In the novel The Scarlet Letter, Nathaniel Hawthorne portrays a society suffused with people of the Puritanic culture. Inside of this civilization an immoral action occurs between a woman named Hester Pyrnne and the town’s minister, Dimmesdale. During the time the novel takes place, adultery, the sin committed, is recognized as a despicable and degrading act. The novel is based upon the aftermath of the sin enacted and how each individual deals with the consequences that come with it. Hawthorne portrays each of the three main characters realistically, for their motives, flaws, and reactions to the scandalous affair are all rational and shrewd.
To begin, no human being is perfect; everyone in the world makes mistakes. Hester’s major mistake was her affair with Dimmesdale. This alone makes Hester a realistic character. As Trollope says, “The reader is expected to sympathize only with the woman,—and will sympathize only with her.” (Paragraph 1, Trollope).
Readers neglect Hester’s mistakes since Hawthorne makes it apparent that she feels guilty and is suffering consequences. Readers also share sorrow for Hester when she is castigated by society. “Thus the young and pure would be taught to look at her, with the scarlet letter flaming on her breast,—at her, the child of honorable parents,—at her, the mother of a babe, that would hereafter be a woman, —at her, who had once been innocent, —as the figure, the body, the reality of sin.” (Hawthorne 59).
... spoke out in public. Hawthorne also makes Hester a fearless woman. She takes the full punishment for a sin that she is only half responsible ... beliefs (Chuck). She is a beautiful, young woman who has sinned, but is forgiven. Hawthorne portrays Hester as a "divine maternity' and she can ...
The emotional pain that Hester feels is also a realistic characteristic. Howells says, “…we see the human heart beating there the same as in our own time and in all times…” (Paragraph 3, Howells).
Furthermore, Dimmesdale is also portrayed as a realistic character. His indecisiveness, his guilt, and his dogmatic behavior are all legitimate human traits. Hawthorne says, “Poor, miserable man! what right had infirmity like his to burden itself with crime? Crime is for the iron-nerved, who have their choice either to endure it, or, if it press too hard, to exert their fierce and savage strength for a good purpose, and fling it off at once!”(Hawthorne 113).
Dimmesdale is not a monster, he feels remorse, and regrets his actions. When Hawthorne states that “crime is for the iron-nerved” he indirectly reveals Dimmesdale’s soft-hearted personality. “It is not without faults, without quaint foibles of manner which strike one oddly in the majestic movement of the story…” (paragraph 3, Howells).
The mistakes and personal issues of the characters are what make the story as real as it is. Dimmesdale also “looks on and holds his peace”, (paragraph 2, Trollope) as Trollope says. It is human nature to want to protect ones reputation as Dimmesdale had done.
Ultimately, Roger Chillingsworth is too portrayed as a realistic character. His excessive drive for revenge and justice categorizes him with all other human-beings. Dimmesdale speaks of Chillingworth: “That old man’s revenge has been blacker than my sin. He has violated, in cold blood, the sanctity of a human heart. Thou and I, Hester, never did so!”(Hawthorne 146).
Chillingworth is extremely hurt by the affair between Hester and Dimmesdale and to retaliate he internally tortures Dimmesdale with guilt. As Howells says in paragraph three, Hawthorne keeps human nature strongly and truly in mind. “A man may so hate as to be content to sacrifice everything to his hatred…” (paragraph 6, Trollope).
Chillingworth, a vindictive man, seeks revenge throughout the novel.
To sum up, the character’s motives, flaws, and traits in The Scarlet Letter are all realistic. If taken from the book and placed into modern time, Hester’s, Dimmesdale’s, and Chillingworth’s actions would not be uncommon. Drive for revenge, copious flaws, and internal guilt are all found within people of the real world today. “…and the antagonistic motives working which have governed human conduct from the beginning and shall govern it forever, world without end.”(paragraph 3, Howells).
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