignified manner, taunt her and ask her the name of her husband, receiving only her refusal in response.

During the shaming ceremony, the woman happens to see her lost husband as a misshapen unknown person peering at her from the crowd. He gestures to her to remain quiet to protect his own identity. Choosing the name of Roger Chillingworth, he soon discovers the truth about her from his inquiry from different people. Then, he angrily raises the voice for the punishment of the father of the child, too, but without becoming prominent in the crowd.

Meanwhile, the local church ministers, Arthur Dimmesdale and John Wilson ask her about the likely father of the child, but they also face her staunch refusal. When she reaches the prison cell, she meets her husband, Roger Chillingworth, in the guise of a physician. As a physician he suggests her some herbs and plants, though, both of them talk about their marriage and their mistakes. However, Hester faces his probe about the identity of the father of the girl to which she again refuses to share with him. He does not force her, however, but claims to know it one day and asks her not to reveal his identity.  Hester willingly agrees to his proposal.

After she wins her release, she tries to settle in the town, but ultimately leaves for the outskirts facing staunch public resentment. She takes shelter in a hut on the outskirts of town and earns her bread through her needlework skills. Living a quiet and simple life, she starts playing with her daughter to whom she names, Pearl. However, strangely, Pearl takes her “A” locket to her heart, always playing with it. Finding no other playmates, Pearl soon develops into an impulsive girl about whom the order of the church authorities soon arrives about separating her from her imperfect mother.

Adamant as she is in her refusal about uncovering the identity of her husband, she is adamant in handing over her girl. Therefore, she meets Bellingham, the Governor of the city, who is present with the church authorities, Dimmesdale as well as Wilson. Hester, immediately, sensing the upper-hand of the religious authority, pleas to Dimmesdale who asks Governor to stop this mother-daughter cruel segregation to which he agrees.

It soon transpires in the town that Dimmesdale is witnessing a sharp decline in his health at which Chillingworth arrives at his lodging to treat him. He, however, senses that this decline is due to some psychological guilt and not due to some physical ailment. Soon he sees a symbol of shame on his chest. The more the minister hides his guilt, the more tormenting it becomes for him. At last, he visits the site where Hester got punishment and confesses his guilt in isolation, for having no courage to do it publicly. On the other hand, his deteriorating health also shocks Hester, who decides to break her silence .

Later, Hester meets the minister and narrates her ordeal, telling him about her revengeful husband, Chillingworth. She begs him to leave Boston to start life afresh somewhere else. Gaining strength from this new freedom from his shameful past, the church minister delivers a fiery sermon but suddenly loses his control. He climbs on the same scaffold to confess his guilt and tells everyone about his affair with Hester. Afterward, he dies in the arms of Hester. The controversy of seeing the same letter “A” carved on his chest also faces the same fierce refusal from a few in the crowd. Shortly after this incident, Chillingworth, too, dies, leaving a good amount of inheritance for Pearl. Hester, after left alone, starts living in the same cottage. After her death, her body is buried in the grave near Dimmesdale’s.

Major Themes in The Scarlet Letter

  • Sin: Sense of sin, its impacts, and its manipulation and exploitation for ulterior motives is the major theme of The Scarlet Letter. Hester Prynne has committed this sense of having an illicit relationship with a church minister. The church minister, Arthur Dimmesdale, has committed the same offense and equally guilty as Hester. However, he sits on the jury as Hester doesn’t reveal his identity while she is standing in the criminal enclosure. When the court accuses her of adultery, as the punishment for her sin, she is excluded from the social circle and forced to wear scarlet color “A” sown on her dress. Dimmesdale does not show any remorse. However, what impacts the readers most is the way Hester dignifiedly hides this fact and only discloses when it becomes imperative. Chillingworth does not show any mercy on her.
  • Conformity to Religion: Religion must need confirmation, or else the person may face subjection of censure. One of the novel’s major themes, The Scarlet Letter, confirms the religiosity of those times of puritanism, for Hester, has not confirmed its convention of the religion to stay chaste. Dimmesdale, too, shows the same trait, but he keeps it hiding, while Hester could not hide due to the birth of Pearl, her daughter from Dimmesdale. That is why she has to undergo sufferings for defying a religious convention.
  • Criticism of Puritanism: The Scarlet Letter is also a critique of puritanism as well as stricture on it. It is a critique that shows how puritanism, a theological concept, has crept into public life, overtaking every social, moral , and financial aspects of life. As a stricture, it shows that it has not done good to the public life, for Hester has to undergo suffering for defying its principles, while Dimmesdale enjoys privileges because of aligning with the religious clergy.
  • Public and Individual Guilt: The novel also demonstrates that when an individual, such as Hester, is caught for some guilt, he must undergo suffering that they do not deserve. However, when the whole public is involved, there is a deafening silence from the clergy as well as the jury. Dimmesdale represents the public morality and the public as the church minister but has no guts and courage like Hester to stand up for a trial. However, he feels it in his heart as an individual and has displayed the symbol on his chest.
  • Moral Codes: Moral codes, ethical frameworks, and their social confirmation is another smaller thematic strand in that Hester defies a social value of the ethical framework of the Puritan social fabric. As it happens openly and people see a piece of evidence , she gets punished for violating this code. However, the case of Dimmesdale stays hidden, the reason that he does not face any punishment; rather, he faces only mental stigma.
  • Gender Suppression: Gender suppression and feministic resilience is another partial theme that The Scarlet Letter demonstrated through Hester’s character . However, it does not seem that Hawthorne has consciously inserted it. Instead, it seems that it is part of the story that whereas Hester is involved, she faces punishment while it comes to a man, Chillingworth as well as Dimmesdale, they hoodwink not only the legality but also the religiosity.
  • Mockery of Law: The novel shows that when a law does not protect the weaker section of the society, such as Hester Prynne, it ceases to exist as a law. Mr. Dimmesdale shows that some segments can wield law for their own purposes. Therefore, it needs to be changed, as the novel has mocked such a law.
  • Domination of Patriarchy: The novel also shows that patriarchy always conspires to win when men and women are put against each other. Hester Prynne has no way to win against Dimmesdale, for he is as much responsible for bringing Pearl into this world as Hester is, yet he gets away while she faces imprisonment as well as a stricture.
  • Redemption: Despite being relegated to the background, the redemption theme comes in the open when Hester has to endure long-sufferings for her sin. However, Dimmesdale wins it through his sermons and isolated confession.

Major Characters in The Scarlet Letter

  • Hester Prynne: Hester Prynne is not only the primary female character but also the protagonist of the novel on account of her dignified manner, resilience, and patience to suffer the stigma of adultery. When the jury awards her punishment, she does not remonstrate. She chooses to wear the scarlet letter ‘A’ and leaves the town to live the rest of her life in isolation with her daughter Pearl. On the other hand, Dimmesdale, the minister of the city, who had seduced her, stays hidden until the end. Meanwhile, Hester’s husband, Roger Chillingworth, sees her and asks her the name of the child’s real father, Pearl, but she refuses. When the Governor, Bellingham, too, turns against her by ordering the retrieval of Pearl from her custody, she subtly makes Dimmesdale confess his guilt, though it does not happen publicly.
  • Arthur Dimmesdale: A respected and reverend church minister, Arthur Dimmesdale, hoodwinks Hester into his love, committing adultery followed by the birth of Pearl, his daughter. However, when she faces public shame, he distances himself from her, sitting on the theological bureaucracy’s higher stand. Inwardly though, he is aware of his culpability, which gnaws at him and forces him to accept his guilt by the end, showing the sign on his chest after which he dies on the scaffold.
  • Pearl : Pearl is Hester Prynne’s illegitimate daughter and symbol of her parents’ love and passion. She is inquisitive by nature. As she is naughty as a child and fails to recite the Bible, the church plans to put her in foster care. However, the church gives her another chance to Pearl and allows her to stay with her mother with Dimmesdale’s and Governor Bellingham’s approval. Pearl is also a reminder and symbol of the minister’s adulterous affair. Dimmesdale finally dies, confessing his crime. Also, Pearl gets considerable property from her stepfather, Chillingworth.
  • Roger Chillingworth: A Dutch, Roger Chillingworth is the assumed name of the former husband of Hester Prynne, who is amazed at finding his beloved wife in an adulterous affair and having a child, Pearl. However, he does not disclose his identity and let the clergy decides her fate, though he comes to meet her as a physician to counsel her. He also plans to avenge this from Dimmesdale about whom he comes to know somehow.
  • Governor Bellingham: He is an authoritative and manipulative person who exploits the helplessness of Hester Prynne and orders to take Pearl away from her. His role seems critical in forcing Hester to seek help from Dimmesdale. However, his role appears to include the other side of the story as he accepts Dimmesdale’s reasoning of letting her stay with her mother.
  • General Miller: General Miller is the first official of the Custom House. His collecting duty has made him a politically strong person. He protects the employees and workers from being fired. That is why his role seems like a minor character in the novel.
  • Mistress Hibbins: Hibbins’ character sheds light on the witch-hunting of those times. Despite being Governor Bellingham’s sister, she is killed when it transpires that she meets the “Black Man” in the woods for witchery.
  • Inspector : He is the inspector at the Custom House and has been a product of nepotism, for his father created that seat to keep his son in the job. Due to his father’s influence, he seems to have harbored the emotion of being a permanent employee.
  • John Wilson : He is another minister of the church who is involved with Dimmesdale to award punishment to Hester Prynne.

Writing Style of The Scarlet Letter‎

Despite its being written around three centuries back, The Scarlet Letter still shows the beauty of the language used by Nathaniel Hawthorne in his masterpiece. Its diction is subtle and ornate, its sentences are long, complex, and intricate, while its terseness and concision resonate in the minds of its readers. However, this style ’s major feature is Romanticism, shown through a battle between the forces of good and evil.

Analysis of Literary Devices in The Scarlet Letter

  • Action: The novel’s main action comprises the sufferings and woes of Hester Prynne when she is tried for adultery, thrown in prison, and subsequently ordered to keep away from the town. The rising action occurs when Dimmesdale and Wilson both award punishment, while the falling action occurs when Dimmesdale confesses his sin and punishes himself, showing his sense of shame carved on his chest.
  • Allegory : The Scarlet Letter shows the use of allegory not only through its places, symbols, and incidents but also through the characters, which resemble abstract ideas such as sin, sense of sin, hypocrisy, authority, shame, and condemnation.
  • Antagonist : Although it seems that Dimmesdale is the main antagonist of The Scarlet Letter in the opening chapters, it is Roger Chillingworth, who is the antagonist of the novel on account of his machinations, and stooped physical deformity that is equal to the distortion of his soul.
  • Allusion : There are various examples of allusions given in the novel The Scarlet Letter. The first allusion is of Hester as she seems Eve thrown out of Paradise. Therefore, it seems a Biblical allusion. The second illusion is to Babylon, an ancient city, and third to Sir Thomas Overbury, the poet Overbury. Some other Biblical allusions include Cain, the Holy Spirit, the Pearl , and Adam and Even.
  • Conflict : The are two types of conflicts in the novel The Scarlet Letter. The first one is the external conflict that starts between Hester Prynne and the authorities, including the religious church ministers, that ends in the defeat of Hester. The second conflict is the mental conflict going on in the mind of Dimmesdale because of his part in punishing Hester and her innocence.
  • Characters: The Scarlet Letter presents both static as well as dynamic characters . The church minister, Arthur Dimmesdale, Hester Prynne, and Pearl are dynamic characters as they change with the storyline. However, static characters include Mistress Hibbins and Governor Richard Bellingham, as they do not change during the course of the novel.
  • Climax : The climax in the novel arrives when Dimmesdale and Wilson are on the jury to punish Hester.
  • Foreshadowing : The novel, The Scarlet Letter, shows various examples of foreshadowing . For example, i. A throng of bearded men, in sad-colored garments and gray steeple-crowned hats, intermixed with women, some wearing hoods, and others bareheaded, was assembled in front of a wooden edifice, the door of which was heavily timbered with oak, and studded with iron spikes. (Chapter-1) ii. It was a circumstance to be noted, on the summer morning when our story begins its course, that the women, of whom there were several in the crowd, appeared to take a peculiar interest in whatever penal infliction might be expected to ensue. (Chapter-2) iii. “It is done!” muttered the minister, covering his face with his hands. “The whole town will awake, and hurry forth, and find me here!” (Chapter-XII)
  • Hyperbole : Hyperbole or exaggeration occurs in the novel at several places. For example, i. Her spirit sank with the idea that all must have been a delusion, and that, vividly as she had dreamed it, there could be no real bond betwixt the clergyman and herself. ii. The minister started to his feet, gasping for breath, and clutching at his heart as if he would have torn it out of his bosom. (Chapter-XII) Both of these statements shows facts overblown and exaggerated even if they are in emotions and not in reality.
  • Imagery : Imagery means to use of five senses such as in these examples: i. When they found voice to speak, it was at first, only to utter remarks and inquiries such as any two acquaintances might have made, about the gloomy sky, the threatening storm, and, next, the health of each. (Chapter-XVII) ii. There played around her mouth, and beamed out of her eyes, a radiant and tender smile, that seemed gushing from the very heart of womanhood. A crimson flush was glowing on her cheek, that had been long so pale. (Chapter-XVIII) The first example shows the images of sound color as well as sight, while the second, too, demonstrates the presence of these images.
  • Metaphor : The novel shows good use of various metaphors . For example, i. Hester’s first motion had been to cover her bosom with her clasped hands. (Chapter-VI) ii. she seemed the unpremeditated offshoot of a passionate moment. (Chapter-VII) iii. No golden light had ever been so precious as the gloom of this dark forest. (XVII) iv. The instillment thereof into her mind would probably have caused this aged sister to drop down dead, at once, as by the effect of an intensely poisonous infusion. (Chapter-XX)
  • Mood : The novel, The Scarlet Letter, shows a satirical mood , though, at times, it becomes quite somber, serious, ironic as well as jubilant by the end.
  • Motif : The most important motifs of the novel, The Scarlet Letter, is of light and darkness for Pearl and Hester.
  • Narrator : The novel is narrated by a third-person narrator , though the writer himself enters the novel to narrate its introduction . Even the third-person narrator is also the writer.
  • Personification : Personification means to attribute human acts and emotions to non-living objects . For example, i. While the shadow of his figure, which the sunlight cast upon the floor, was tremulous with the vehemence of his appeal. (Chapter-VIII) ii. The crisis flung back to them their consciousness, and revealed to each heart its history and experience, as life never does, except at such breathless epochs. (Chapter-XVII) iii. They needed something slight and casual to run before, and throw open the doors of intercourse, so that their real thoughts might be led across the threshold. (Chapter-XVII) Both of these examples show sunlight and crisis personified here.
  • Protagonist : Hester Prynne is the protagonist of the novel. She comes into the novel from the very start and captures the readers’ interest through her extraordinary qualities until the end when Dimmesdale accepts his fault and dies.
  • Paradox : The Scarlet Letter shows the use of paradox as “Shame, Despair, Solitude! These had been her teachers—stern and wild ones—and they had made her strong, but taught her much amiss.” (Chapter-XVIII). The narrator means that these have made her strong instead of a weak creature.
  • Rhetorical Questions : The novel shows good use of rhetorical questions in several places. For example, i. But Arthur Dimmesdale! Were such a man once more to fall, what plea could be urged in extenuation of his crime? None; unless it avail him somewhat, that he was broken down by long and exquisite suffering (Chapter-XVIII) ii. “Do I feel joy again?” cried he, wondering at himself. “Methought the germ of it was dead in me! (Chapter-XVIII) iii. But where was his mind? (Chapter-XXII) This example shows the use of rhetorical questions posed by different characters such as Dimmesdale, himself, and then the narrator.
  • Theme : A theme is a central idea that the novelist or the writer wants to stress upon. The novel, The Scarlet Letter shows the titular thematic strands of color and gender marginality, patriarchy, hypocrisy, and love.
  • Setting : The setting of the novel, The Scarlet Letter, is the city of Boston in the 1600s.
  • Simile : The novel shows good use of various similes. For example, i. But yet returned, like the bad half-penny. (Introduction) ii. a quality of enchantment like that of the Devil’s wages… (Introduction) iii. He now dug into the poor clergyman’s heart, like a miner searching for gold; (Chapter-X) iv. Sometimes, a light glimmered out of the physician’s eyes, burning blue and ominous, like the reflection of a furnace, or, let us say, like one of those gleams of ghastly fire that darted from Bunyan’s1 awful door-way in the hill-side, and quivered on the pilgrim’s face. (Chapter-X)

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scarlet letter theme analysis essay

scarlet letter theme analysis essay

The Scarlet Letter

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  • The Scarlet Letter

Background of the Novel

“The Scarlet letter” is a Romance written by an American author, Nathaniel Hawthorne. It was published in 1850.  When it was published it earned great fame. Today it is considered a classic work. Different films and stage dramas got inspired by it. It was among the first mass-produced books of America. It is considered a masterpiece by critics. Moreover, it is regarded as a “Perfect work of American imagination” by the novelist D.H Lawrence.

The novel is written in third-person narration. It is told by an unnamed narrator who worked in the Custom House. He decided to write the story when he found a scarlet letter along with some parts of its story from the attic of the Custom House. He finally penned down this story after losing his job.

The novel tells us the story of Hester Prynne who carries a child because of her extra-marital affair. Later she suffers a lot after committing the great sin and is transformed into a new person by the end of the novel. The novel deals with the themes of sin, guilt, repentance, and revenge etc.

The Scarlet Letter Summary

Preface: the custom house.

The Scarlet letter opens with a long preface about how this book was written. The anonymous narrator of this novel worked as a surveyor of the Custom-house. The custom-house is a building where import and export goods are documented by the people. It was in Salem, Massachusetts. Many ships stopped coming to Salem so the narrator had not much to do. One day, he went to the attic of the custom-house. There were many documents. Among them, he found a manuscript that was wrapped in a scarlet golden embroidered piece of cloth in the shape of an “A”.

Those manuscripts were documented by a man named “Jonathan Pue” some hundred years before the narrator’s time. In them, there was a story of “Hester Prynne”. The narrator decided to write a narrative of Hester Prynne. Soon the Custom house found another person for the narrator’s job and he got fired. So after losing his job, he decided to write about all the fictional events documented in the manuscript. ” The Scarlet Letter” is the final product of it.

Chapter 1: The Prison Door

The first chapter tells us about the town prison. The story takes place in a Puritan settlement of the seventeenth century in Boston. The people of the town gather and they all start staring at the prison door. At one side of the prison door, there is a rose bush growing that everyone thinks is the blessing for those criminals who enter that door. The people of the town believe that the rose bush grew when Ann Hutchinson entered that door of the prison. Ann Hutchinson was a person in history who got punished because he gave a statement that people should focus on their individual relations with the god instead of depending on the minister’s orders.

Chapter 2: The Marketplace

The people of the town gather to watch the punishment given to Hester Prynne. In the crowd, the women seem busy in exchanging gossip. One woman says that the punishment of Hester should be execution. The other one suggests that her punishment is too light, just an “A” on her chest that can be easily covered up by anything. Then a woman scolds them. She disagrees with them by saying that she is sure that every day Hester will feel that mark. Soon Hester Prynne comes out of the prison door with her 3 months old daughter in her arms. The gossiping women get shocked to see that Hester didn’t hide the letter “A” rather she embroidered it to make it look beautiful.

The people of the town think that Hester is making fun of their punishment. The woman who scolded others says again that Hester must have felt each stroke of the needle in her heart while embroidering it. Hester moves out from the door to the center of the town and she is kept in a pillory that is a wooden structure with holes for hands and head and is used to display the criminal in front of the whole town for punishment. She remembers her mother, father, and her scholar. Her little baby starts crying when she squeezes her tightly.

Chapter 3: The recognition

Hester looks at the crowd and recognizes a white man. She tries to draw his attention towards her by squeezing her daughter until she cries. The man looks at her and puts the finger on his lips. The white man asks a person in the crowd what’s happening there. The man tells him that the lady is Hester Prynne who got married to a white man who has not been seen here for two years but the lady has a three months old child that’s why she is charged with adultery. The people insist her to tell the name of her baby’s father and the partner of hers in crime but she stands quiet.

Chapter 4: The Interview

Hester is taken back to the prison where an elderly doctor named “Roger Chillingworth” comes to see her. It is revealed that he is the same white man whom Hester recognized in the crowd. He is Hester’s missing husband who is practicing medicine now. He also wants to know about her lover. However, he asks Hester to keep his identity secret and she agrees.

Chapter 5: Hester at Her Needle

Hester didn’t tell anyone about her partner. However, she gets released from the prison with the decision that she will always be wearing the scarlet letter “A” on her clothes as a punishment. After coming out, she becomes a very good seamstress but everyone mocks and looks down upon her glancing the scarlet letter.

Chapter 6: Pearl

Hester names her daughter “Pearl”. She grows up and she is a very beautiful and charming girl. She is also treated badly in society just like her mother. People consider her the offspring of demons. As she grows up, she notices her mother’s scarlet letter ” A” on her clothes. One day she invents a game to hit flowers right on the scarlet letter. Hester feels that each flower is hurting and wounding her so she starts crying.

Chapter 7: The Governor Hall

Hester heard some rumors that the community officials are going to take away Pearl from her so she gets worried. She goes to see the Governor on this matter and she also takes a pair of fine embroidered gloves for him. She also takes Pearl with her dressed in the scarlet dress. While they await the Governor, they move out in his Garden for some time. Pearl starts crying to get a red rose from the garden. Meanwhile, they hear the voices of the Governor and some other people coming towards them.

Chapter 8: The Elf-Child and the Minister

Governor Bellingham arrives with the Ministers John Wilson and Arthur Dimmesdale and also a physician Roger Chillingworth accompanies them. Hester hides behind the curtain and only Pearl is visible in front of the men. They ask Pearl who she is but then they recognize that she is Hester Prynne’s daughter and Hester is also present behind her. Hester requests the Governor not to take her daughter away from her but the Governor snatches her from her mother. Hester then requests Dimmesdale for mercy. He and other men agree to leave Pearl. Dimmesdale, however, doesn’t look fine. He suffers some kind of heart problem.

Chapter 9: The Leech

Chillingworth is a good doctor. He works on combining the American Indian and British herbal medicines. He is considered as a Leech by the narrator. As Dimmesdale is sick, he often puts his hand on his heart. Maybe he feels severe pain in his heart but he doesn’t tell this to anyone. Chillingworth, however, starts his treatment but he doesn’t know about his problem so they decide that Chillingworth will live with Dimmesdale as it will help him to figure out his problem. Dimmesdale is unmarried and lives alone so he agrees to let his physician stay with him.

Chapter 10: The Leech and his Patient

Dimmesdale talks to Chillingworth about sins and their confession. He tells him that most people hide their sins by keeping secrets because they know that if they confess then they will never be able to do good for God. He also grabs his chest while talking as if he is feeling severe pain in his heart. Chillingworth suspects that Dimmesdale is concealing something from him. Chillingworth thinks that maybe there is some connection between Dimmesdale and Hester so he gets cautious to learn about his secret. One afternoon Dimmesdale falls asleep while reading a book. Chillingworth opens his shirt and he finds a mark on his chest which makes him sure that his suspicions were not incorrect.

Chapter 11: The Interior of a Heart

Chillingworth decides to take revenge from Dimmesdale but he can’t take it because Dimmesdale starts torturing himself because of his sin. Many times he tries to confess his sin but then ends up harming and beating himself cruelly as an act of repentance. He starts having visions of Hester Prynne at night, pointing her forefinger towards the letter on her dress then towards the mark on his chest.

Chapter 12: The Minister’s Vigil

One night Dimmesdale goes out to the scaffold. Meanwhile, Hester Prynne and Pearl come near him as they return from the deathbed of Minister Winthrop and they find him punishing himself for his sins. The little Pearl laughs and holds his hand. Dimmesdale and Hester get linked together by holding the hands of Pearl. Soon Roger Chillingworth appears and he looks evil. He asks Dimmesdale to come home with him.

Chapter 13: Another view of Hester

Hester gets worried to see the terrible condition of Dimmesdale. She knows that the regret and guilt are killing him inside and has made him sick. Pearl is now seven years old and the town has started respecting Hester again. Hester has worked very hard for the last few years to win the people’s hearts.

Now people even start talking that the “A” on Hester’s dress maybe means “able” or the scarlet letter actually means that she is sacred and holy. Hester sometimes thinks that she doesn’t deserve this honor and maybe she should die but she feels really bad for Dimmesdale and decides to help him. One day she gets a chance to do it when she goes on a walk with Pearl in an isolated place in the Peninsula. She finds Chillingworth there.

Chapter 14: Hester and the Physician

Hester asks Pearl to go to the water to play there for some time so that she can talk to Chillingworth in isolation. Chillingworth tells her that the magistrates are considering the matter of removing the letter from her dress.

Hester doesn’t seem happy about hearing this, rather she says that the magistrates should not think about taking it off because if she is worthy then the letter itself will fall away someday or will be changed into something else. Chillingworth mocks her by saying it suits her as it is fancy and she should keep on wearing it. Hester realizes that Chillingworth is changed and she can feel evil in his heart but she can’t blame him for it as she knows she is the reason behind this change. 

Hester then talks to him about Dimmesdale and says that she shouldn’t have kept herself silent. It would have been better if Dimmesdale had been punished or publicly shamed for his sin. She begs her to forgive him and not to take revenge from him but Chillingworth refuses by saying that Dimmesdale himself has made things worse for him by forcing Chillingworth to become a monster. It clearly suggests that Chillingworth is determined to take revenge from Dimmesdale.

Chapter 15: Hester and Pearl

Chillingworth starts doing his task again for which he came there. Hester watches him while he collects herbs. Hester thinks that she hates him and it was the worst decision of her life to marry him. On the other hand, Pearl remains busy in playing and dressing up herself like a mermaid using a scarf. She also puts a seaweed A on her chest.

Hester asks her whether she knows what is the meaning of “A” on her mother’s dress. Pearl replies that she knows Dimmesdale always puts his hand on his heart for the same reason. Hester gets shocked. Pearl asks her what does the letter on her dress mean and why Dimmesdale always puts his hand on his heart. Hester refuses to tell her anything.

Chapter 16: The Forest Walk

Hester and Pearl decide to wait for Dimmesdale while he comes back after visiting a sick man. Like other kids, Pearl keeps on asking innocent questions from her mother. She asks Hester about the Black man that she heard from an old lady and is just a superstition that the Black man haunts the forest and everyone who meets him has to write his name in his book in blood. He has written the names of many people in his book and Hester’s letter is the black man’s mark on her. She asks her mother if it is true.

Then Dimmesdale arrives and Pearl asks him the same question whether he puts his hand on his heart because the black man had also put his mark on him and why he doesn’t wear it on his clothes like his mother and hides it. Hester asks her to stay quiet and look at Dimmesdale’s poor condition.

Chapter 17: The Pastor and His Parishioner

After a long time, Hester and Dimmesdale meet in the woods. He holds her hand. They ask each other whether they get peace but both of them disagree. Hester realizes that she shouldn’t keep Chillingworth’s secret so she tells Dimmesdale about Chillingworth’s plan. She tells her that he is not ready to forgive him and he will surely take revenge from him.

They both agree that he will not reveal their secret however he will take revenge in some other way. Dimmesdale decides that he shouldn’t live with Chillingworth under one roof now and he asks her what he should do. Hester suggests him to go to Europe. He refuses to leave the town and go to live in a place where he is all alone.

Chapter 18: A Flood of Sunshine

Dimmesdale gets surprised when Hester tells him that he will not be alone there rather she suggests running away with him. Dimmesdale, however, doesn’t find this idea good because he never thought of ditching his community. He always wanted to serve his community as a minister. After some time he finds it tempting and agrees to do it. They become very happy. Hester even removes the letter from her clothes and throws it down. Everything looks celebrating their freedom. Nature, the sunshine and the birds sing everything seem to bless them. Hester then calls Pearl.

Chapter 19: The Child at the Brook-Side

As Pearl comes to them, she doesn’t recognize her mother without the scarlet letter. Hester and Dimmesdale start discussing how Pearl looks like both of her parents. Pearl doesn’t come near them and keeps standing on the other side of the brook. She feels separated from her mother seeing her with someone else. However, Hester asks her to bring the scarlet letter to her that has fallen on the ground. Pearl refuses to say that get it yourself. Hester decides to wear the letter again until they leave the town. When Pearl sees the letter back on her mother’s dress she runs towards her and kisses her mother.  Dimmesdale bends down to kiss Pearl but she doesn’t seem to like his kiss and runs towards the brook to wash it.

Chapter 20: The Minister in a Maze

Hester comes to know that a ship will sail to Bristol England after four days. Hester meets the captain and the crew of the ship to secure passage for her, Dimmesdale and Pearl. Hester thinks that Dimmesdale has got four days to end his career by delivering his final Election sermon. Hester feels excited but Dimmesdale gets nervous. He seems to regret his decision. He thinks that he has sold his soul to the devil by choosing the path of sin.  However, he works all night to write and prepare his Election Sermon.

Chapter 21: The New England Holiday

Everyone in the town is busy at the celebrations of  Election Sunday. A new Governor takes hold of his office and these celebrations are to welcome him. The whole town seems happy and everyone is gathered. Hester and Pearl are also present there and Hester asks Pearl to see how everyone is celebrating. The commander of the ship comes to meet Hester. He tells her that there is another passenger from their town who is also going to Bristol on the same ship that leaves after four days. Hester gets surprised and tries to figure out who that person is. She becomes really worried when she comes to know that Chillingworth is the person from their town who will accompany them to Bristol.

Chapter 22: The Procession

Everyone in the town including the magistrates and the citizens gather to hear Dimmesdale’s Election Sermon. Dimmesdale looks energetic. Hester feels emotional after listening to the sermon. While Hester is there in Sermon, Pearl plays in the marketplace. The shipmaster gives a message to the little Pearl to take it to Hester. The message says that she doesn’t need to worry now because Chillingworth is bringing Dimmesdale with him on board.

Chapter 23: The Revelation of the Scarlet letter

The Sermon gets over and the music starts again. The procession now moves towards the town hall where a banquet is arranged for them. The condition of Dimmesdale seems terrible.  He moves to the scaffold where Hester and Pearl await him. While they all stand on the scaffold, Chillingworth also comes in threatening Dimmesdale to save himself and let go of the woman and little girl. Dimmesdale starts talking to everyone saying that he should have done this seven years ago. He falls down and while he collapses, he opens his shirt to make the mark on his chest visible to everyone.  Dimmesdale confesses his crime. Pearl kisses him and he dies.

Chapter 24: Conclusion

Chillingworth becomes angry as Dimmesdale escapes his revenge. He also dies a year later leaving all his property for Pearl both in England and the U.S. Using that money Hester and Pearl move to Boston and settle there. No one knows what happened to them after that. One day after many years a tall woman wearing a scarlet letter on her clothes enters the town again and she is Hester. She starts living in her old cottage and resumes her work of charity again.  Pearl got married to a European aristocrat and she often writes letters to Hester. Hester dies and gets buried near the grave of Dimmesdale. The gravestone of both carries a scarlet letter “A” on it.

The Scarlet Letter Characters Analysis

Hester prynne.

She is the protagonist of this novel. A woman who gets married to an old scholar, Roger Chillingworth, before coming to Boston. His husband leaves her alone and never comes back in two years. In her loneliness, she tries to seek love from someone else and commits a serious crime of adultery. The town puts her in the prison along with her illegitimate 3 months old daughter. She doesn’t reveal the identity of her lover in front of the town and gets punished to wear a scarlet letter ” A” on her clothes. Afterwards, she lives in a small cottage with her daughter.

Hester is a devoted mother. She loves her daughter and names her “Pearl” as her daughter is of great importance for her just like a precious and priceless pearl. She works day and night to meet the needs of her daughter. Without any help, she raises her daughter and becomes a famous seamstress. Even the magistrates and other officers of the town get their clothes stitched and embroidered from her.

When she comes to know that the magistrates are talking about taking Pearl away from her, she goes to the Governor’s house to request the Minister not to take her daughter away. The minister tries to snatch Pearl away from her but she begs in front of other magistrates to show mercy. However, she manages to live with her daughter because of Dimmesdale.

Hester proves herself as a strong woman. Initially, people look down upon her considering her a sinner but she struggles and works hard to get her reputation back. She has been nice to all the people for many years and gets successful in winning their trust and love again. People respect her and they even start saying that maybe the letter “A” on her dress means “able” or it means she is sacred and holy.

Though the cruel society tries to oppress her yet she fights back and proves herself as a strong and independent woman. After some years, the magistrates even start thinking about taking the scarlet letter back from her.

Hester is a secret keeper and a loyal lover too. She not only keeps the secret of her lover “Dimmesdale” but also she doesn’t tell anyone about the real identity of her husband “Chillingworth”. She never gets angry or fights with Dimmesdale for not taking her side when the whole town was disrespecting her and asking her to reveal her partner’s name. She suffers everything alone. 

She gets worried about seeing the terrible condition of Dimmesdale. When she finds him hurting himself, she goes to Chillingworth to request him to stop Dimmesdale from doing it. He refuses and tells her that he will take revenge from Dimmesdale. She becomes frightened and meets Dimmesdale in the woods to make him aware of Chillingworth’s evil intentions. She suggests Dimmesdale escape to Europe. With the hope to start a new life with her family, she gets really happy and starts celebrating. Dimmesdale kisses and hugs her. She throws the scarlet letter on the ground and opens her hair to enjoy the moment of happiness.

She talks to the captain of the ship and the crew to secure passage for her family on a ship sailing to Europe after four days. She feels satisfied thinking that four days are enough for Dimmesdale to end his decent career by delivering the final Election sermon. She feels really worried when she comes to know that Chillingworth is also following them to Europe on the same ship. On the day of the sermon, she feels touched by listening to the sermon delivered by Dimmesdale. She goes to the scaffold with Pearl and starts waiting for Dimmesdale. When he arrives, she holds him seeing his terrible condition.

After Dimmesdale’s death, Hester doesn’t lose hope. She moves to Europe with Pearl using the money that Chillingworth left for Pearl after his death. At the end of the novel, Hester returns to her old town after many years. Hester is old now but people of the town recognize her by seeing a scarlet letter on her clothes. Though there is no need of wearing it now, yet she accepts it as her identity and wears it throughout her life. She starts living in her old cottage. Her daughter got married in Europe and she often writes to her. After her death, she is buried near the grave of Dimmesdale. Her gravestone carries the same scarlet letter “A” on it.

Arthur Dimmesdale

Dimmesdale is a well-respected reverend of Boston. He is the lover and the secret partner of Hester Prynne and the father of Pearl. He is respected by all the people of the town and his sermons affect people greatly. Therefore, he gets frightened to carry the burden of his sin that he committed. He doesn’t confess his crime and leaves Hester alone to suffer. However, he realizes his fault soon and regrets what he did. The regret and guilt start affecting his health. Often he is observed putting his hand on his chest as if he is feeling severe pain in his heart. He starts to punish himself secretly by hurting and beating himself and also by starving himself. He realizes that he acted cowardly and selfishly and these are greater sins as compared to adultery.

He doesn’t confess his crime in front of people but he carries the same mark on his chest as Hester’s Scarlet letter. However, It is not clearly mentioned in the novel how he gets a mark there. Maybe he himself created that red mark on his chest by scratching himself out of his guilt and regret. As he never got married so he lives alone and invites Chillingworth to live with him. Chillingworth comes to share his house to take care of him as a physician. Dimmesdale is totally unaware that Chillingworth is Hester’s husband. Chillingworth suspects that Dimmesdale has some part in Hester’s crime and he starts spying. He finds a mark on Dimmesdale’s chest and decides to take revenge from him. Dimmesdale quietly bears his cruelty and torture for seven years without even uttering a single word.

He loves Pearl. Hester and Pearl manage to live together because of him. He asks the magistrates not to take away Pearl from her mother. He often kisses her. When he meets Hester in the woods, they discuss how Pearl resembles both of her parents. Dimmesdale is a very nice man. When Hester suggests him escape to Europe, he disagrees saying that he always wished to serve his life in the service of the town. Hester convinces him by saying that they will start a new life in Europe with their daughter Pearl. At that time, he agrees but later he worries about this decision.

He prepares himself for the final sermon of his life. On Election Sunday, he delivers a great sermon and gets appreciated by the people. After the sermon, he goes to Hester and Pearl who await him on the ship. His guilt doesn’t let him escape like this. He feels terrible and his health seems worse. Chillingworth also follows him on the ship to take his revenge. Dimmesdale confesses his crime in front of people. He tears open his shirt while falling down to show his mark to the people. He admits that he is the father of Pearl and an equal partner in Hester’s sin. After knowing about her father, Pearl kisses him and he dies after it as he couldn’t bear the burden of his sin anymore. However, people forgive him and always remember him in good words.

Roger Chillingworth

Chillingworth is the antagonist of the novel. He is an old scholar. Hester got married to him but he disappeared leaving her alone. He appears in the town after two years as a physician because he has started practicing medicine. He watches Hester and her 3 months old child when she is taken out of the prison in front of the town. Hester also recognizes her. She tries to draw his attention towards her by making her daughter cry but Chillingworth puts his finger on his lips asking her to stay quiet. Later he visits her in the prison. He tries to investigate her about her partner and also asks her to keep his identity secret. She agrees and never tells anyone that Chillingworth is her husband.

His character is transformed into a devil when he comes to know that Dimmesdale is the lover of Hester. He starts living with Dimmesdale as his physician but one day, he finds a mark on Dimmesdale’s chest that confirms his doubt. He decides to take revenge from him. He spends 7 years torturing Dimmesdale for his sin. Though Dimmesdale himself feels guilty of his crime, yet he doesn’t show any mercy. Seeing the terrible condition of Dimmesdale, Hester requests Chillingworth to stop him from hurting himself but he refuses to do that and tells Hester that he will take revenge from Dimmesdale. Dimmesdale considers him a bigger sinner than him and Hester. People even forgive Hester and Dimmesdale but no one forgives Chillingworth for his evil intentions.

At the end of the novel, when Hester and Dimmesdale decide to escape to Europe, he also accompanies them on the ship to take his revenge. Dimmesdale however, dies after confessing his sin that makes Chillingworth mad. He wants to kill him in his revenge but his death escapes his revenge. He starts becoming sick and dies one year later after Dimmesdale’s death leaving all his property for Pearl.

Pearl is the illegitimate daughter of Hester Prynne and Dimmesdale. She is only 3 months old when her mother gets punished for adultery.  Hester loves her daughter. She named her “Pearl” because she thinks that her daughter is a priceless pearl. Like her mother,  people of the town also look down upon Pearl. They used to call her the “witch-girl” but in reality, Pearl is a very pretty and intelligent girl.

Pearl is a very smart girl. She often asks her mother about the truth of the scarlet letter and she tells her mother that she thinks Dimmesdale has the same letter on his body because of which he always puts his hand on his chest. When Hester and Dimmesdale meet in the woods, Pearl is only 7 years old but she guesses that there is some secret between them. She also suspects that Dimmesdale is his father. Initially, she doesn’t like Dimmesdale but he cares about her. He once saved her when the magistrates were taking her away from Hester. At the end of the novel, when Dimmesdale admits that he is the father of Pearl, she becomes happy to know about her father and kisses him. 

After the death of Chillingworth, he leaves all his property for Pearl. Pearl becomes the owner of both of his properties in Europe and in the U.S. Using that money Pearl moves to Boston with her mother and settles there. There she gets married to a European aristocrat and starts her own family. She often writes to Hester when she returns back to her old town.

The narrator

The unnamed narrator of this novel works as a surveyor in the Custom House. One day he goes to the attic of the Custom House. He finds the scarlet letter there and some fragments of its story too. He gets inspired to write the story of the Scarlet letter. In the novel, he encourages readers to pay attention to their moral lessons. Throughout the novel, he takes the side of Hester against her Puritan community that punishes her. His writing gives a sense that he is hurt to describe how innocent people fall victim to the oppression of the cruel society.

Themes in the Scarlet Letter

It is the major theme of this novel. Hester has committed the sin of adultery by breaking the moral law and having an extra-marital affair with someone else than her husband. She even carries a child of someone else and refuses to tell her lover’s name. She gets punished for this sin by public shaming and wearing a scarlet letter ” A” for the rest of her life.

Dimmesdale is the partner of Hester in committing the immoral sin of adultery but he commits another sin that is bigger than this one. He refuses to take Hester’s side while the town investigates her about her partner. He even refuses to accept his child publicly.

The theme of sin can also be explored through the character of Chillingworth. As he comes to know about his wife’s sin, he decides to take revenge from Hester and Dimmesdale. His sin is worst of all because Hester and Dimmesdale regret and feel guilty for their sins but Chillingworth doesn’t feel any guilt in seeking revenge. He even follows them on the ship sailing to Europe. He feels really angry when Dimmesdale dies and escapes his revenge.

The sin of some characters is followed by guilt. Hester after having a scarlet letter “A” on her dress, feels really ashamed when people look down upon her but she doesn’t hide from people rather she becomes a very good seamstress. She works hard to change her public image. People start respecting her and some of them even start saying that the letter “A” on Hester’s dress means “able” or it means that Hester is sacred and holy.

Dimmesdale also feels guilty. In his guilt, he starts feeling sick. His condition becomes terrible. Often he is observed putting his hand on his chest as if he is feeling severe pain in his heart. He couldn’t confess his sin, so he started punishing himself. He hurts himself and tortures himself cruelly. He spends many nights crying and hurting himself out of his house. At the end of the novel, he couldn’t bear the burden of his sin and in his guilt, he tears open his shirt to show people the same scarlet letter on his chest and to tell them that he is the partner in Hester’s crime. After confessing his crime in front of people, he dies.

Wisdom through suffering

The character of Hester and Dimmesdale learn from their sin. They gain wisdom through their suffering. Hester finally gets successful in building her positive image in front of people. She realizes her sin so she suffers a lot to change her position in the town. Later people start respecting her. 

Dimmesdale also gets wisdom from his sufferings. He finally realizes that he can’t live with a lie. So he confesses his sin in front of people and dies peacefully.


Though Hester performs an immoral act of adultery and breaks the moral laws, yet she gets forgiveness from the town. The people understand that she doesn’t perform the sin because of the evilness of her character but because of her loneliness and the need for love.

However, no one forgives Chillingworth as he tortures Dimmesdale and he proves himself evil by taking revenge.

It is one of the central themes of this novel. The urge of taking revenge transforms Chillingworth into a devil. He becomes the physician of Dimmesdale to cure him but in reality, he keeps on torturing him for seven years. Though Dimmesdale feels guilty of his crime and he spends nights out of his house punishing himself, yet Chillingworth doesn’t show kindness towards him. The purpose of Chillingworth’s life to take revenge from Dimmesdale also dies with him. The death of Chillingworth after one year clearly shows that his urge for revenge is the reason behind his premature death.

Suffering and pain

The theme of pain and suffering is found throughout the novel. Hester suffers a lot because of committing a sin. Her husband left her alone for many years. She finds another person to share her love and to get rid of her loneliness. She even carries his child too but the town puts her in jail along with her 3 years old child. She remains quiet and doesn’t tell anyone about her partner. However, she tries hard to meet the needs of her baby alone. During this time, she suffers from many financial and mental problems.

Dimmesdale on the other hand also suffers because of his guilt. He becomes sick and gets punished by hurting himself. Chillingworth keeps on torturing him for seven years and he ends up dying with this regret. Moreover, Chillingworth also suffers because of his urge to take revenge. When he fails to complete his revenge, he gets mentally upset and he dies one year later after Dimmesdale’s death.

The character of Hester becomes a secret keeper of two men. She doesn’t tell anyone about her secret lover nor she tells that Chillingworth is her husband. A woman is a weak creature as compared to man but Hester stands by her lover and tries to save him from the revenge of Chillingworth. She decides to escape to Europe with him to live a peaceful life there.

Women Independence

After coming out of the prison, Hester decides to get independent for herself and her daughter. Though Hester lives alone with her daughter in a small cottage yet she doesn’t lose hope and instead of begging someone else, she works hard to earn a livelihood and to feed herself and her daughter. Without the help of any male, she raises her daughter alone. She becomes a seamstress and gets very famous because of her embroidery. Even the magistrates and other officers of the town get their clothes stitched and embroidered from her. The writer has portrayed the independence of women in Puritan society through the character of Hester. 

The theme of love can be explored through the character of Hester. She loves her daughter Pearl and begs to the magistrates for not taking her daughter away from her. She takes care of her and works hard to meet her needs.

On the other hand, she loves her partner too. She becomes seriously worried about seeing the terrible condition of Dimmesdale. She requests Chillingworth to stop Dimmesdale from punishing himself but he refuses. Later she meets Dimmesdale in the woods. He kisses her hand and hugs her after a long time. She suggests him to escape to Europe. When he agrees, both of them become very happy and start celebrating. She even throws her scarlet letter on the ground feeling free from all the problems of the world.

Justice and Judgement

As Hester commits a serious sin of adultery, she gets punished to wear a scarlet letter “A” on her clothes for the rest of her life. After some years, the magistrates discuss the matter of taking the letter back from Hester as they feel she is guilty of committing this sin and has changed now. They try to bring justice to Hester but she refuses to give her letter back as she has accepted it as her fate now. 

On the other hand, Chillingworth tries to take revenge from Dimmesdale but nature does justice to him. Dimmesdale dies a natural death after confessing his crime while Chillingworth dies one year later because he couldn’t bear his failure of taking revenge.

The Scarlet Letter Analysis

“The Scarlet letter” throws light on an important issue of our society through the character of Hester. No one is truly pure and mistakes are the part of life. Through this novel, the writer enables the readers to see the fact that there are many people in our society who commit sins but there is nothing in this world that the true redemption can’t fix. 

The novel also portrays how some people in society are apparently respectable but often, in reality, they are the most depraved ones. On the other hand, sometimes the people whom everyone calls sinners are actually pious and virtuous. The novel also tells the readers that God forgives a sinner but a human being never forgets and never forgives. He keeps on reminding the sins and tortures throughout life even if the person himself regrets it and also seeks forgiveness.

Technically more than any other literary work, “The Scarlet letter” effectively encloses the rise of individualism and self-reliance from the conformist and Puritan society of America. The novel also talks about the effects of social oppression and the psychological repression on the life of the characters. 

Title of the Novel

The protagonist of the novel commits the sin of adultery because of which she gets punished to wear the letter “A” that is of scarlet colour and that “A” refers to the sin of adultery. When Hester is taken out of prison, people get shocked to see how beautifully she has embroidered her scarlet letter. Some people suggest that the scarlet letter should not be on her clothes as it could be easily hidden. Some suggest that the letter “A” should be burned onto her forehead so that it gets easily visible to everyone.

The title of the novel plays a significant role in Hester’s life. Hester Prynne regrets her sin but she never gets disgusted because of her letter. The scarlet letter becomes a permanent part of her personality. People even start looking at it with a changed mind. Instead of adultery, people consider it a holy and sacred symbol. After many years, when the old Hester returns to her town, she wears the same scarlet letter. Even after death, her gravestone also carries the same scarlet letter. So instead of a symbol of shame, Hester turns her scarlet letter into her pride. 

Setting of the Novel

The novel is set in Massachusetts Bay Colony. It took place between the years 1642 to 1649. It is set in the Puritan society, a community that is specially designed by the writer to be religiously strict and pure. In the first chapter, the writer gives us the view of all the important places and buildings of the town including the prison and the scaffold. The readers discover that the religion and the law are the bases of this town.

Apart from all the buildings and the prisons of Massachusetts Bay Colony, the town is also surrounded by the vast forest and the ocean. 

Surrounded by them, the town appears to be like an island. Outside the town, nature can be felt in abundance and the people of town get many herbs from the forests to make their medicines. 

Genre of the Novel

Historical, gothic and romance.

The novel is historical as it tells us about the history of early Americans or the Puritans. After reading the novel, we come to know about their ways of living, their religious rituals and their laws and customs. As a character commits the sin of adultery, she gets strict punishment for it. It was the system of Puritans in history and now modern Americans don’t consider it a sin at all. 

Some elements of this novel make it a Gothic fiction. The deaths of some characters and the story of the black man arouse fear among them. Moreover, it is a Romance too, as the love of Hester and Dimmesdale sets an example at the end of the novel. The little “Pearl” is considered as a product of their love and not their sin at the end of the story. 

Ending of the Novel

The ending of the novel is quite impressive. Dimmesdale, who throughout the novel suffers because of the burden of his sin and his failure to confess his crime, finally admits it in front of people by tearing his shirt so that the mark on his chest becomes visible to everyone. After that, he dies a peaceful death.

On the other hand, Chillingworth also dies a premature death because of his evil intentions. As he fails to achieve his revenge from Dimmesdale because of his death, he starts getting mad. This failure affects his health badly. He gets sick and dies one year later after Dimmesdale’s death. Throughout his life, he didn’t do anything for his wife but after his death, all his property gets transferred to Pearl. Using that money, the mother and daughter move to Europe and start a new life there.

Furthermore, Hester finally realizes that the scarlet letter is not a shame for her but actually a part of her identity.  She lives a peaceful life with her daughter in Europe. Her daughter gets married to an aristocrat and has started her family. She returns to her old town and dies there. She gets buried near the grave of her lover, Dimmesdale.

Symbolism in The Scarlet Letter

Hester names her daughter as “Pearl” because she is just as precious for Hester as a pearl. Hester suffers a lot just because of carrying an illegitimate child. She loses her reputation in the village and everyone looks down upon her but she truly loves her daughter and takes care of her. The name “Pearl” hence is a symbol that shows how precious the girl is for her mother and she pays a heavy price to own her daughter. Secondly, after Chillingworth’s death, he leaves his both properties of Europe and of the U.S for Pearl and hence she becomes the youngest rich girl of the town.

The symbolism in the scarlet letter changes throughout the novel. Initially, Hester wears it on her clothes as a symbol of sin. It symbolizes “Adultery”. Hester works day and night and after some years she regains her respect and reputation in the town and gets successful to change the meaning of the scarlet letter. Many people start discussing that the scarlet letter “A” means “able” because Hester is talented and capable of doing wonders. Others suggest that it symbolizes the holiness and sacredness of Hester’s character.

Hester sews this letter herself in prison. She does fine embroidery on it. Everyone gets attracted to it when Hester comes out of the prison door. By making it look beautiful and attractive, Hester controls her punishment. After many years, when Hester returns to her old town, she wears the same letter though it is not needed now. It symbolizes that the scarlet letter becomes a symbol of pride and grace for Hester. It becomes a part of her identity and even this letter is written on her gravestone after her death.

The Rose Bush on one side of the Prison door

The beautiful rose bush grows on one side of the prison door. The people of the town believe that the rose bush grew when Ann Hutchinson entered that prison door. Ann Hutchinson was a person who got punished because he gave a statement that people should focus on their individual relations with god instead of following their minister’s orders. The people of the town consider the rose bush as a blessing for the criminals who enter this door. So the rosebush symbolizes hope. 

The Red Mark on Dimmesdale’s Chest   

The scarlet letter of Hester gets sewed on her clothes while it is not clearly mentioned in the novel how Dimmesdale gets a similar mark on his chest. He says that it is from God.  Maybe he scratched his body to make “A” similar to that of Hester’s, as he regrets not standing by her side when the whole town stood against her. However, it symbolizes the physical appearance of his sin.

The Black Man

When Hester and Pearl go to the woods, Pearl asks her mother about the story of the Black man that she heard from an old lady in the town. It was famous that the black man is found in the woods and whoever meets him, he writes his name on his book. People also tell Pearl that the scarlet letter is a mark of the Black man on Hester’s clothes. Pearl asks her mother whether the black man also left his mark on Dimmesdale’s heart that’s why he always puts his hand on his chest. The black man in the novel is an imaginary character but it symbolizes “evil” and “wickedness”. The black man is also a word used for Satan. In the novel, the character of Chillingworth proves himself as a devil or the black man that leaves his mark on Hester and Dimmesdale. 

The names of Dimmesdale and Chillingworth   

Their names are also symbolic. Dimmesdale’s name suggests his bad luck and it symbolizes that the character of Dimmesdale is going to face decline as the word “dim” means dull or gloomy. It becomes a symbol of doom for him. On the other hand, the word “chilling” means cold. When Chillingworth sees his wife standing with her child in front of the jury, he doesn’t show any feeling or concern. His name symbolizes his cold-hearted and loveless nature.

The allusions are the references in the works of Literature to the famous events that happened in history. The scarlet letter has some biblical allusions in it. As this novel is a story of sin and redemption, it is a biblical allusion to the story of Adam and Eve. Adam and Eve committed a sin that was strictly forbidden by God then as a punishment they were asked to leave heaven and sent to Earth to suffer. They lost their supreme position and the reputation that they had in heaven. Just like them, Hester and Dimmesdale in the novel, commit an immoral sin because of which they lose their respect and reputation. They get punished for their deed. Hester is punished by the town while Dimmesdale gets punished by his own self.

Moreover, in the novel, the character of Roger Chillingworth is often compared to the black man. The black man is also a Biblical allusion. It refers to “Satan”. The evil character of Chillingworth, his bad intentions and his urge to take revenge from Dimmesdale makes him more like Satan.

More From Nathaniel Hawthorne


"The Scarlet Letter" - Thesis on the theme of Sin and Guilt.

One main theme present in the work "The Scarlet Lette" is that of sin and guilt. Nathaniel Hawthorne attempts to show how guilt can be a form of everlasting punishment. The book represents sin and guilt through symbolism and character development. In his novel, "The Scarlet Letter", Nathaniel Hawthorne explains how the punishment of guilt causes the most suffering among those affected. As with any piece, symbolism plays an important role in representing the main ideas of a novel. The plot in " The Scarlet Letter " revolves around three significant events that describe the development of the story. As both starting point and ending point of the novel, the scaffold scenes hold symbolic meaning. The first scaffold scene introduces the reader …show more content…

As the book opens, Hester is brought forth from the jail and walked to the scaffold. For the first time being seen in public named an adulterer, Hester shies from the public as they mock her. However, "She never battled with the public, but submitted uncomplainingly to its worst usage; she made no claim upon it, in requital for what she suffered; she did not weight upon its sympathies." (Hawthorne 140). Soon, it did not matter what other people thought of Hester because of her sin. She chose not to live with the humiliation, but she did have to live with herself. Having to deal with her daughter Pearl day in and day out is a punishment in itself as well. Most people, including Hester, view Peal as a demon child. However, Hester hesitates to punish Pearl for being so. She feels guilty as it is, placing a burden on Pearl's life, for Peal is branded as the child of an adulterer, all of this resulting from Hester's 'passionate sin'. (Guilt as Reparation for Sin, paragraph 14). The minister Dimmesdale is greatly affected by the weight of guilt he carries with him everyday of his proceeding life. Since his sin is unknown to society, there is not a public crowd to look down upon him, but one Roger Chillingworth who lives just to torture Dimmesdale. He wishes and prays most often that the public know of his wrong, rather than hold it secret, as it would be less painful. "Happy are you,

Scarlet Letter Light Vs Dark Essay

The Scarlet Letter submerses the reader in the Puritan’s culture. The story involves the Puritans portrayal of the sins of a young woman. Although a difficult read, the book stirs the reader to obtain a high moral compass. Throughout the novel, Hawthorne uses the symbols of light and dark to depict good and evil among the characters, Hester Prynne, Arthur Dimmesdale, and Roger Chillingworth.

A Comparison of "The Scarlet Letter" and "The Minister's Black Veil"

The central theme in The Scarlet Letter is that manifested sin will ostracize one from society and un-confessed sin will lead to the destruction of the inner spirit. Hawthorne uses the symbol of the scarlet letter to bring out this idea. In the novel, Hester is forced to wear the scarlet letter A (the symbol of her sin) because she committed adultery

Essay about Symbolism Used in The Scarlet Letter

In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, symbolsim is constantly present in the actual scarlet letter “A” as it is viewed as a symbol of sin and the gradally changes its meanign, guilt is also a mejore symbol, and Pearl’s role in this novel is symbolic as well. The Scarlet Letter includes many profound and crucial symbols. these devices of symbolism are best portayed in the novel, most noticably through the letter “A” best exemplifies the changes in the symbolic meaning throughout the novel.

Guilt Scarlet Letter

In spite of that, what makes her the protagonist of the story is how she is able to overcome her punishment that was meant to give her shame. Throughout Chapter 13 of the book, Hawthorne shows how Hester’s confidence has developed in herself and in view of the town, most noticeably when considering the meaning of the scarlet letter, “Such helpfulness was found in her ... that many people refused to interpret the scarlet A by its original signification. They said that it meant Able; so strong was Hester Prynne, with a woman’s strength,” (Hawthorne 107). Instead of subjecting to the shame that was forced upon her, she grew above it, conveying a different aspect of the theme of guilt, which is redemption. This is not to say that Hester did not care about the sin she committed, as she is very much reminded of it every day of her life while living with the child of that sin. In fact, the author addresses this by saying, “In giving her existence a great law had been broken; and the result was a being whose elements were perhaps beautiful and brilliant, but all in disorder,” (Hawthorne 60). Hawthorne is implying how Pearl represents the outcome of a sin and arranged it so that Hester is always living with that sin, therefore, always being reminded of the shame she is supposed to

The Signigicance of the Scaffold Scenes in the Scarlet Letter

In the first scaffold scene Hester Prynne is depicted standing alone while clutching her baby. She has been sentenced to the scaffold for three hours to face public condemnation. In the Puritan society, where this novel is set, public shame is a source of entertainment. On this occasion the townspeople are present to watch the judgment of Hester.

Scarlet Letter Rhetorical Analysis

Hester has to go through all the rumors and talking that the townspeople say about her since she does have to stand on the scaffold where she's publicly shamed for committing such sin that is unjustifiable. Nathaniel Hawthorne has major and unrevealed symbolisms

Thesis For The Scarlet Letter

Thesis - Through Pearl’s thoughts and questions that hold symbolic significance, we can understand the connection of the Scarlet letter to the Black man and to Dimmesdale’s burden and the forest, helps better portray Hester and Pearl’s juxtaposed character.

Puritan Hypocrisy Exposed in Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter

  • 3 Works Cited

"Those who before had known her, and had expected to behold her dimmed and obscured by a disastrous cloud, were astonished, and even startled, to perceive how her beauty shone out, and made a halo of the misfortune and ignominy in which she was enveloped" (39).  Hester, who is being openly condemned for her sins, Hawthorne describes ironically.  To the Puritans, Hester should be dim and obscure, surrounded by darkness and evil.  However, Hawthorne instead describes her shining beauty and the godliness she makes out of her sin and shame by exposing it to the public.  The Puritans condemn Hester for her sin and look towards her as evil, yet she is exposing her sin to the sunshine, to the public, something that Hawthorne praises in the novel.  "A blessing on the righteous Colony of the Massachusetts, where iniquity is dragged out into the sunshine!  Come along, Madame Hester, and show your scarlet letter in the market-place!" (40).  The Puritans feel that they are hurting Hester Prynne by exposing her sin, yet it is only making her stronger and making her grow.

Essay on Sin in Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter

  • 13 Works Cited

Nathaniel Hawthorne's bold novel, The Scarlet Letter, revolves around sin and punishment.  The main characters of the novel sharply contrast each other in the way they react to the sin that has been committed

Symbolism In The Scarlet Letter

Symbolism is a literary style that uses symbols to represent ideas or qualities. Symbolism plays a very important part in The Scarlet Letter because it uses the characters to develop the main idea of the story. The symbols used by Nathaniel Hawthorne help the reader to visualize and understand the meaning of the story. Hawthorne uses Hester Prynne, Pearl, and Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale as symbols throughout the book. They are the main characters of the story and they all overcome some difficulties by the end. The lives of the characters help to serve as symbols of the Puritan religion that existed during this time.

Scarlet Letter Theme Essay

Every great story has at least one theme, a central idea that the story’s events make the reader think about deeply. These themes are like the foundation of the story, giving the reader some solid ground to stand on as the tale unfolds. While some stories may contain many themes, they all need at least one to give them a purpose and direction. Several themes appear in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel The Scarlet Letter, including those of consequences for sin, sympathy, and the nature of evil, and as a result, the book takes on greater meaning because it encourages readers to study and interpret those themes.

Good Vs. Evil In Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter

The Scarlet Letter is about a young woman named Hester Prynne who must wears a scarlet letter on her bosom as a punishment and represents her shame for cheating on her husband Chillingworth with her lover Dimmesdale. This book contains many themes such as secret sin and guilt but the theme I’ll be focusing on is good vs. evil. There are many symbols that Nathaniel Hawthorne uses to portray this theme. In his novel, The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne uses the symbolism of the wild rosebush, Pearl and Hester’s cabin to contribute to the overall theme of good vs. evil.

The Scarlet Letter Theme Analysis: Sin, Hypocrisy, and Corruption

In the world today, themes and symbolisms have played a major role in the development and presentation of past and present novels. These themes and symbolisms within a novel shape the overall story and often work hand in hand to convey its purpose and meaning. One such novel would include The Scarlet Letter, written by Nathaniel Hawthorne; in this story, along with all his others, he has incorporated his three predominant, driving themes: sin, hypocrisy, and corruption. In The Scarlet Letter,

Scarlet Letter Hester Prynne Character Analysis Essay

Pearl is often accused of being a witch child, but Hester tries her best not to believe it. Hester does her best to be there for her daughter, even when she was faced with her own burdens. Even though she’s been through so much in her, Hester gives out all her love whenever she can. That proves that she’s become a pure and loyal person.

Sin and Redemption of Scarlet Letter Essay

The sin of hypocrisy and secrecy is represented through the character, Arthur Dimmesdale. Dimmesdale, the minister of the town, got a married woman pregnant and concealed the fact that he did from the rest of the townspeople for many years. In the beginning of the novel, the townspeople viewed Dimmesdale’s “eloquence and religious fervor” as bringing a positive innocent man to the town (46). Though he portrays an outwardly goodness about him, he truly is mendacious on the inside. His guilty conscience caused him to become extremely sickly. The townspeople believed that Dimmesdale’s health “had suffered severely, of late, by his too unreserved self-sacrifice to the labors and duties of the pastoral relation” (74). Truthfully though, the young minister was “pale, and holding his hand over his heart” as a clue of is suffering from hiding his sin (78). Later, it is

Related Topics

  • The Scarlet Letter
  • Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • Hester Prynne


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    Topic #1. Discuss Hawthorne's blend of realism, symbolism, and allegory in The Scarlet Letter. Outline. I. Thesis Statement: The Scarlet Letter is a blend of realism, symbolism, and allegory. II ...

  10. The Scarlet Letter

    The novel, The Scarlet Letter shows the titular thematic strands of color and gender marginality, patriarchy, hypocrisy, and love. Setting: The setting of the novel, The Scarlet Letter, is the city of Boston in the 1600s. Simile: The novel shows good use of various similes. For example, i. But yet returned, like the bad half-penny.

  11. The Scarlet Letter Chapter 1 Summary & Analysis

    Analysis. A crowd of men and women assembles near a dilapidated wooden prison. The narrator remarks that the founders of every new settlement have always sought first to build a prison and a graveyard. He adds that this particular prison was most likely built upon the founding of Boston and describes prisons as the " black flower of civilized ...

  12. The Scarlet Letter

    The Scarlet Letter, novel by Nathaniel Hawthorne, published in 1850.It is considered a masterpiece of American literature and a classic moral study.. Summary. The novel is set in a village in Puritan New England.The main character is Hester Prynne, a young woman who has borne a child out of wedlock.Hester believes herself a widow, but her husband, Roger Chillingworth, arrives in New England ...

  13. The Scarlet Letter Summary and Analysis

    Contents. "The Scarlet letter" is a Romance written by an American author, Nathaniel Hawthorne. It was published in 1850. When it was published it earned great fame. Today it is considered a classic work. Different films and stage dramas got inspired by it. It was among the first mass-produced books of America.

  14. 4 Themes in The Scarlet Letter for an Easy A on Your Essay

    Themes in The Scarlet Letter #3: Hypocrisy. ( PD-1923) Hypocrisy in The Scarlet Letter is shown through Dimmesdale. You kind of root for him because he's a much nicer guy than Chillingworth, but he's living a lie. As the leader of a church, he should know better.

  15. A Thematic Analysis of Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter

    Abstract: The Scarlet Letter is yet another story of the never-ending. conflict of individuals versus society in which the recurrent theme of. appearance versus reality is central a nd woven into ...

  16. The Scarlet Letter Essays and Criticism

    Essays and criticism on Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter - Essays and Criticism. ... but evading the analysis of my mind. (50) ... The Three Strangers Themes; Refugee Chapter Summaries;

  17. "The Scarlet Letter"

    One main theme present in the work "The Scarlet Lette" is that of sin and guilt. Nathaniel Hawthorne attempts to show how guilt can be a form of everlasting punishment. The book represents sin and guilt through symbolism and character development. In his novel, "The Scarlet Letter", Nathaniel Hawthorne explains how the punishment of guilt ...

  18. The Scarlet Letter Critical Overview

    Frederic I. Carpenter, in an essay titled "Scarlet A Minus," calls the book a classic of a "minor order" and complains that "its logic is ambiguous.". Carpenter finds the narrative ...