Hawthorne was very interested in creating an authentic past exhibiting the history of the colonies and his Puritan ancestors. Hawthorne invites the reader to relate The scarlet letter to contemporary politics of the 1840’s. “the past is not dead”- it lives on in the custom house, and other contemporary political institutions. Hawthorne wrote The Scarlet Letter when he was recently pulled from his administrative position, as a self-proclaimed “politically dead man”. In the opening of the novel we wait for Hester to come out of the prison.
We overhear others muttering about her offences, there is very little sympathy for Hester. In The Scarlet Letter, the fault shared by the Puritan settlers, the women outside the prison and Arthur Dimmesdale most of all, is devout hypocrisy: they naively imagine that sin, or “human frailty and sorrow,” can be avoided through denial and pretense. Chillingworth becomes an increasingly diabolical villain by his own deception. On the other hand, Hester Prynne wears the sign of shame on her chest and cannot feign nnocence; consequently she has a greater potential for salvation. Hawthorne routinely brings up Paradise Lost in order to reassert its vision of mankind as fallen, and its poetic dramatization of Adam and Even’s fall and expulsion from Eden. They fell with the world all before them, just like Hester was let out of prison with all to see. She seems to have a better chance at redemption than her hypocritical neighbors. The way that Hawthorne alludes to Paradise Lost introduces the theme of women’s sexuality and their temptation to sin.
Sin, according to the concept of Felix culpa or the fortunate fall, is necessary in human life. Its entire idea is based on the fact that, in order to achieve greatness, man must first “fall”. He who rises above his offense evolves both spiritually and morally. In The Scarlet Letter Nathaniel Hawthorne presents the character of Hester Prynne and Arthur Dimmesdale in such a humane way ...
There are many symbols given throughout the read by Hawthorne, but the most important being the scarlet letter “A” on Hester’s chest. This symbol takes many different meanings, to the townspeople the letter “A” has the effects of a spell, which isolates her from society and leaves her alone with her sins. As Hawthrone describes it in “The Custom House,” modern life has a dulling effect on the mind and spirit. In his fiction, he wants to create a richer and more challenging world.
Just as the meaning of Hester’s “A” gradually expands for the townspeople, meaning not just “Adultery” but also “Able” and perhaps “Angel. ” The Scarlett Letter has the vagueness that opens possibilities of meaning for its readers. The ambiguity of Hester’s scarlet letter “A” has been used as a textbook case to illustrate the difference between two types of imagery in writing: allegory and symbolism. Allegory shown through a characters name that directly indicates its meaning “Young Goodman Brown”. Symbolism on the other hand requires more personal interpretation.
The “A” could suggest a multitude of things, but it depends on the reader and how they interpret its symbol. The narrator creates multiple interpretations of events throughout the novel. This entices the reader to read between the lines and dig deep into the writing. Overall, Hawethorne leaves plenty of opportunity for self-interpretation throughout the novel and introduces themes and motifs with allusions to other works of the time period. History is made prevalent throughout the novel, and evidently impacts the plot because of Hawthorne’s ability to include it frequently.